"Solitude is the withdrawal from the multiplicity of 'worldly' cares to enter into a oneness with God. Such a withdrawal admits of many degrees. Arsenius, one of the early monks who left the Byzantine court to flee into the desert, had heard a voice telling him to 'fuge, tace et quiesce,' 'flee, keep silent and be at rest.' These three injunctions are more or less at the core of the hesychastic spirituality. They demand a fleeing, a withdrawal from the spirit of the world and a silence, at least an interior silence of the heart. The quies (hesychia in Greek) is the necessary tranquility wherein the total being becomes integrated, so that there is no more self-seeking dispersion of the passions in all directions. Everything is coordinated and under the influence of grace.

"Both silence and solitude, therefore, must be interpreted in hesychastic language in symbolic form to embrace various levels of attentive listening to God's word as it is being spoken within the individual and in the events of everyday life. Besides the evident physical withdrawal and maximum 'aloneness' that the hesychasts continually prized and eagerly sought after, they taught a silence and solitude that highlighted a movement inwardly toward a more spiritual listening to God's indwelling presence. This second stage of withdrawal, as Archimandrite Kallistos Ware describes, is the spirituality of aloneness and silence in the monk's cell. This is a 'localization' in a physical sense, within a community of monks or even lay persons living in the world wherein one turns into a quiet place and cuts off further communications with others in order to stand in a state of alertness and remembrance of God's presence.

"The true silence and solitude that are necessary for not only monks but for all Christians, regardless of their style of life, are summarized in the phrase 'return into oneself.' This is a state of soul where the real desert is found in the heart. St. Basil describes such a return to oneself:

" 'When the mind is no longer dissipated amidst external things nor dispersed across the world through the senses, it returns to itself; and by means of itself it ascends to the thought of God.'

"This is the stage of silence and solitude that brings about a true inner stillness and a state of attentive listening and total surrender to God's word heard in the depths of one's being."