November 26, 2020

"The Life of Desert-Dwellers is a Blessed One, For By Divine Eros They Are Raised Up"

In the Anavathmoi for Matins in Plagal of the First Tone we chant: 
"The life of desert-dwellers is a blessed one, 
for by divine eros they are raised up." 
"Τοις ερημικοίς ζωή μακαρία εστι, 
θεϊκώ έρωτι πτερουμένοις."
Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite explains this verse as follows:

"Blessed is the life of desert-dwellers, for they are raised up to God with a fiery, excessive, and intense eros. Yet the Melodist did not say that the desert-dwellers are in love with God, but they are raised up by divine eros."

Saint Nikodemos highlights this last point to show that the hymnographer was expressing his own eros for God and love for life in the desert, not wishing to make a generalized statement that desert-dwellers are in love with God. Desert-dwellers acquire divine eros by distancing themselves from all earthly temptations that would prevent any other love from coming between himself and God. It is this divine eros that gives him wings to fly up to God.

When King David was forced to become a desert-dweller to save his life, he wrote in Psalm 54:7-8 what the hymnographer above saw as an expression of one who indeed was raised up by divine eros after living far away from earthly temptations: "O that I had wings as a dove, then would I fly away, and be at rest. Behold! I have fled afar off, and lodged in the desert."