July 5, 2012

St. Nilus of Sora: Life at the Sora River

Ten Miles from St. Cyril's White Lake Monastery is the Sora (or Sorka) River, where St. Nilus of Sora (May 7) chose to establish his Skete. It was a wild, dark and desolate place. The River Sora barely flows through this marshy, low-lying region, and it resembles more a swamp than a river. There is forest all around. Here, having erected a cross, St. Nilus built at first a chapel and a solitary cell and dug a well. And when several brothers had gathered together to live with him he built a wooden church in honor of the Meeting of the Lord. Later another wooden church dedicated to St. John the Forerunner was added. Nearby he built a mill.

From this skete St. Nilus wrote to his friend St. Innocent:

"When we were living together with you in the Monastery of St. Cyril, you know how I avoided worldly ties and strove to live according to the Holy Scripture, even though in my slothfulness I did not succeed in this. At the end of my wandering I came again to the Monastery, built a cell near it, and lived as best as I could. Now I have resettled far from the Monastery and have found by God's grace a place according with my ideas, a place little accessible to worldly people, as you yourself have seen. Living in solitude, I occupy myself with searching the spiritual writings: above all I search the Lord's commandments and their commentaries, and the Apostolic tradi­tions; then the Lives and instructions of the Holy Fathers. I reflect on all this, and whatever I find after reflection to be God-pleasing and useful for my soul, I copy out for myself. In this is my life and breath. As for my infirmity and sloth, I place my hope in God and the Most Pure Mother of God. If there is something for me to undertake, and if I find nothing about it in Scripture, I lay it aside for a time until I do find some­thing. I do not presume to undertake anything at all on my own will and according to my own judgement. Whether you live as a hermit or in coenobitic life, pay heed to the Holy Scripture and follow in the footsteps of the Fathers, or be in subjection to one who is known to you as a spiritual man in word, life and judgement. The Holy Scripture is harsh only for earthly ways of thinking, who rather desires to live according to his own passionate will. Others do not wish humbly to search the Holy Scripture, do not wish even to hear of how one should live, as if the Scripture were not written for us or need not be put in all times. The words of the Lord will always be words as pure as refined silver; the Lord's commandments for them are dearer than gold and precious stones, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb."