“ Everyone will take, at least, a ‘desert’ day, once a month. » (GS 36) In our everyday life, woven with relationships and encounters, why is there the need for a day of solitude and silence?
God, who led his people in the desert, invites us to do so: “ « I will lead her into the desert and I will speak to her heart » (Hosea 2,16) And Jesus tells his disciples « As for you, when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is there, in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you » (Mt. 6,6) And in little Therese’s words « Lovers require solitude ». Every relationship needs moments of intimacy, when one is alone with one’s beloved. What is true between husband and wife and between friends, is also true in our relationship with the Lord. To be there first of all freely for Him, to listen to Him speaking to our hearts in silence, to deepen our prayer under his eyes alone.
To enter into solitude, we are going to leave behind any visible relationshiops, conversations, usual work, computers and cellphones – when charity allows it – to say to God : « I am here for you alone. »
Silence on that day is not first of all a deprivation of words but a greater space given to listening to the Word of God and to prayer. How can we listen to God speaking to our heart ? Each one of us will be led by the Holy Spirit, in a unique way.
First of all we have to leave our usual, sometimes frantic rythme. A long nature bath, relaxing for a while, can help us rediscover God’s presence within us. We can set to work on what unites us with the inner Guest, and it will be different for each one of us. God will speak to us in our bedroom or in the midst of nature, through a sustained contact with a text from the Scriptures, through prayer of Rosary, the Jesus prayer, adoration, contemplation of an icon, and so on. Some manual work can help us as well.
Little by little, the right way to dwell in God’s presence during that day will become clear to us (and will also evolve in the course of our spiritual life).
Some points of reference can help us, when our ‘desert’ day turns out to be difficult.
If we spend the ‘desert’ day in our bedroom, it is a good thing to prepare our room the day before and to prepare our heart as well ! To tidy away what is lying around, which could prompt us to go on with some unfinished work, clear a table and open the Bible on it, and so on.
If rest is often necessary, it is a pity should sleep invade too much of the morning, it is better to avoid getting up too late, in order to schedule, as early in the morning as possible, enough time to listen to the Word of God, even if it means resting a little early in the afternoon, if necessary…
When in the ‘desert’, it is good to give priority to listening to the Word of God. The office, then an extended lectio time will help us : reading the Word slowly and several times, pronouncing it, carefully listening to it, memorizing some verses, letting our prayer spring forth leading us into silence and adoration.
The Word we have received can remain with us as we go to the chapel, during the meal, when we go for a walk or work with our hands, it can feed this day, bring peace and unity to our heart. A time for studying the Word of God can be planned, deepening our understanding of a word or a theme, with the help of the notes of a Bible, for example.
If needed, another reading can help. We should be careful to avoid dispersion and multiplying our readings, which could be a temptation. Nourishment does not depend on quantity but on the anointing carried by an excerpt or a sentence meditated upon at length.
Little by little, everyone will find what suits him so remain peacefully with the Lord.
Outer silence and solitude are not enough for our heart to enter into inner silence. Having stopped our usual activities, this is when what we have experienced before will surface: past difficulties, worries, fears for the future, and so on. Negative feelings, hidden when we are in the heat of action, wake up…
Outer silence and solitude are not enough for our heart to enter into inner silence. Having stopped our usual activities, this is when what we have experienced before will surface: past difficulties, worries, fears for the future, and so on. Negative feelings, hidden when we are in the heat of action, wake up… We have to go back peacefully to the Lord, without analysing at length what is coming up. Short invocations will help us. The desert is, traditionally, the place of temptations and spiritual warfare, so let us not be surprised! If something keeps on dwelling in us, we shall speak about it in counseling or in confession.
We might also have trouble in letting go of what usually stresses us, some work we should have liked to finish; the way to our heart is hidden from us, we feel bored… Let us welcome peacefully these purifications, remembering that this day belongs to God first. We cannot offer him anything more precious than our time and He will use everything in order to draw us to Himself!
This day allows us first to refocus on what is essential: it is for God, for His love that we made our choice of life. Through solitude and silence, we return to a full awareness of this fundamental choice.
We take a step back from the issues of everyday life, and even if they are not resolved the next day, we will face them peacefully and sometimes with new insights. If our activity, our use of the internet have taken too much hold on our days, they can find a more just place, when we accept to leave them a moment for God.
Our inner life is renewed by a listening attitude and a longer time of prayer and so is our external activity. « There, I shall give her back her vineyards » (Hosea 2,17), in other words, wine and joy ! (cf. Hosea 2,23). It is not to strip us unnecessarily that God invites us to leave our usual way of life ; but with a promise to bear fruit (cf. Hosea 2:23).
At the end of the day, we could collect some fruits and write them down in a notebook : Which Word of God has marked this day? What did the Lord make me understand about Him ? About myself ? And we shall express our gratitude to Him whatever we have experienced. At the end of the day, we will be able to collect some fruits in a notebook : which Word of God has marked this day ? What did the Lord help me to understand about Him, about myself? And we will express our gratitude to Him, whatever we have experienced.
« He who loves to talk with Christ, loves to be alone . » Saint Isaac le Syrien
William of saint Thierry’s prayer
« Lord, you have seduced me and led me into solitude.
Now my soul wishes to attend to you alone,
You, whom my heart desires!
In your mercy, I beg of You,
Impose peace and silence around and inside me.
To comfort my solitude, give me
A heart who loves silence and frequent talks with You.
As long as You are with me, I shall not be alone.
Lead me into the utmost depth of the desert
Where the holy soul finds itself immersed altogether
in the fire of the Holy Spirit
and blazes up like a burning seraph.
Hide me in the secret of Your Face ! »
To go further…
Just for today :
Find the previous articles in our “Life of prayer” series.
(publication edited by brothers and sisters of the Community of the Beatitudes – © rights reserved).