solitude

… their purpose is no longer being to arouse desire but to gratify it.

Alred of Rievaulx, Rule of Life for a Recluse

I remembered the above quote as I was reading today. I think Alred is thinking in terms of speech – especially for those who have chosen to live a life as an anchorite – but I think it equally applies to reading.

When people say that they like to read I often wonder what they mean?! I think there is a strong desire for escapism in reading. It can take you to faraway places and to situations very different from the one you find yourself. Reading can also be used to pass time, to see what the rich and famous are doing, or to catch up on the latest gossip. I wonder what the “end” of such reading is?

I think when I think of reading I am thinking of something very different. Reading is about “arousing desire” for Jesus. It is not always the Bible or the Prayer Book that arouses that desire. Traditional literature on spirituality, or modern, can move the heart as well as the head. I often read only a few words of a good book and allow them to float around my head. (Yes, plenty of space for floating!)

The religious life can be very self-indulgent. Solitude is not the absence of people – a religious form of misanthropy – but being alone with God. Solitude is a desire to be alone with Jesus. Solitude is a luxury to enjoy the presence of Jesus, to live in the Son, to sit and listen to Jesus.

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