Antony – Br. Luke Ditewig
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Today we remember Antony of Egypt, a founder of monasticism. As a young man gave away a large inheritance and moved out to the desert for disciplined prayer. He lived alone for twenty years. When Antony emerged from that intense solitude, he learned of a great persecution of the church, and he “returned to the city and ministered to those under the sentence of death.”
He then returned to the desert but many people came out to see him and hear his wisdom. They stayed such that “the desert became a city.” Antony created a monastery and a rule of life for others to follow his life of prayer. But the monks couldn’t remain in solitude all the time. People sought out them out. Judges repeatedly called Antony down to the city to advise them in their rulings.
Monastic life by definition is a solitary whether living alone as Antony first did, as a hermit or with others as he Antony later did, as we brothers do. Solitude with God is key to our life and what we offer on retreat.
Retreat is a time away from our ordinary work, from doing much with many.
Retreat is a time for solitude, for one thing at a time, for being alone with God.
As with Antony and his monks, we’re drawn to retreat, but we can’t remain in it. The solitude of prayer and retreat renews us. Not only to be refreshed ourselves but to refresh—to love—others. Monks learned in the desert and we today learn on retreat, as Rowan Williams says, “not some individual technique for communing with the divine but the business of becoming a means of reconciliation and healing for the neighbor.”
When your prayer period or your retreat is over, when you get called back to the city, take the fruits, the gifts of solitude and build up the community God has given you. The gifts from prayer, the person you are becoming in solitude with God is “a means of reconciliation and healing for the neighbor.”
Remembering Antony and the monastics before us, seek God alone in prayer and share the gifts of that solitude by loving each other and our neighbors.
 Rowan Williams (2007) Where God Happens. Boston: Shambhala/New Seeds, pp. 32-33.
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So, here I’ve been, over the past few months, wondering if I should return to the monastery for a retreat this year, and you write this. I love coincidences. Over the decades, I’ve made a lot of retreats, not a few of which have been at the monastery. The unique gift I receive from yet another retreat there is a renewed sense of Stability. No matter where I’ve lived, the chapel, my guest room, the refectory, all restore my understanding of spiritual stability. Over the decades, the men in the house have changed or aged, and they/you give me a gift of assured continuity. As with all things, I’m grateful. Thanks.
Thank you for these words… am reading them as I have retreated to a rustic cabin in western VT for some days of quiet solitude and being present to what is here and how God is here and how I am here. I appreciated hearing (being reminded) that “we are always becoming” in our solitude with God… the briefer moments of each day as well as these extended times of being. Thank you, Brother Luke, for the grace of these words.
Br. Luke, this was good food for thought. Jesus took himself away from the crowds and retreated to the mountain where he had time alone with his father. He, along with you Monks, especially Antony, are examples for us. Thanks.
Thanx Br. Luke. It is the wonder of a retreat, even a brief one, that one leaves full of new ideas, new approaches and a new energy for ministry. That has always been my experience after a time with the Brothers.
To hear a monk call for action is a powerful call for me who is not a monk to come and be alone with Christ for a while. Thank you Luke.
This is a great message and thank you for the reminder that our time of prayer or retreat is not for each of us alone, but for the gifts we can share with those around us–the fruits of our time with God!