25th July

Solitude

Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went out of the town to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

The one who abides in solitude and is quiet, is delivered from fighting three battles – those of hearing, speech and sight. Then that person will have but one battle to fight – the battle of the heart.
Antony of Egypt

Cuthbert served as prior at Melrose monastery, but ‘finally fled from worldly glory and sailed away privately and secretly … After some years, desiring a solitary life he went to the island called Farne, which is in the midst of the sea and surrounded on every side by water, a place where, before this, almost no one could remain alone for any amount of time on account of the many illusions caused by devils. But he fearlessly put them to flight, and, digging down almost a cubit of a man into the earth, through very hard and stony rock, he made a space to dwell in. He also built a marvellous wall another cubit above it by placing together and compacting with earth, stones of such great size as none would believe except those who knew that so much of the power of God was in him; therein he made some little dwelling places from which he could see nothing except the heavens above.’
Life of Cuthbert by an anonymous monk of Lindisfarne

In Wales and Ireland there are still as many as five hundred place names (for example Dysart or Disserth) that recall a place where some believer, inspired by the desert Christians, made the desert of the heart their own. In the Channel Isles there is still a place named, simply, Egypt. Today people create desert places of their own, and ‘desert days’ in their homes. Solitude is an essential part of the foundation of any civilisation that is to last.

Still is the earth;
Make still my body.
Still is the night;
Make still my mind.
Still are the spheres;
Make still my soul

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