Silent prayer isn’t necessarily about external structures like monasteries, but about the actual cultivation of interior silence, which is accessible to all.

A person can have the robe of the monk and not the heart of the monk. Likewise a person can have the heart of a monk (a committed spiritual practice) and dress in street clothes. Outward appearances are secondary to the motivations of our hearts. Maximos The Confessor enumerates:

“He who has renounced such things as marriage, possessions and other worldly pursuits is outwardly a monk, but may not yet be a monk inwardly. Only he who has renounced the impassioned conceptual images of these things has made a monk of the inner self, the intellect. It is easy to be a monk in one’s outer self if one wants to be; but no small struggle is required to be a monk in one’s inner self.”[1]

May more and more people reconcile world denying asceticism on the one hand with God denying humanism on the other. May more Christians emulate Jesus by loving “the Creator” and taking care of “the creatures.” In other words, may there be more neo-monastics in this world. People who haven’t quit their day jobs and who are fully immersed in the world, but who practice centering prayer habitually day in, day out.

Without activism, contemplation is in constant danger of becoming what Thomas Merton called “consecrated narcissism.” Without contemplation, activism is in danger of turning into a humanistic enterprise stripped of its primary and vital connection to God as source of inspiration and refuge from the storm.

The contemplation of God and service to our neighbors go hand in hand!

[1] Palmer, et al, The Philokalia Vol. 2, pg. 106.