50. The Way of the Heart by Henri JM Nouwen


This book takes a look at the way of the "Desert Fathers and Mothers" and their commitment to Solitude, Silence, and Prayer. I noticed it on my shelf after reading Nouwen's The Life of the Beloved.  Since I liked that book so much, I thought I would also read this one. It is a simple and profound book.


"In Solitude we become compassionate people, deeply aware of our solidarity in brokenness with all of humanity and ready to reach out to anyone in need."

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant ('turn stones into loaves'), to be spectacular ('throw yourself down'), and to be powerful ('I will give you all these kingdoms'). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity ('You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone'). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter - the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers 

“Secularity is a way of being dependent on the responses of our milieu. The secular or false self is the self which is fabricated, as Thomas Merton says, by social compulsions. 'Compulsive' is indeed the best adjective for the false self. It points to the need for ongoing and increasing affirmation. Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated or despised. Whether I am a pianist, a businessman or a minister, what matters is how I am perceived by my world. If being busy is a good thing, then I must be busy. If having money is a sign of real freedom, then I must claim my money. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have to make the necessary contacts. The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of failure and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same - more work, more money, more friends.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

"Silence first makes us pilgrims. Secondly silence guards the fire within. Thirdly, silence teaches us how to speak."

"Prayer, when we are faithful to it and practice it at regular times, slowly leads us to an experience of rest and opens us to God's active presence."

“Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at that point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. There God's Spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place. There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, with us.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers   

“For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God. And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God. This idea is enough to create great frustrations. If I present a problem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect an answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response. And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue. Then I may begin to ask myself: To whom am I really speaking, God or myself?”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

"By their solitude, silence and unceasing prayer the Desert Fathers show us the way. These disciplines will teach us to stand firm, to speak words of salvation, and to approach the new millennium with hope, courage, and confidence.

"When we have been remodeled into living witnesses of Christ through solitude, silence, and prayer, we will no longer have to worry about whether we are saying the right thing or making the right gestures, because then Christ will make his presence known even when we are not aware of it."



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