Friday, February 24, 2012

Solitude as community...

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else's business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let's not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

I think one thing that Lent teaches us is that, contrary to much that contemporary life teaches us, and contrary to many of the fantasies we may entertain, we do not live in splendid isolation. No, “though we are many, we are one body in Christ...” (Romans 12.5)

Jesus, faint though he was with hunger, and worn from his weeks of aloneness in the wilderness, could not react in isolation to the temptations he encountered. What he chose then would touch each one of us today, more than 2,000 years later. Our solitude is no different; our thoughts are not our own to play with as we choose. Our surrender is far deeper than that.

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