By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
|The Sisters strive to radiate the light of the Christ.|
The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light recently completed their annual week-long silent retreat (May 14 – 21) at the Mother of the Light Convent. The theme of this year’s retreat was “In the Footsteps of St. Sharbel in our Syriac Spirituality”, and was preached by Fr. James Doran, Administrator of St. Joseph Maronite Church in Waterville, Maine. A theme of the conferences was the Syriac concept of lhoodoyo or yihidoyo (translated: the alone or the solitary).
In Syriac spirituality, the term lhoodoyo or yihidoyo refers to “the soul alone with God alone”, this concept of standing alone before the Divine Light in order to arrive at complete inner stillness or quietude. The soul is completely, utterly and resolutely single-minded in its pursuit of the Hidden One. Creation, and all things created, are simply shadows or reflections of the One being sought, and therefore should lay no claim on any of our affections or attachments.
Naturally, of course, this quest for solitude with God by our ancient Syriac and desert fathers was always coupled with reticent lips, that is, with silence. The fathers stressed not merely external silence such as freedom from surrounding noise, but more importantly, inner silence from the many thoughts and distractions that flood our minds. We see this so beautifully depicted in the life of our great solitary, St. Sharbel.
Why all the solitude and silence? What is the goal of this yihidoyo? To put on the Great Yihidoyo, God himself in the Person of Christ. The answer lies in our Divine Liturgy.
In our Maronite Divine Liturgy, the priest performs a beautiful rite after the Intercessions, known in our Maronite missals as the Fraction, Signing, Sprinkling, Mingling, and Elevation. The priest is given the option to perform this rite in English, Arabic or Syriac. The words used in Syriac for the Signing portion of this rite are quite profound and mention the only Son using this Syriac word of yihidoyo. As the priest dips the Body of Christ in His Precious Blood, he prays:
bshem abo + hayo lhaye. (In the name of the Father +, the Living One, for the living;)
wdabro + yihidoyo wqadisho yaldo dmeneh wakhwoteh hayo lhaye. (and of the only Son+, the Holy One, begotten of him, and like him, the Living One, for the living)
In this excerpt, Christ is the Great Yihidoyo, beloved by the Father as His only Son, and the radiance of the Father’s eternity. The great solitaries, St. Charbel being just one of them, sought in their silence and solitude to put on the solitary likeness of Christ, to become (plural) yihidoyoe. This is a most profound and important concept that we must all learn and apply in our everyday lives, lay or religious, married or celibate. Our sole attachment, our sole preoccupation, our sole goal, our sole desire should be to seek in single-mindedness the face and will of the Hidden One, observed and discerned in His creation at every moment of every day.