I found this amazing film on YouTube:
The Island (Остров in Russian) was made in 1986 towards the end of the Soviet regime and set in the barren icy wastelands of northern Russia. There is a poignant story behind the making of the film. I’ll let you do your own research.
This is a story of a man who carries the weight of his sin (under extreme pressure from the Nazis during World War II) year after year as a brother in a Russian Orthodox monastery, a fool for Christ in his absolute humility and holiness in spite of his differences with normal monastic discipline and odd behaviour. Like the real characters of St Seraphim of Zarov in Russia and St Benedict Joseph Labre in Rome, we are challenged in our conventionalism and orthodoxy, unless we are somewhat “off” ourselves.
Churches are often criticised for instilling guilt into their faithful, but surely compunction and real penance are the conditions of our healing and salvation. The real goal is to accept God’s forgiveness and transcend our misery for the light of the Resurrection. As an organist, I came across Litanies by the French composer Jehan Alain who was killed by a German bullet in 1940. He headed his manuscript with this intensely moving text: Quand l’âme chrétienne ne trouve plus de mots nouveaux dans la détresse pour implorer la miséricorde de Dieu, elle répète sans cesse la même invocation avec une foi véhémente. La raison atteint sa limite. Seule la foi poursuit son ascension. (When, in its distress, the Christian soul can find no more words to invoke God’s mercy, it repeats endlessly the same prayer with a vehement faith. Reason has reached its limit. Only faith pursues its ascension.) So much for those who find fault with repeating prayers!
The fool for Christ is particularly noted in Russian Orthodox spirituality, but is is also noted in the fact that men like St Benedict-Joseph Labre are canonised saints in the west. I leave this article with a reference to Foolishness for Christ. Even so far in advance of Septuagesima, Lenten reflections can begin to form in our minds.