Monk takes devotion to new heights

I blogged on this site once about the original and most famous stylite, St Simeon the Stylite as well as one of his successors, St Daniel the Stylite. Stylites are people who are the living embodiment of ancient desert monasticism, poised between earth and heaven, continually interceding for those below. They were most popular in the fifth century and have pretty much died out. But here we see that there is one in Georgia! What impresses me is that the monastery at the bottom of the pillar serves as an outreach to troubled young men. This is what true asceticism is about — the quest for holiness and God reaching ever upwards and then, as a natural result, turn outwards to bring Grace to the world.

CNN Photos

Maxime the monk lives on a pillar. When he wants to step down out of the clouds, the 59-year-old scales a 131-foot ladder, which takes him about 20 minutes.

After living on Katskhi pillar for 20 years, Maxime’s climbs have slowed, but having worked as a crane operator in a past life, he’s never feared heights.

Photographer Amos Chapple heard about Maxime while working in the country of Georgia, and when he first arrived and asked to go up, he was told no. Only priests and some of the troubled young men learning from Maxime and living in a monastery underneath the pillar were allowed to go up.

Chapple stayed with the men at the base for four days before he was told he could ascend the pillar. He participated in prayers seven hours a day, including four-hour night prayers from 2 a.m. to sunrise. When he was finally going…

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