There are souls who, if they are to be seen by God and heard by God,
must renounce being seen by men and heard by men.
There are souls whom God calls to wait upon Him alone,
and to look to Him alone for all things.
Paradoxically, in doing this,
such souls wait upon the entire world;
they bind up the wounds of sinners,
console the afflicted,
wipe the tears of those who mourn,
and cause the pure light of the Gospel
to shine even in the most hardened hearts.
Those engaged in this way of life are often tempted
to exchange the invisible for what is visible,
to choose the conversation of men over the silence of God,
and to prefer human strategies over abandonment to Divine Providence.
Such are the temptations of any one called to abide with Christ in the desert.
The mystery of Jesus in the desert
is continued in the mystery of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
There, He is present on the very battleground
where demons assail the souls of men;
there, He is removed from the intrigues of the worldly;
there, He keeps a divine silence while, all about him,
wagging tongues fill the air with a divisive clamour.
There, He offers HImself as a pure Victim,
a holy Victim, a spotless Victim to the Father;
there He offers Himself as a living, supersubstantial Bread
to satisfy the hungers of those who go about the city
in search of something to relieve the pangs of an empty heart.
The imitation of Our Lord’s Eucharistic life
is the ultimate rule of those called out into the desert.
There is no cloister more all-encompassing
than that of the sacred species enclosing the very substance of God.
The Sacred Host is the mystery of the Word keeping silence;
of the Creator of all hiding himself beneath a creaturely veil;
of infinite glory circumscribed in what is utterly humble;
of limitless power covered in what is delicate and fragile;
and of a blazing fire contained in what is consumable.
The temptations of those who have followed Christ into His desert
know little variation through the ages.
They are the temptation to appear when one should disappear;
to speak when one should be silent;
to grasp when one should let go;
to want something when one should want nothing;
to prefer perishable bread to the imperishable Word of God;
control to abandonment;
power to weakness;
somethingness to nothingness;
seeing to believing;
appearances to substance;
being some one to being no one;
and being seen to being hidden.
Should such a one even write on the internet?
Should he show his face,
or reveal his thoughts,
or share the bread that has been given him?
The question is not a new one.
I think of Jerome and Evagrius writing in their deserts,
of the Carthusian writing in his cell,
of an immense body of writers who, without leaving the cloister,
have preached to the world,
spoken heart to heart,
and given a taste for silence to souls caught up in the noise and frenzy of the world.
I cannot attempt to answer the question for anyone but myself.
There is, I suppose, an element of “hide and seek” in the monastic life.
The cloister is not altogether impenetrable.
It is open to the transmission of life
while protecting the transmitter.
For some, all of the time,
and for others, some of the time,
the hiddenness will be complete,
the silence absolute,
the separating veil utterly opaque.
For me, it will be by looking into the Sacred Host
as into a mirror
that I will come to understand
the desert into which He has called me
and the degree to which He would have me offer
to those who care to receive it
a word out of His Eucharistic silence,
— humbly, always, and from a hidden place.