Daily Meditations

Persons in Communion: The Disciplines of Communion (Part II)

The training of our consciousness enables us to recover an immediacy of response to anybody’s face, however spoilt, haggard, or careworn, and precisely because it is such. God loves this person here and now, in their very ordinariness, their cowardice, their loneliness, their sin. Our consciousness being awakened, the eye of the heart is opened, and we begin to see with the eyes of God.

Then we can put ourselves in the other’s place, share the other’s experience from within. The other person becomes the image of God for us, not for our delight, but so we can bring to bear the strongest ascetic influence. For nearly always the image is disfigured by the powers of evil; on this new battlefield we must henceforth fight, armed with discernment, love and prayer.

Prayer above all. For the Tradition is unanimous: ‘Love is born of prayer’, ‘Love is the fruit of prayer’. Prayer cleanses the heart of the ‘passions’ and opens it to the Trinitarian expansion.

Prayer frees us from indifference and impenetrability; it exposes us to the revelation of the other person, to the other person as revelation.

We must therefore be attentive to others and to God, simultaneously performing service and practicing solitude. Everyone is pledged to the ‘interior monasticism’ of which Paul Evdokimov speaks; to be, in his heart of hearts, like a monk, alone with God.

There is a famous monastic precept, ‘Be all things to all men, weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice. But in your inmost heart remain alone’, before Him, with Him, in Him. And as He is love and the source of love, anyone who, for His sake, separates himself from all finds himself by the same token united to all.

Solitude is a vital discipline both for me and the other person; we must know how to leave each other alone. We do not know how to leave our friends and family alone because we are possessive, continually trying to reconstruct around us the world of our childhood, where we were at the centre.

And solitude is not only physical. Even when we are alone, perhaps then above all, we are inhabited, possessed; not deserts, but public places. The others are in us, and we ourselves are manifold.

So not only is solitude necessary for prayer, but prayer for true solitude. We all have to learn to detach ourselves occasionally – and in any case we all have to sleep – but the saint will in the end bear within himself, even at the heart of the crowd, utter silence, the silence of true solitude.

Then no one is a stranger to him anymore.

~Olivier Clement, On Human Being:  A Spiritual Anthropology