“While still living in the palace, Abba Arsenius prayed to God in these words, ‘Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.’ And a voice came saying to him, ‘Arsenius, flee from men and you will be saved. ‘Having withdrawn to the solitary life he made the same prayer again and he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness.’ “
—sayings of the Desert Fathers
Threefold is the call to perfection. First, we must flee. We flee from the slavery of the demands of the world. We are no longer obedient vassals to what “everyone else” is doing and saying. Second, we must practice silence. The call to silence is a call to be attentive to the voice of God. God speaks loudest when we are silent. The third call is to pray always. In the practice of constant prayer, we open ourselves to the will of God, and we draw closer to Him. These three concepts are a path to perfection.
The desert people of the early church felt the necessity to go to a place apart. In doing so they gave themselves the opportunity to flee from the “world.” They soon discovered that merely fleeing would not accomplish their purpose. There would be certain disciplines that would have to be practiced. The flight was the beginning.
None of us are likely to have the inclination or the opportunity to flee the world as they did. But flee we can while really physically going nowhere. We can set ourselves apart by silence and prayer.
Lord, show us the path that we must follow. Give us the discipline to learn to communicate with you and give us the courage to wait for your answer. In our silence, we are allowed to withdraw from the world and listen for your voice.
“Prayer is a new, gracious, lasting will of the soul united and fast-bound to the will of God by the precious and mysterious working of the Holy Ghost.”
― Julian of Norwich