25 January 2014

Anchoritism is not only Christian

In my own life I recognize that a hermit has to be open to being called to greater and greater degrees of reclusion as we witness to the truth that God (Love-in-act) is the foundation of the being and meaning of our lives and so too, as we also witness to the fact that communion with God is the one necessary thing. It results in a quies or hesychia which is the singleness and peace of a compassionate heart resting in God. Everything comes down to this; everything else, every other relationship and authentic form of love and active ministry flows from it. In my own Camaldolese tradition we have Nazarena who lived as an anchorite in the Motherhouse (St Anthony's) in Rome in the 20th Century as a model of what this might mean.

Other faith traditions also have anchorites who witness to this same foundational truth;  in this brief clip you catch a glimpse of a Buddhist solitary who lives as anchorites have lived for centuries and centuries. Despite her intense physical solitude, she is dependent upon others bringing her food and providing medical care. She too speaks of everything coming down to one essential reality, a singleness of mind, and of a peace and compassion which flows outward to all creation from this. There is also a strong and natural element of hospitality in her life as she opens her window to these unique guests. Christian monastics, especially Benedictines, would certainly not be surprised by this!

We are not the same, of course, not in our beliefs or even our spiritual praxis but our hearts are similarly formed in the silence of solitude and I would wager they speak to one another in the same language of spiritual maturity --- that of compassion for the whole of creation. Whether formed in the silence of solitude or in some other way I believe this is the heart we are each called to have.