A new page for new times. With the implementation of further restrictions on social contact and movement to combat Covid-19, most of us are now at home most of the time, and away from loved ones, for an indefinite period. Here we offer you some meditations to help you through this time of enormous challenge, in the hope and prayer that God will make it a time of life-giving retreat for us all: “I will… bring her into the desert, and speak tenderly to her” (Hosea 2:14).
On Solitude: Two Meditations from Fr Bob Eccles OP
The Cell and the Wine Cellar
We shall get by if we know what to do with our solitude. Can you be content in solitude? As a Dominican novice I was led by Victor White to read St Thomas Aquinas’ advice to young beginners, his letter on how to study. The Latin word cella means both a small room, say a garret, and also a cellar, which allows of a pun: love your little room (where you love to read and think) he says, if you want to be admitted to the wine-cellar of the Lord (where you can drink your fill). When we’ve made our phone calls and caught up on Facebook, time to turn off the gadgets and be contented in our little space with the kind of book, the kind of music, maybe the pictures, that feed the heart and mind. We can’t run around town any longer. We have to love our room and the garden it looks out on perhaps and all that can feed the mind, we have to discover or rediscover ourselves as contemplatives, we really do.
The Fruits of Confinement
I’m enthralled by “Who am I?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s fine poem. But what harm does long close confinement do in the end? Hieronymus Bosch painted hideous monsters in his Temptations of St Anthony, that early desert recluse whose lonely struggles with his demons is described with such psychological realism by his biographer Athanasius (it’s in a Penguin, “Early Christian Lives”) who tells that when his friends came at last to his lonely cell, expecting to find he had been driven mad, they were stunned by the beauty and calm of his face, “as if he had emerged from some divine sanctuary.” His was “the victory already achieved.” And did you read Nelson Mandela’s life? did you watch as he stepped out of captivity free and faithful and ready to serve his people? How petty our own trials by comparison. I was 17 years working in prisons and there too I have known men and women of a remarkable interior strength and self-knowledge, other Daniels, who were tried by fire and were not burnt up. And who have returned to friends and family undiminished. May God bless our day alone, and help us live it with and for one another!