The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spiritual Solitiude is More Than Seclusion

To be alone with God, which implies being in solitude from the world, is indescribably pleasing to the devout mind. And in order to realize an idea, which carries with it so much attraction, it is not surprising, that many pious persons have, in all ages of the world, secluded themselves from society. In plucking the roses of the world, they have been pierced with the thorn; and in the depth of their sorrow they have sought to avoid that, which, under the appearance of good, conceals so much evil. Their designs have been right, but their methods have not always been successful.

Interior or spiritual solitude is not to be confounded with physical or personal solitude.  It is something more, and something higher, than mere seclusion of the body in some hidden or remote place.

In the accounts of those, who, in the early periods of Christianity, retired into solitary places, with the object of perfecting their inward state in desolate caverns, in forests, and in the seclusions of monasteries, we find frequent mention of unexpected and heavy temptations. Often did the world, in the shape of evil desires and vain imaginations, follow them to their lonely retreats. It is related of St. Jerome, whose devout writings still edify the church, that, in the ardor of his young piety, he thought he could successfully escape the temptations of luxurious cities, and perfect his inward experience, by dwelling alone in the solitary deserts of Syria. In the midst of those vast plains, scorched by the burning sun, he sat down alone, emaciated, disfigured, with no companion but wild beasts. Strong were his resolutions; great were his sufferings; many were the penitential tears which he shed; — but, in the midst of this desolation and of these flowing tears, he informs us that his busy imagination placed before him the luxuries of Rome and the attractions of her thoughtless voluptuaries, and renewed the mental tortures which he hoped he had escaped. [See Pantheon Litteraire. Ĺ’uvres de St. Jerome.]

To be secluded, therefore, in body is not enough. To be alone in caves and in forests is not necessarily to be alone with God.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 10.

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