St-Gregory-the-DialogistTo whom I have given a house in the solitude? (Job 30:6).

Ought we in this place to understand the solitude of the body, or the solitude of the heart?

But what avails the solitude of the body, if the solitude of the heart be wanting?

For he who lives bodily removed from the world, but yet plunges into the tumults of human conversation with the thoughts of worldly desires, is not in solitude.

But if anyone be bodily oppressed with crowds of people, and yet suffers from no tumults of worldly cares in his heart, he is not in a city.

To those therefore of good conversation solitude of mind is first granted, in order that they may keep down within the rising din of worldly desires,

that they may restrain by the grace of heavenly love the cares of the heart which bubble up from its lowest depths,

and drive away from the eyes of the mind with the hand of gravity, all the motions of trifling thoughts which importunately present themselves, as flies which are flitting around them:

and may seek for themselves some secret spot with the Lord within, there to speak with Him silently by their inward longings, when the noise is still from without.

Of this secret place of the heart it is said elsewhere; There became silence in heaven for about half an hour (Rev. 8:1).

For the Church of the Elect is called ‘heaven,’ which, as it rises to eternal and sublime truths by the elevation of contemplation, abates the tumults of thoughts which are springing up from below, and makes a kind of silence within itself for God.

[…] But it ought to be known that we do not at all reach the height of contemplation, if we cease not from the oppression of outward care.

We do not at all look into ourselves, so as to know that there is within us one rational part that rules, another animal part which is ruled, unless we are made dead to all outward disturbance by returning to the secrecy of this silence.

[…] In this silence of the heart, then, while we are awake inwardly by contemplation, we are sleeping, as it were, outwardly.

Because then men who are separated, that is who are freed from carnal desires, inhabit this silence of the heart, the Lord gave to this wild ass a house in the solitude, that he might not be oppressed with a crowd of temporal desires.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 30, 52-54 (on Job 39:6) @ Lectionary Central.

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