The Life of Solitude in Monasticism
Solitude is a high level of monasticism which a monk reaches after first living in monastery with other monks in a communal system. The Coptic/Greek word "monachos" which is translated "monk" means" a person living in solitude", illustrating that the aim of monasticism is to live in complete solitude.
Sometimes the monk locks himself in his cell for days or weeks, seeking to live totally with God. He might leave the monastery with the permission of his spiritual father to live in a cave in the mountain, coming back to the monastery at intervals, He progresses in his life, abstaining from food and staying in vigil for longer times and his soul and heart also increases in their purity and serenity.
The Fruits of Solitude and Serenity
A monk who lives in solitude will become free from the bonds on the soul and will gain many virtues such as peace, humility, love, meekness, comfort …. etc... Then he will be worthy of the Divine Mercy and the unity of his mind with God.
Conditions of Solitude and serenity
1- Fasting and Meditation :
Fasting purifies the mind and body. It makes the person capable of continuous prayer.
2- Concentration :
Concentration in controlling our senses and thoughts and ignoring all outer distractions such as blaming others or pre-occupying ourselves with the world. The continual mention of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ within our hearts will keep us safe from going astray.
3- Closing the Three Doors:
St Isaac says; "If we close theses three door, we will find Christ dwelling inside; the door of cell, the door of the senses and the door of our heart"
The following are some examples from the lives of the saints.
1- The Great ST Anthony Father of the Monks:
St Athanasius the Apostolic mentions that St Anthony lived in complete solitude. Never seeing the face of man for 30 years.
During these years he experienced the fruits of quietness; he emptied his mind from the worries of the world, its news and its trifle matters so he may only be filled with God.
2- St Macarius the Great:
He dug a tunnel from his cell half a mile in length and dug another cell at the end of the tunnel so whenever people came to him, he went secretly to the other cell through the tunnel.
4- St Arsenius the teacher of kings' children:
He used to live in a cell 32 miles away from the monastery. He had a stone in his mouth for 3 years in order to practice silence. He is famous for saying;" Many times I have spoken and regretted, but I never regretted being silent."
5- St Isaac; the Syrian
A great recluse that spent the last years of his life in the desert of Scetis. He wrote a book about the rite of solitude in monasticism, which is one of the most wonderful books on this topic.
The Life of Solitude Reclusive Monk