John Climacus: Solitude and Kindness

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The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:1-2

“The beginning of solitude is to throw off all noise as disturbing for the depth (of the soul). And the end of it is not to fear disturbances and to remain insusceptible to them. Though going out, yet without a word, he is kind and wholly a house of love. He is not easily moved to speech, nor is he moved to anger. The opposite of this is obvious. A solitary is he who strives to confine his incorporeal being within his bodily house, paradoxical as this is. The cat keeps hold of her mouse, and the thought of the solitary holds his spiritual mouse. Do not call this example rubbish; if you do, then you do not yet know what solitude means.”

John Climacus (579-649) in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 27.5-7 “On holy solitude of body and soul” trans. by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) 111.

Only those who throw off all noise find refreshment in solitude to live, give, serve, and love with kindness. Disturbances will happen and they must be welcomed with kindness.

The word picture of the cat and the mouse is absolutely priceless! If we represent the cat, solitude can get away from us, like the mouse, if we don’t hold tightly to it. It can also nourish us if we feed on it spiritually.

To nurture a life of kindness and generosity, add solitude to your life. That means you have to throw off noise. Perhaps make that your aim regarding fasting this Lent? Pray and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.