Instead, I find myself seated on a low wooden bench at a large table. It’s quiet, surprisingly so considering there are about thirty other people in the room. They are all men, although some have mere fluff on their cheeks, and cannot be more than fourteen or fifteen years old. They are all dressed in long woollen tunics, dyed a patchy brown, and all of the older men have tonsures. The only person speaking is one man standing at the end of the room, reading from a book on a lectern. I would have recognized the Latin, even if the shell in my head hadn’t translated it—it’s from the Gospel of St. Mark.
“Et erat in deserto quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus et temptabatur a Satana eratque cum bestiis et angeli ministrabant illi.”
“And he was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by Satan. And he was with beasts: and the angels ministered to him.”
I know monasticism owes its origins to Christ’s followers wishing to replicate His time alone in the desert. Clearly, the monk is reminding them why they have dedicated their lives to vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.