As usual, I’m behind the times. Most people have already seen the foreign film, Ostrov. I had the opportunity to view it Friday night at St. Nicholas Greek Church in the next town over. The ladies group was hosting it and the priest was going to lead a short discussion afterwards. I decided to chug on over to see what the chatter was all about. I’m glad I did!
What an excellent movie! I’m not into foreign films but this one captured my interest from the opening music.
The main character, Fr. Anatoly, spends the remainder of his life in a Russian monastery after having killed his captain at the command of a Nazi officer, who then ordered the coal barge that Fr. Anatoly was on to be blown up.
Fr. Anatoly job at the monastery was to tend the coal stove, the same as what he did on the barge. Everyday, multiple times a day, he trudged to the coal pile with his small rickety wheelbarrow, filled it and wheeled it back to the coal storage room where the stove way.
This room was the same place he slept. The coal pile was his bed. His knit cap and hand, his only pillow. His cover? It was his cloak. Year in and year out.
The other monastics, even the superior, did not understand Fr. Anatoly. They did not understand his attitude, his jokes, his trips to the island where he wandered or sat or lay in the snow weeping and lamenting over his many sins.
There was a lot of symbolism in the movie. The one that struck me the most was the fact that Fr. Anatoly slept in the coal room, on a coal heap, next to a roaring hot coal stove. He literally slept in hell, praying for God’s forgiveness, and repenting of his sins.
He knew the day he would die and one of the monastics, Fr. Job, had Fr. Anatoly’s coffin made for him. Though Fr. Anatoly wanted only to be buried in the storage box on his porch, he accepted the gift because he recognized that it was born out of the monastic’s desire to be like him and love. So he put on his white baptismal gown, hung his cross around his neck, climbed into the coffin and laid down.
Fr. Job asked him if he was afraid. Fr. Anatoly responded, “No, I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of the dread judgment seat of Christ.” (Or close to that.)
All of Fr. Anatoly’s life was lived in preparation for that eternity.
And so should mine.