Interior Solitude of the Christian Contemplative
BLOG #9 December 22, 2020
Interior solitude is the initial fruit of personal solitude, as out intentional personal solitude we settle deeper into what might be called solitude of the soul and human spirit. Interior solitude is more passive in that it tends toward surrender to God’s presence and action within us, which then opens us to a deeper realization of who we are as God’s image bearers and God’s children in Christ Jesus. It remains solitude as being with self, others, and all creation, but now more from a place of simply being, with little or no effort, open, undefensive and in the moment with a deep desire for God’s will to be done and not our own will. Personal solitude is initially more evident in our minds and bodies. Interior solitude is more living into and giving way to that which is affecting our minds and bodies. In other words, we get closer to the source of true solitude, which comes by way of a Holy Spirit-soaked human spirit and a soul that is thus being healed and expanded affecting the mind and body. We sense this interior movement first in the mind and body, only to discover that from which our thoughts and somatic experiences actual flow and are sourced.
Interior solitude is time alone, just us and God. A time of discovering, or rediscovering, the kingdom of God within you. This is often experienced as transformational liminal place between the intentionality of personal solitude and the more passive surrender or settling in aspects of interior solitude in which we allow God to bring Shalom, inner peace, to our very being with the express intention of becoming as we are drawn into deeper awareness of God’s presence and action within us.
“Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon God in yourself”
Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
This is a time when we allow ourselves to be truly present to our inner selves, so that we can be present to God in us. We pray for God to reveal distractions and blockages in our life: such things as avarice, self-centeredness, and greed, to mention a few. We also track (journal) our thoughts to see if they are fixated in the past or on the future, rather than the present moment. We ask the Lord to give us the strength to confront these blockages head on not with effort or violence but by way of surrender to God’s holy presence within us.
We begin personal time in solitude when we intentionally remove ourselves from the world for a time. Interior solitude is the beginning of simply being in a way that allows us to be drawn into the interior work that God is doing in us, which up until this time we sensed in our thoughts and even felt in our bodies. Now, however, we are blessed to simply rest with an inner “yes” before God, and to God’s holy presence and action within us. Thus, in personal solitude we intentionally withdraw for a time, not because other people are so annoying to us, as much as this may be true from time to time, but so we can move inwardly asking God, by way of surrendering to God’s will, to remove any contentious tendencies within us that arise from our own inner critic, or judgmental nature, often combined with a critical desire to change others. We then can discover that bringing inner solitude into the world, as solitude in community, can be a challenge. We will address this further when we consider solitude together in Christian community, next week.3
Abba Apphy, when he became a Bishop of Oxyrhynchus, struggled with his sense of inner solitude when he was forced to leave his life in eremitic solitude. He even asked himself if God had withdrawn grace from him for becoming a Bishop. Having prayed he realized that when he was in the desert “there was no one else but God to help him. Now that he was in the world, it was people.”4
In summary, during our time in personal solitude we intentionally withdraw from the world for a bit. Inner solitude is the fruit of sitting at the feet of God, our only helper, praying to be inwardly balanced and formed, spirit, soul, mind, and body, so that we may to be inwardly trained and transformed by the Holy Spirit to go into our chosen community4 and then into the world, with a heart/spirit of true presence. In short, this means to simply be our true naked unadorned selves with “yes” on our hearts to God’s presence and action within us, so that we can then come to know God’s presence and action around us, respond in ways that are pleasing to the Lord, and be inwardly open to being transformed into being who the Lord is calling us to be in a world that desperately needs Christ Jesus. 5
I pray you all have a blessed and Merry Christmas. God bless you all.
3 This is the topic of next week’s BLOG
4 From, Holy Bishops of Late Antiquity, by Claudia Rapp, University of California Press, 2005
5 We will unpack these in detail in the weeks to come.