Two thousand years ago, Jesus extended this invitation to his disciples and our hearts still respond to it today. The invitation to solitude is an invitation to come home to ourselves.
So often, we are not at home. We live somehow at a distance from our bodies, our hearts, our spirits. As St. Augustine says, he was rushing headlong outside himself, seeking here, seeking there for the God who all the time was waiting within.
We need to come home, to find ourselves at home on the earth,”to feel myself beloved on the earth” as Raymond Carver says. When we allow ourselves to ‘just be’ for a while, we begin this process of coming home.
The quest for silence, stillness and solitude is one of the deepest and most irrepressible needs of our human experience. From earliest times, the desire of human beings to be still, to take time to come home to their deepest roots has manifested itself in diverse ways and in diverse cultures. All over the world people have turned to nature and to beauty to fulfil this need.
Today, this desire to come apart and be alone is experienced even more keenly amidst the quickening pace, louder noise and multiple demands of modern-day living.
During the 4th and 5th centuries, people were drawn to the desert and lived as hermits and anchorites in the vast emptiness. Their desire for solitude and stillness arose from a need to enter into the space within themselves so that they might come into contact with a Living Presence. That journey entailed coming to terms with their human hungers and thirst, their deepest and unspoken yearnings, leaving behind all that was superfluous and opening themselves to an immense silence. Within that silence, they were enabled to hear the Voice that speaks throughout the Universe.
Many sacred sites today re-sound a silence that was lived for hundreds of years by monks, nuns and ordinary people. Visitors who are seekers and who are able to listen become aware of a sacred energy and are drawn to such places. Here in this silence tired spirits find calm and rest.
Glendalough is such a sacred site. The beauty of the valley holds the wonder-full silence of nature. The place itself which contains a monastic site draws people towards their own inner sacred space as they enter the ruins of the monastery. The old buildings become a sermon in stone, a cradle of peace and stillness.