I came across this which struck a chord – 

« Parfois, d’une façon soudaine, une Présence surgit à l’improviste. Les yeux extérieurs ne distinguent aucune forme. Le regard intérieur ne découvre pas de trace ».*

And also this (Merton on interior solitude) – 

And he takes upon himself the lonely, barely comprehensible, incommunicable task of working his way through the darkness of his own mystery until he discovers that his mystery and the mystery of God merge into one reality. That God lives in him and he in God – not precisely in the way that the words seem to suggest (for words have no power to comprehend the reality) but in a way that makes words, and even attempts to communicate, seem utterly illusory.

Every man is a solitary, held firmly by the inexorable limitations of his own aloneness. Death makes this very clear… Each one will have to die, and die alone. And, at the same time (but this is what they do not want to see) each one must also live alone… the wrestling with one’s solitude is also a life-work – a ‘life-agony’. When a man is called to be a solitary – (even if only interiorly) – he does not need to be anything else, nor can anything else be demanded of him except that he remain physically or spiritually alone fighting his battle which few can understand. His function in the Church – a social function and a spiritual one – is to remain in the ‘cell’ of his aloneness, whether it be a real cell in the desert, or simply the spiritual cell of his own incomprehensible emptiness; and, as the desert fathers used to say, his ‘cell will teach him all things’.**

That really struck home. The extraordinary thing, and Merton mentions this too, the more solitary you are the more you are aware of others, especially those who are suffering in places like Palestine, Iraq and Africa, the more you feel the bonds which link us all, the more prayer seems to matter.

[* Marie Madeleine Davy (1903-1998) Le Desert Interieur

** Thomas Merton, Disputed Questions, Hollis and Carter, London 1961, p. 180/1]

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