A Prophetic Voice from the Silence
There is a need today to communicate with something greater than this world, for the world is fleeting, illusionary and will one day pass away. Solitude, almost by its very nature offers deeper communication with the self as the countless contradictions within our life can finally be reconciled. It is in silence that we know of something deeper, the presence and self-emptying nature of God. This knowing of God and self, the emptying nature of solitude and the escape from a decadent state is a sign of contradiction to the world. The solitary is like John the Baptist, one crying in the wilderness with a message that few will embrace but that many will reject. The solitary is a prophet who speaks a message that the world does not want to hear because it has nothing in common with the one who is truly alone and not part of this world. But in this act of dying to the world and being rejected by it, the silent solitary perhaps speaks more loudly than any words could. For it is this person who knows the true nature of God, His transcendence, His otherness and a nature that is beyond catchphrase or slogan and that it is why the world hates the solitary for the same reasons they hate God. It is impossible to make this transcendent God into our own image and the solitary is a harsh reminder of this.
Just at the Desert Fathers left society to live in the wilderness, so too have generations that followed looked to solitude in order to have greater understanding and clarity. A solitary is one who is able to speak out of the silent places in life and communicate from this level than most never reach. Someone who lives in the wildernesses of life is able to keep the practice of silence alive for our society when so few are doing it. To break free from the spiritual chains that so easily entangle and to find freedom from compulsions that are alien to being truly alive is to offer hope to a world that is desperately searching for something deeper, something that transcends the reality in which they live.
In the eyes of society a solitary is one who has failed because they do not live up to societal expectations of production and consumption; the solitary fails to conform to the norms that serve to order our lives. However, their significance is great in that they alone can speak from the depths to a world that has degraded humanity. For it is the one who has encountered their own humanity and become empty of it and is finally united with God that can speak of the value and dignity of each person. It is the one who is alone that has respect for the loneliness of life which everyone experiences but that not everyone acknowledges. The one who lives in solitude and silence is able to speak words that have meaning and significance to our busy world that speaks with incessant compulsion. Perhaps it is more loving to the world to leave it than to accept the harmful myths and fictions of the world in which we live.
Christians are called to be in the world but not of the world. The Desert Fathers and the Martyrs before them stand in stark contrast to the world, as they live here on Earth but are clearly not of this world. However, today it seems that many Christians do not really appear to be any different from the world around them. There is a need for those who live a solitary, silent life because they can serve as a reminder to Christians today who can often forget how they are to live in the world. Perhaps it is in the very act of with drawl that God is able to use the solitary to heal the wounds of the entire world.