Monday, August 02, 2010

A vast and fruitful loneliness…

Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere, deep inside, all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inward in prayer for five short minutes.

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: the Journal of a Young Jewish Woman, 1941-1943, with thanks to inward/outward

The great mystery of the incarnation is that God became human in Jesus so that all human flesh could be clothed with divine life. Our lives are fragile and destined to death. But since God, through Jesus, shared in our fragile and mortal lives, death no longer has the final word. Life has become victorious. Paul writes: “And after this perishable nature has put on imperishability and this mortal nature has put on immortality, then will the words of scripture come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Jesus has taken away the fatality of our existence and given our lives eternal value.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

I seem to be writing a lot about solitude and loneliness at the moment. I’m truly not sure quite why. I do know, though, that for me these words are close to the centre of where I’m living from at the moment.

One of yesterday’s lectionary readings was the following, from Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

Those words, “your life is hidden with Christ in God”, just fill me so strongly with that longing, that loneliness that is somehow the very presence of God, that it’s as though he were there, in the very words themselves. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given Jesus’ own prayer for us,

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)


  1. Very nice reflection. Perhaps it's the contemplative prayer that brings us closer to the solitude we seek. k

  2. Thanks, KAM. You're right, I think, about contemplative prayer... kind of a portable desert!