Reaching out: From loneliness, hostility and illusion to solitude, hospitality and prayer

The life of Jesus has made it very clear to us that the spiritual life does not allow by-passes. By-passing loneliness, hostility or illusion will never lead us to solitude, hospitality and prayer. We will never know for sure if we will fully realize the new life that we can discover in the midst of the old. Maybe we will die lonely and hostile, taking our illusions with us to the grave. Many seem to do so. But when Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him (Mark 8:34) we are invited to reach out far beyond our broken and sinful condition and give shape to a life that intimates the great things that are prepared for us.

[A] spiritual life means first of all to come to the awareness of the inner polarities between which we are held in tension… The first movement, from loneliness to solitude, focuses primarily on the spiritual life as it relates to the experience of our own selves. The second movement, from hostility to hospitality, deals with our spiritual life as a life for others. The third and final movement, from illusion to prayer, offers some tentative formulations of that most precious and mysterious relationship which is the source of all spiritual life, our relationship to God.

Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, London: Collins, 1976, p.20.

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