Silence and Solitude
The word "hermit" comes from the Greek ἔρημος (eremos), which means a solitary, uninhabited and abandoned place. A hermit is therefore a monk or nun who lives (outside a monastery) in solitude. The first hermits had discovered that silence, solitude, and moderation in matters of food and drink, lay the way for deep prayer; by taking a step back from the worries of daily life, they wanted more consciously to live under the gaze of God, in his Presence.
Since the chapel is the property and monument of the municipality of Montbrun, it is open to the public, while the choir of the church and the hermitage in the village are part of the "cloister". Behind the rope suspended at the entrance of the choir of the chapel, and in the hermitage itself, the hermit leads a retired (cloistered) life of prayer, study and manual labor.
On the history of hermits
There are records of Christian hermits beginning in the fourth century. After the end of the great persecutions against the Christians, Egyptian monks retreated to the desert to seek God in silence and solitude. They placed themselves under the direction of a spiritual father, a wise old man, thus laying the foundations of later monasticism. Among these Desert Fathers were famous saints, such as Anthony the Great (often portrayed in Art in paintings called "The Temptation of St. Anthony"), Paul of Thebes, Evagrius Ponticus, and John Cassian. These last two especially had a great influence on the monastic life in Europe.
While most of the monks gathered in monasteries, the hermits continued to exist in solitude. As in the beginning of Egyptian eremitism, they were above all very simple men, who most often lived in a cell next to a solitary chapel.
As if part of the furniture of the chapel they kept and maintained, they were the praying heart, and spent the rest of their time doing housework and small jobs to support themselves. It is not for nothing that the hermit of Notre Dame de Colombier describes himself (in the footsteps of his hermit brother in the highest north of the Netherlands), not without self-deprecation, as a "three stars sacristan". But behind this hides a sincere and tested message: "I asked one thing to the Lord, the only one I seek: to live in the house of the Lord," as Psalm 26 sings.
The hermitage of Notre Dame de Colombier
Established in mid-2018 in a rather disused and dilapidated church, and in a small house that will need some adaptations, the hermitage of Notre Dame de Colombier revives a way of life that has all but died out. In solitude or in assembly, hermitage or chapel, there will be places of prayer and silence, which defines and protects the life of a hermit monk.
Being situated both in this world and a little outside of it, hermitages have, since their origins, attracted men and women. This has given rise to hermitages becoming places of pilgrimage, thus compromising somewhat the ideal of a solitary life. Since the seventeenth century, hermits have often been employed as guardians of pilgrimage chapels.
After the decline of the chapel of Our Lady of Colombier as a place of worship and pilgrimage, due to the fading of the priory which had once been there and to secularization in general, in recent years there have only been two times of public worship each year.
Prayer and spiritual life
The daily life in the chapel and hermitage is much like the life of monks and nuns in monasteries. It is a life that always consists of an alternation of work and prayer. There are several times of fixed prayer each day (please find on the following page).
The purpose of these moments of prayer is to devote to God the different hours of the day; that is why we also speak of prayer or Liturgy of Hours. This form of religious life, made of prayer and interiority, is sometimes called contemplative life.