Solitude Together in Christian Community

BLOG Post #10 December 29, 2020

Solitude Together in Christian Community

Up to this point, in our past 2 BLOG posts, we have considered what I have referred to as personal solitude, which is our intentional movement toward being present to self and to God and interior solitude which is the initial fruit of personal solitude. By this we have now moved from an intentional act to a more passive surrender to God by which we settle deeper into what might be called solitude of the soul and human spirit. Interior solitude is more centering as it moves us to an inner heart/spirit and soul posture that says “Yes” 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. Inner solitude thus is more a way of being whereas personal solitude is a way of acting or doing. The labels of personal and inner with regard to these first two aspects of solitude indicate that they are ways of acting and being that bring about a more harmonious and balanced, thus aware, and alive, spirit, soul, mind, and body. This results in a deeper sense of being present to ourselves that then can become more being present with and in Christ Jesus, God with us. This is amazing holy space where we begin to know the truth of who we are as God’s image bearers and God’s children with an ever-deepening awareness of God with us. This is the way of purification, illumination, and union with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). However personal and inner solitude is not the fullness of the solitude we seek, although they are the necessary foundation for this fullness. We are not simply interested in union with God as if it were only a personal experience to be held onto for our own benefit and pleasure. For to do so would be to miss the fullness of what it means to live in solitude with and in God, because God is everywhere. God is near every person and all creation. Thus, solitude within and solitude with God must come forth into solitude in God with others. This, what we might call outer solitude, relational solitude, or communal solitude begins with solitude together in Christian community. This is because, it is in Christian community that personal and inner solitude, and the accompanying inner journey to union with God, can then burst forth into solitude, fullness of presence, with God in others, in the world, and all creation both heaven and earth. Christian mystics and contemplatives have spoken of this as being in God and recognizing the presence and interconnectedness of all that is. In monastic terms this type of solitude is called coenobitic. This is life in a community of believers, who have come together, under God, separate from the world at large, to live, or for a time of worship, fellowship, study, and service with a deep awareness of God’s presence. As in personal solitude, discernment, humility, and a disdain for distracting controversy are desired and sought, this time however as a community called the body of Christ. This is very much an incarnational existence as it is by love, peace, unity, and good works that Christ is seen in the midst of the Christian community. Emphasis should never placed on fleeting earthly things, or personal agenda, but instead on the eternal kingdom of God and the community’s unity in Christ Jesus, no longer simply as individuals but as a living breathing holy organism. This is a way of being where the health of our individual souls as well the other souls of those with us, in unity, in community, is greatly emphasized. Soul care is carried out in Christian life lived together, as we hold one another in the Love of Jesus Christ. “How is it with you soul?” is a question indicative of a community in solitude. The Christian community, in solitude together, is a community in union with God and with one another. It is this relationship for which Jesus prayed…

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. NRS John 17:22-23

It is this relationship of which Jesus taught…

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." NRS Matthew 22:36-40

Your neighbor, in the context of solitude in Christian community, are those in the community of believers with whom we coexist. This of course expands to include all people everywhere, or solitude in the world.1 A community in solitude is a community where all major decisions are community decisions soaked in prayer, void of personal agenda. This is not a community where majority rules, or secrets are held. This is a community that seeks consensus by praying and waiting for God’s guidance and revelation. Being illuminated in Christ Jesus together, as we journey together to the fullness of solitude and an awakening to our union with God, is a good way to see solitude in Christian community.

A community in solitude honors all people in the Christian community as we follow Christ together sharing the good news together, helping the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and helping those in trouble whenever possible and always together. This is a community who consoles those in pain. It is a community without need of worldly benefit or recognition, preferring to show the present love of Christ, and Christ alone, in all they do. Every effort is made to avoid anger, hate, and jealousy, and to forgive without hesitation. Members of a community in solitude speak and receive the Truth in love, avoid pride, they disdain gossip, and trust God who is present everywhere. This community is steeped in God’s holy Word, unceasingly applying themselves to regular prayer, searching the Scriptures, practicing simplicity, solitude, silence, stillness, and spaciousness (holy freedom) in life together.

God bless you all and have a Happy and Blessed New Year. See you in 2021.

Gene Yotka

1 Next week we will consider "Solitude in the World."

Featured Posts
Recent Posts