The traits of the solitary bird are five: first, it seeks the highest place; second, it withstands no company; third, it holds its beak in the air; fourth, it has no definite color; fifth, it sings sweetly. These traits must be possessed by the contemplative soul.
It must rise above passing things, paying no more heed to them than if they did not exist. It must likewise be so fond of silence and solitude that it does not tolerate the company of another creature. It must hold its beak in the air of the
Holy Spirit, responding to his inspirations, that by so doing it may become worthy of his company. It must have no definite color, desiring to do nothing definite other than the will of God. It must sing sweetly in the contemplation and love of its Bridegroom.
~ The Sayings of Light and Love #121 by St. John of the Cross
The first condition of this solitary bird, this contemplative soul, is seeking the highest place; that is, to seek God. The contemplative soul lets God be the goal. Seek first the kingdom of God and to do this in everything. All works, words and prayers are to be done with and for God.
The contemplative soul rises above passing things; and ‘all things are passing’, to quote St. Teresa of Jesus’ bookmark. Paying no more heed to them than if they did not exist…here there is the need for detachment, poverty of spirit, keeping the heart surrendered to God alone.
The second condition of the contemplative soul is that it withstands no company. This does not mean it is a soul cut off from others living in isolation. It is authentic solitude which is not necessarily physical solitude. It is a solitude of detachment for the sake of God. St. John of the Cross writes in The Living Flame that “in contemplation the activity of the sense and of discursive reflection terminates, and God alone is the agent who then speaks secretly to the solitary and silent soul” (LF 3:44) This soul has learned “to silence and quiet the faculties so that God may speak” (Ascent 3:3,4). Any attachment will gradually empty the soul of holy solitude and the spirit and joy of God. That is why this soul is so fond of silence and solitude that it does not tolerate the company of another creature. God alone. No other thought, person, idea, or desire is occupying the soul.
The third trait of this silent and solitary soul is that it holds it beak in the air of the Holy Spirit, responding to his inspirations, that by so doing it may become worthy of his company. This soul realizes the need to rid itself of all attachments so that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be received and the soul be transformed. The soul possesses these gifts according to its capacity for receiving them and “pure contemplation lies in receiving”. (LF 3:36) The delicate, hidden unctions of the Holy Spirit “secretly fill (this) soul with spiritual riches, gifts and graces”. (LF 3:40)
The fourth trait of this solitary bird is that it has no definite color. It desires to do nothing definite other that the will of God. The Holy Spirit gives the soul what is lacking in it by strengthening it to love as he loves. The soul’s will is not destroyed it is united firmly with God’s will and with his love “so that there is only one will and love, which is God’s “(Spiritual Canticle 38:3). The Blessed Virgin Mary was raised from the beginning to this high state of contemplation. “She never had the form of any creature impressed in her soul, nor was she moved by any, for she was always moved by the Holy Spirit.” (Ascent 3:2,10)
The last trait of the solitary bird is that it sings sweetly. This soul must sing sweetly in the contemplation and love of its Bridegroom. This soul loves, loves sweetly and praises its Creator. This is most beautifully realized in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). This soul joyfully tastes sips of eternal bliss.