What is Metanoia of Vermont?
It’s the end of a long day. I’ve spent the day sorting through old papers, cleaning up our home office, and wading through emails I should have responded to weeks ago. As vespers begins and through the opening hymn and the Gospel reading, my mind bounces between prayer and the scattered thoughts of the day. Then, a pause. Silence descends, my thoughts still, and I feel a familiar, quiet radiance return. Love expands my heart, and I know the love of God both in me and in all things. Our toddler Anna climbs onto my lap, and then just as quickly squirms off. As she topples back to the ground, I see a butterfly sticker attached to her foot and I take it off without her objecting. My awareness shifts from the silent Love at the heart of all that is, to the mechanics of sticker removal, and then back to silent love.
This is life on our homestead – the dance between resting in loving awareness of the Realm of God and tending to the countless specific needs of our homestead and family. Both are good, true, and beautiful. This evening it is butterfly stickers and bedtime stories, tomorrow it will be shoveling snow, splitting wood, and planning the layout for porches on the guest house. What unifies it all is our desire to be attentive to the Divine mystery of light, life, and love that permeates all existence, if we are awake enough to perceive it. God knows that I fail in this effort to pray without ceasing. Yet each year we live into this life I can feel my heart shedding more of its obstacles to resting in God, and I watch Lisa grow in spiritual freedom.
The mission statement of our non-profit, Metanoia of Vermont, is ‘To illuminate the way of Christ through prayer, work, and study in relationship with the land.’ We’re seeking to live an integrated life of prayer, hospitality, and care of the earth. We aim to support the spiritual growth and health of those of us living here, our guests, and our wider community. We strive to live simply, in a way that is a blessing to the natural world and the rest of the community of life. We do this through striving to be faithful to the teachings and witness of Jesus, and in particular through following the Benedictine model of life in Christ. We’re living out an experiment of a new way of following Christ, as lay contemplative homesteaders. In trying to live this new way, we our nourished by some very old sources: the Bible, the ancient wisdom of Benedictine monasticism, and the continual revelation of the ‘Book of Creation’ (the early Church’s name for the natural world).
What is metanoia, anyway? We understand it to mean: “Transform the eyes of your heart!” Metanoia is the ancient Greek word in Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels that describes Jesus’ proclamation as he traveled from town to town sharing good news. “Metanoia, for the Realm of God is at hand”. It’s often translated into English as ‘repent,’ though I think that translation misses a great deal. Metanoia is a compound word, combining meta and noia (a form of the Greek word nous). Meta means both to change and to expand, or go beyond. It’s the root of English words like metamorphosis (to change form) and metaphysics (the physics beyond ordinary physics). The nous in the classic world refers to a part of the inner landscape of a human being, which has aspects of both ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ as we understand it but doesn’t exactly match either. It’s the part of the human being which can see and understand spiritual reality. So, metanoia means to transform (meta) the part of our selves that sees spiritual reality (-noia or nous).
Why? As Jesus says, this is necessary because the Realm of God is at hand. Divine life is here and now, all around us and within us. Metanoia means learning to see at the deeper level of reality where God is already fully present. This new seeing changes everything, and becomes the gateway to a life of union and intimacy with God. It’s Jesus’ first and most essential teaching – everything else in His ministry flows from this call to transformation.
This Substack is a collection of our reflections on living this life, and the perspectives and spiritual insights we have gleaned from this project. Our hope is that these writings will be helpful to others seeking to follow the Way of Christ, and to all who are seeking lives of wholeness. We can’t walk this path alone, and we invite you to share your insights and experiences in the comments when inspired. God willing, we’ll walk together into greater fullness of life.
Just found you through Paul Kingsnorth, who i found through Jonathon Pageau, who i found through Rod Dreher, who i found through Orthodoxy, that i found through … continuum. Christ is Risen!
Appreciating what you've written about your project (especially this moment: awareness shifts from the silent Love at the heart of all that is, to the mechanics of sticker removal, and then back to silent love") and glad to be connected!