“Jesus withdrew to Galilee”. And the word there—‘anachoreo’is the one from which we get anchorite. It means to ‘step aside’, or ‘go off’. Matthew uses it again later when after a particularly busy period the Lord ‘goes off’ to a lonely place to pray. And it can help us to ponder for a moment the importance of withdrawal. How that withdrawal is a gift, a grace, a blessing—for ourselves, for the Church and for the world.
The occasion that prompts his withdrawal is that Jesus hears that his cousin John has been arrested. So it’s a wise choice—to step aside for a while, till the whole situation cools down, lest he find himself the object of a similar fate.
There is something about this stepping aside that the silence of the desert enables. Stepping aside from memories, emotions, expectations (others or our own). With drawing from one’s work, one’s plans, judgements, worries, fears, to regain that equilibrium, that equanimity, that should be our natural state. Do you remember when Anthony emerged from his solitude how people described him? ’Altogether even’. As if he had been restored to his true centre of gravity. That’s the purpose of the withdrawal for which Holy Hill exists. And what an encouragement to know that our Master himself did it!