A poustinia is a small sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God. The word poustinia has its origin in the Russian word for desert. One called to live permanently in a poustinia is called a poustinik.
I first became familiar with the concept through the writings of Catherine de Hueck Doherty, who wrote a book called Poustinia.
This is from another book of hers that I’ve gone back to during this time when we’re all being called inward. This one is called Strannik: The Call to Pilgrimage for Western Man.
“In the resurrection, God handed you and me the key to the goal of our pilgrimage. We call it the doors of paradise, but there are many ways of explaining it. Still bloody from the wounds inflicted by his crucifixion, he hands you the key of reconciliation. It is the key of reconciliation between God and man. That was the price of sobernost. [Sobornost (Russian: Собо́рность, IPA: [sɐˈbornəstʲ] “Spiritual community of many jointly living people”].
Now would you please meditate on sobornost? The meditation is so tremendous that we need to go apart, away, in solitude if possible, at least in the solitude of our hearts.
Christ the Reconciliator. Christ the Salvation of Mankind. Christ the Victim. Christ Triumphant. Christ in our midst. Christ always present. Christ the Keys to the Father.
This requires some thinking in a poustinia–the poustinia of the heart, the poustinia of the heart, the poustinia of a shack, the poustinia of a room–it makes no difference, but it requires meditation, deep and profound contemplation. This is the key. Sobornost is the key to the survival of this planet, believe it or not. If we are united with God we will survive. If we are not, we won’t. So sobornost must be meditated upon, contemplated upon in the poustinia. “