Saturday the 5th Week of Easter
There’s a phrase in today’s Gospel that monks have always felt applied especially to them. Jesus said I have chosen you out of the world. Christian monasticism began when some in the third and fourth centuries responded to the Lord’s choice by withdrawing from the world to live, literally, in the desert. They realized that it is necessary to leave our interior turmoil in order to find God. Despite the agitations, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present. He is in us like a thought, a word, and a presence whose secret sources are buried in God himself.
These early monks realized that they did not belong to the world, and they wanted to have only God in their thinking and in their emotions, to fill all their hearts and all their lives. For that, they needed the solitude and silence of the desert.
Cardinal Sarah put it well in his recent book, The Power of Silence. He writes: “Solitude is the best state in which to hear God’s silence. For someone who wants to find silence, solitude is the mountain that he must climb. If a person isolates himself by going away to a monastery, he comes first to seek silence. And yet, the goal of his search is within him. God’s silent presence already dwells in his heart. The silence that we pursue confusedly is found in our own hearts and reveals God to us.”
Then life becomes a prayer, because it is shared with God. Faithful monks pray as often as they breathe, and even when they sleep, their hearts keep watch to praise the Lord. They withdraw from the distractions of the world into the silence of the desert, in order to have a chance to live with God, and for him, and in his presence.
I have chosen you out of the world, said Jesus. That’s why the later monks said, Monasticism is separating from all, to unite with the One who is God.