‘If Sihla does not surpass earthly imagination, it is about as harsh, lonely and wild a place as one could possibly conceive’
This is a nineteen century description of the forests where St Theodora of Sihla lived as a hermit for close to six decades. She had lived there in late 1600s, mostly in a cave, at a time when no other humans except the hermits dared to venture so far in the forested mountains of Bucovine.
St Theodora had been married, but – very early into their marriage – she and her husband decided to become monastics, so they each entered a monastery. He went to a men’s monastery, and she started on her own path to holiness. At first, she entered a women’s monastery, but she was soon given a blessing to live as a hermit in the harshest Moldavian forests.
Today, there is a small monastery where she lived, a wooden church in the forest, which had been used by the hermits in the area, and the cave where she spent most of the life in the wilderness.
It was towards the end of the day when we got to Sihla, the monks had started Vespers in church, but the entire group slowly made its way into the forest and prayer in St Theodora’s Cave and the old wooden church of the hermits. We were dead tired, but strangely happy and light at heart.
By the prayers of St Theodora of Sihla and of all the holy hermits who lived and continue to live in these forests (known and unknown to us, but known to God in His Kingdom), may we all be blessed beyond our wildest hopes.