Solitude and Community

I am currently attending my class up in Portland, and I found a way to get internet access. So I want to share a few thoughts from today’s class.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a pastor in Germany who spoke out against Hitler and was eventually executed for his stand. For a time before his arrest he lives with his students in an alternative seminary at Finkenwalde where they began each day with 30 minutes of meditation. The following are some of his instructions about Christian meditation:

  1. Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. You cannot escape from yourself. If you are not able to be alone, you will do harm to the community because you will try to get your needs met by others when God alone can meet them.
  2. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.
  3. The mark of solitude is silence as speech is the mark of community. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech.
  4. There is an indifferent, or even negative, attitude toward silence which sees in it a disparagement of God’s revelation in the Word. This is the view which misinterprets silence as a ceremonial gesture, as a mystical device to get beyond the Word. This is to miss the essential relationship of silence to the Word. Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God. We are silent before hearing the Word because our thoughts are already directed to the Word, as a child is quiet when he enters his father’s room. We are silent after hearing the Word because the Word is still speaking and dwelling within us. We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to God. We keep silence solely for the sake of the Word and therefore, not in order to show disregard for the Word but rather to honor and receive it.

In our lives surrounded by constant “noise” I think that we need to learn about the importance of silent and solitude. Our community can only be healthy and a source of spiritual strength if it is balanced by times of solitude.

Next time I will share some practical suggestions for Christian mediations.

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