I slept. My nights were quiet for a while. Then the vigils started again. Something besides prayer was needed. He also told us to serve one another: “I have come to serve.” The vigils increased, and out of them a new book came forth, The Gospel Without Compromise. Service to one another was joined with prayer. Again I slept.
The vigils began once more, and I listened. A new word (but again, from my past) came to me: Sobornost . Sobornost is the Russian word for “unity.” The Lord prayed for unity: “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you.”
Words kept coming. Strannik , the Russian word for “pilgrim.” These three concepts formed a kind of spiritual trilogy. You enter the poustinia, the desert of your heart, to meditate on sobornost, the unity which we are called to achieve with God and with one another. When in the desert of our hearts we finally accept this solution of sobornost, it is then time to open the doors of our poustinia and journey forth as a strannik, as a pilgrim, to preach this good news to others.
These vigils of mine that have brought forth these books are times of prayer, because prayer is now the last resort. We have forgotten how to pray. We have forgotten that there must be a time when we are silent so we can hear what God wants to say to us. Yes, my friends, we must pray. It must be the prayer of two people in love with each other who cease to talk. Their silence speaks. This is the kind of prayer that the poustinia will teach you.
Resting in God’s love, you will understand the sobornost, the unity, he wishes for his children. Then, as a strannik, a pilgrim, you will go forth and shout and sing about this to all peoples. Two people in love! When you are in love with God you will understand that he loved you first. You will enter into a deep and mysterious silence and in that silence become one with the Absolute. Sobornost! Your oneness with God will overflow to all your brothers and sisters.
My friends, this is the kind of prayer we need today. If you pray like this you will be overshadowed by the wings of a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. On those wings your prayer of silence will be lifted into the hands of “the Woman Wrapped in Silence,” and she will lay it at the feet of the Most Holy Trinity. The answer today to the salvation of mankind lies in prayer.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Fragments of My Life
Reflection – And with this we come to the conclusion of Catherine’s meditation on ‘The Church and I’. From the little girl in Russia fascinated with the church building and wiping the red paint off of the crucifixes in her convent school, she has grown to a height and depth of mystical life poured out for the world.
God wasn’t finished with Catherine, though, and to her Russian trilogy of poustinia-sobornost-strannik He would give her two more words: urodivoi (being a fool for Christ) and molchanie (the silence of God). In a sense, foolishness for Christ encompasses the three-part movement of prayer, unity, and proclamation. Only a fool utterly in love with God will plunge into these spiritual depths, as they expose us to the pain of the world and call us to ceaseless love and service. Molchanie for Catherine is deep interiority of the Christian—this interior silence which deepens in us through the poustinia, the experience of sobornost, and the rigors of the pilgrimage. It also signifies for her the depths of mystical union with God, much like John of the Cross’ presentation of the nada at the summit of the mountain.
There is a whole spiritual doctrine present in these five Russian words of Catherine’s, one that I hope to write about at (book) length some day. Crucial, though, is to understand that for her this spiritual journey is deeply apostolic, that it is the ultimate need of our world today that all Christians embark on this journey of prayer, unity, and pilgrimage. It is not, in Catherine’s thought, something only for monks in their cells, but a call to all humanity.