Solitude

Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there any space for that in your life?

There is a story of three ascetics who became monks. One gave himself the task of reconciling enemies according to the words “Blessed are the peacemakers”; another committed himself to visiting the sick; and the third went off to the desert. The first wore himself out trying to keep men fighting each other and, disillusioned, went to visit the one who cared for the sick. He found that he too had become discouraged by the unending task and was ready to give it up.

So they went to the desert to see how the third was getting on. They told him their problems and asked if he had made any progress. He was silent for a moment and then poured some water into a vase and said: ‘Just look at this water’. They did, and it was murky. A little later he said to them: ‘See now how the water is cleared’. And they could see their faces in it like a mirror. And he said to them: ‘This is like the man who lives among other men and because of their turbulence cannot see his own sins, yet when he lives alone, especially in the desert, he can see his failings’. Staying alone for some time during the day helps you to see life in a better perspective.

A brother told Abba Sisoes: ‘I want to control my heart but I can’t.’ The Abba replied: ‘How can we control our hearts when we keep open the door of our mouths?’

Abba Diadochus said: ‘Just as if you leave open the door of the public baths the steam escapes and their virtue is lost, so the virtue of the person who talks a lot escapes the open door of the voice. This is why silence is a good thing; it’s nothing less than the mother of wise thoughts’. Solitude is not an escape. It is a presence.

Theophile the Archbishop went one day to Scete and the brothers asked Abba Pambo: ‘Say a word to the Father so that he can be edified’. The old man said to them: ‘If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my words’.

Abba Isaias said: ‘Love to be silent rather than to speak. For silence heaps up treasure, while speaking always scatters’. He also said: ‘It is better to live among the crowd and keep a solitary life in your spirit than to live alone with your heart in the crowd’.

This is funny. The blessed Archbishop Theophilus came to see Abba Arsenius once with a nobleman and asked the Abba for a word of profit. After remaining silent for a time, the Abba asked him: ‘And if I give you one, will you keep it?’ They promised to keep it. Then the Abba said to them: ‘Wherever you hear that Arsenius is – stay away’.

Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes. In the middle is the hub. Often in life, it looks like we are running around the rim trying to reach everybody. But God says, “Start in the hub; live in the hub. Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you won’t have to run so fast.”


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.