After a while, I get to write this on this unusual Holy Saturday. I say unusual because unlike before, we are bound in our homes with no opportunity of having to participate in the activities of the Easter Triduum as we would because of the global pandemic (COVID19) ravaging all places in the world.
Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation, as we know Christ will be resurrected the next day. It is a day of solemn anticipation and of hushed and prayerful waiting at the tomb of Christ. We are certain of His resurrection but we dare not shout the joyous Alleluia until the Church has rekindled the Light of the World at the Easter vigil service. So we wait throughout this day. The sorrow of Good Friday is replaced by quiet hope, but still we are reserved. There is as yet no time for parties and secular visiting and gaiety. This is the day before the greatest feast of the whole Church year belongs to Christ.
As we are in this wait, it is a time of solitude, a time when everything seems to have taken a turn for the worst but the hope of Easter the next day keeps us going. It shines from a far like a shooting star.
Lately I have been reading a very beautiful book called Celebration of Discipline by Richard J Foster. This book talks about the disciplines of spiritual life. He gives a practical guide on how a christian ought to live and one of the disciplines I want to briefly talk about is the The Discipline of Solitude which I believe resonates very well with day.
He starts off this discipline with a quote from Teresa of Avila; “Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself.” What a powerful way to glide into something as interesting as solitude. Foster says, Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude. As humans we are afraid of being left alone, whether you realise it or not. Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. His examples make me run in guilt. He says, we buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.
Luckily Foster comes right in time to allay my fears and give hope. He says, loneliness or clatter are not our only alternatives. We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness where as solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness
Without silence there is no solitude. Though silence sometimes involves
the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening.
Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is
not silence. Like I said before, Foster has a way of bringing the point home using simple examples. Now listen to this! “A day filled with noise and voices can be a day of silence, if the noises become for us the echo of the presence of God, if the voices are, for us, messages and solicitations of God. When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence
behind. When we repeat the intimate words of God that he has left
within us, our silence remains intact.
As he comes to the end of this discipline, he gives us practical things or call them steps to effectively live out this discipline and I am happy to share these with you.
Steps into Solitude
- Take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill your day.
Consider the solitude of those early morning moments in bed before the family awakens. Think of the solitude of a morning cup of coffee
before beginning the work of the day. There is the solitude of bumper-to-bumper traffic. There can be little moments of rest and refreshment when we turn a corner and see a flower or a tree. Instead of vocal prayer before
a meal consider inviting everyone to join into a few moments of gathered silence. These tiny snatches of time are often lost to us. What a pity! They
can and should be redeemed. They are times for inner quiet, for reorienting our lives like a compass needle. They are little moments that help us to be genuinely present where we are.
- Find or develop a “quiet place” designed for silence and solitude.
Homes are being built constantly. Why not insist that a little inner sanctuary be put into the plans, a small place where any family member could go to be alone and silent? Those who live in an apartment could be creative and find other ways to allow for solitude. He gives an example of a one family that has a special chair; whenever anyone sits in it he or she is saying, “Please don’t bother me, I want to be alone.” Let’s find places outside the home: a spot in a park, a church sanctuary that is kept unlocked, even a storage closet somewhere.
- Try to live one entire day without words at all
Foster concludes these steps with this challenge. He says, do it not as a law, but as an experiment. Note your feelings of helplessness and excessive dependence upon words to communicate.Try to find new ways to relate to others that are not dependent upon words. Enjoy, savor the day. Learn from it. Four times a year withdraw for three to four hours for the purpose of reorienting your life goals. This can easily be done in one evening. Stay late at your office or do it at home or find a quiet corner in a public library. Reevaluate your goals and objectives in life. What do you want to have accomplished one year from now? Ten years from now?
As we remain prayerfully waiting at the tomb of Christ, this is a golden chance for us to try out this discipline of solitude.
Please share your experience with me