A brother in Scetis went to ask for a word from Abba Moses and the old man said to him, ‘Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.’
I keep wondering what for us are our cells, if, like so many people of prayer in this century, we are called to a more contemplative life, and yet are not members of a formal religious community, nor vowed to a formal solitary life. I wrote about this earlier, and yet I am no more clear on the matter. I find I need increasingly to look for ways to ‘be on retreat in the midst of a crowd’ as someone memorably remarked in a Facebook comment on a friend’s post.
The formal practice of the Jesus Prayer, sitting for a period quietly repeating the Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner…’ often using a Latin rosary or a prayer rope, tends to lead, after a time, to the habit or practice of praying the Prayer – often it feels more like the Prayer praying itself – when one is engaged in other things: walking, perhaps, or some repetitive task. I wonder if allowing this to become more conscious may not be a door into the cell of one’s heart – a place of solitude not so dependent on external conditions as most kinds of contemplative prayer.