Father Mark, Reflections

Silence may be kept

We as human beings are notoriously curious creatures.  We often ask “Why?”  We like to know the reasons for things.  When we face trials, we attempt to figure out “Why did this happen?”  “Did God do this to me (us)?”  When life becomes more difficult, the unpleasantness that results can lead to questions like “Has God abandoned us?”   This feeling, sometimes very real, is based in the misunderstanding of our dualistic (good vs. bad) mind that God is with us when things are good and that God tends to disappear when things get difficult.  As much of our culture has no mechanism for dealing with suffering except to deny, fight, grit one’s teeth or avoid it in some way; and as much of our culture does not believe in objective reality; our Creator manifested an order within creation and that suffering is a mysterious part of this.  The belief that gravity is good when we can stand on earth but gravity is bad when we fall off the cliff doesn’t make sense.  Gravity is embedded in Creation.  Gravity is.  And it’s up to us to discover the order of Creation which is why I love scripture and science so much because we learn about the pattern of creation through them.   And whether we like it or not, suffering is embedded in creation.  When I cross the boundary of Natural Law of Creation, I feel, and others feel, the consequences of this, that is if we are awake to Reality. 

Prayer is another way to discern God’s Presence and order in creation.  When I speak of prayer, I mean the place where prayer really begins—after we cease talking or thinking—when silence begins.   When we begin to hear the Silence of God, we hear Creation praising God as in the Song of the Three Young Men (BCP p. 88) Let the earth glorify the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him for ever.  When we reach the place of silence, we discover that we are drawn to God as creation is.   But this is difficult, as in the words of Robert Cardinal Sarah in The Dictatorship of Noise“Many of our contemporaries cannot accept God’s silence. They do not admit that it is possible to enter into communication other than by words, gestures, or concrete, visible actions. Yet God speaks through his silence. The silence of God is a form of speech. His Word is solitude. The solitude of God is not an absence, it is his very being, his silent transcendence.”

This is why the rubrics (italicized directions which used to be red for “ruby”) in our Prayer Book say, Silence may be kept.   The word, “may” is added because silence is an invitation from God.  Invitations are optional because God has given us free will.  God doesn’t use force as human beings do for there is no love nor respect in force. 

God speaks to children with extreme gentleness, and what He has to say to them He often says without words.  Creation provides Him with the vocabulary He needs, leaves, clouds, running water, a patch of light.  It is the secret language that books cannot teach you and which children know very well…. Children can be compared to a vast multitude who have received an uncommunicable secret and who gradually forget the secret, the multitude’s fate being taken in hand by so-called civilized nations…. (Julien Green)

During times like these, when our life has been interrupted, increased in complexity, complicated through trials–next time when you’re feeling down and out, antsy or just plain out of sorts, we have an invitation to enter the Silence of God—an invitation we may not have heard as clearly before life was interrupted with COVID’s entrance and the fallout that followed.  If there is a gift in suffering, it’s that it is inviting us to wake up…and listen.

The infinity of God is not an infinity in space, a bottomless, shoreless ocean; it is a love that has no limits. (Robert Cardinal Sarah).

May solitude find you in the arms of God,

Fr. Mark