27 September 2010

Again, Followup on the Silence of Solitude (#6)

[[Dear Sister, Thank you for your responses. I think I might have understood better after the first one, but I appreciate the examples in the third one from the monastery. Does eremitical silence and solitude differ in any other way from ordinary silence and solitude?]]

The one difference I haven't mentioned because I was focusing on the distinction between "silence AND solitude" and "the silence OF solitude" is that for most people ordinary silence and solitude are temporary, sometimes even rare occurrences. For the hermit they are defining elements of the very environment in which the hermit lives (THE defining element of eremitical life, I would argue, is the silence OF solitude). While all diocesan hermits must travel outside the hermitage to shop, go to Mass, make doctor's visits, run errands, and sometimes even work, the overall environment in which they live is primarily or mainly one of physical silence and solitude. The times outside the hermitage are definite exceptions.

For some individuals though, large measures of external silence and solitude constitute their normal environments. Among these are some members of the marginalized groups I have spoken of before: the chronically ill, the isolated elderly, etc. However, here is where the distinction between the term used in Canon 603 (the silence of solitude) and simply silence and solitude becomes very important. As I noted we may try to validate our isolation with Canon 603 (and for those of us who are chronically ill a legitimate vocation can begin in this way!), but at some point that must change into the silence OF solitude which is rooted in communion with God if we are really to be hermits. I spoke earlier of the difference between validating our isolation and the redemption of that isolation; in earlier posts I have also spoken about becoming a hermit in some essential sense before approaching a diocese for profession. The transition from external silence and solitude (the silence and solitude of absence) to the silence OF solitude (the silence/solitude of presence) is behind this transition or redemption.

So, yes, there are several differences (and some similarities) between the silence and solitude we ordinarily experience and those lived routinely by hermits. I would need to think about this a bit more to know whether there are more than I mentioned here and in previous posts, but yes, I left out the notion that for some silence and solitude are respites or temporary pauses in the usual environment whereas for the hermit they tend to define the environment in which all else happens.