In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. And when he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. Luke 6:12-19
Solitude is one of the great spiritual disciplines. Like all the disciplines whether fasting, confession or simplicity; solitude is intended to create a space in our lives for God to act. “The very first thing we must do is set apart a time and place to be with God and Him alone. Ministry can be fruitful only if it grows out of a direct and intimate encounter with the Lord. Solitude is thus the place of purification and transformation, the place of the great struggle and the great encounter. St. Anthony spent 20 years in isolation. When he left it he took his solitude with him and shared it with all that came to him. Those who saw him described him as balanced, gentle and caring. He had become so Christ like, so radiant with God’s love, that his entire being was ministry. (The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen, pages 31, 32)
The first thing we notice is Jesus’ constant practice of prayer alone with the Father. Although if there was ever a human that could have faked a spiritual life it would have to have been Him.
Matthew 14:23 And he went on the mountain by himself to pray
Mark 1:35 Now in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.
Luke 5:16 So, he himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed
Luke 9:18 And it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?”
Luke 11:1 He was praying in a certain place and when he ceased…
Our community is so obviously the Church. But today it is very common to hear things like, “Yoga is my church.” When, of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. But nobody should be blaming the yogis for this – the churches have made this idea the prevailing one. You could say we have done it to yourselves. Church should be a unity of place and not of likings. Church should bring people of different classes and psychology together just as the Lord desires. (I think that is how C.S. Lewis put it). But nothing is asked of yogis except that they enjoy the music and focus on themselves and pay their money and leave their shoes outside. Not exactly a hospital of sinners. Sadly, many churches (and the Orthodox are not excluded from this) are just clubs or factions and at that point a place of likings and so might as well be yoga studios. Or the people that attend have become critics and not pupils and so worship has no effect on them or the world. Critics are just a big headache for the pastor. Want to know a secret they don’t teach you in seminary? Pastors keep bottle of ibuprofen in the glove box. We need to be encouraged to grow in the life of faith not only in our prayer life but also in the Church’s liturgical life. He has called us to proclaim the gospel together, in community. If two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19.20)
Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God. Therefore true ministry must be mutual. Whether one is a nurse, realtor, pilot, salesman, golfer or pastor the call is the same. We most often try to do things on our own, then beg for help and finally turn to God but that is out of order. The call is a daily personal prayer, a vibrant liturgical life and then ministry from out of this foundation. We do ministry in the community and out in the community.*
1. Mostly Henri Nouwen but a little Fr. James