In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), the thought presented itself to me that there was a certain depth of meaning which I heretofor had not noticed about silence and solitude.

SILENCE – If I use my three universe template to look at this word, it has different meaning in the physical and mental universes than it does in the spiritual universe. The world thinks of silence as not talking, the absence of sound, what happens when you walk into a cave and hear nothing. Early monks, even St. Benedict, went out into the desert to find silence as the world projects, to get away from noise. What they found, and what is true today is the deeper penetration of the mind and heart into reality, the realm of the spiritual universe (The Kingdom of Heaven). God does not need language to communicate with us. He sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus, to tell us and show us what we could not reason to by ourselves, i.e., that God loves us so much he wants to make us adopted sons and daughters, if we choose. Silence, far from being the absence of sound, is the presence of the love of God in our hearts.

As a Lay Cistercian, one of the lessons that have slowly crept into my behavior is that silence has nothing to do with sound at all. I have to try to get to a place, such as Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, as a place where I can be without interruption from the world, to actually discovering that the silence of God is in my heart, not outside it and that Christ invites me to sit down on the park bench in the middle of winter and have a heart to heart chat (listening with the ear of the heart–St. Benedict). How wonderful is the dwelling place, mighty God.

SOLITUDE — The solitude of God is the Mystery of Faith in the Trinity, a community of Faith and Love. In God’s dwelling place, there is one person but three separate persons. Far from being alone or by yourself, contemplation takes place in the context of community. Why is this seeming paradox of logic even possible. When you look at solitude, look at it, not as the world sees it, but as God sees it. Of course, we can’t do that entirely, but we have a hint of what it means because Christ showed us. Solitude, as I have come to experience it, is not being the absence of any human contact, but rather, just the opposite. True solitude exists in that inner room that Christ told us to go when we pray.

In our monthly Gathering Day, Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), we meet to pray together. First, each of us must enter our inner room in humility and obedience to the will of God, and pray to the Holy Spirit that we might see. What happens is solitude in my heart but the openness of that heart (next to the heart of Christ) to listen to the Holy Spirit in others in the community. In this sense, the five principles of Cistercian spirituality (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community) all feed each other with the grace of Christ through the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father. So be it.


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