19 April 2011

Jesus Taught Us the Benefits of Solitude

The following is from the Statutes of the Carthusian Order in the section of Guiges' Praise of Life in Solitude. Guiges was the fifth Prior of La Grande Chartreuse. His name often appears as Guigo.

Jesus Himself, God and Lord, Whose virtue was above both the assistance of solitude and the hindrance of social contact, wished, nevertheless, to teach us by His example; so, before beginning to preach or work miracles, He was, as it were, proved by a period of fasting and temptation in the solitude of the desert; similarly, Scripture speaks of Him leaving His disciples and ascending the mountain alone to pray. Then there was that striking example of the value of solitude as a help to prayer, when Christ, just as His Passion was approaching, left even His Apostles to pray alone — a clear indication that solitude is to be preferred for prayer even to the company of Apostles.

We cannot here pass over in silence a mystery that merits our deepest consideration; the fact that this same Lord and Saviour of mankind deigned to live as the first exemplar of our Carthusian life, when he retired alone to the desert and gave Himself to prayer and the interior life; treating His Body hard with fasting, vigils and other penances; and conquering the devil and His temptations with spiritual arms.

And now, dear reader, ponder and reflect on the great spiritual benefits derived from solitude by the holy and venerable Fathers: Paul, Anthony, Hilarion, Benedict, and others beyond number, and you will readily agree that for tasting the spiritual savour of psalmody; for penetrating the message of the written page; for kindling the fire of fervent prayer; for engaging in profound meditation; for losing oneself in mystic contemplation; for obtaining the heavenly dew of purifying tears — nothing is more helpful than solitude.