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Posts Tagged ‘Contemplation’

A brief and thoughtful video on a great — and much misunderstood — spiritual writer of the twentieth-century.

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Fort NiagaraAbout a week ago, I visited a Colonial fort with my family.  It was a nighttime tour.  No modern conveniences were allowed, other than flashlights — and those only for the tour guides.

Under the clouded night sky, with large stretches of earth beneath our feet and between the scattered stone structures, we (or at least I) got a feel for what it must have been like to have been there…during the War of 1812 or earlier.  And what struck me most poignantly, most immediately, was this:

The world seemed so much bigger.

It’s ironic, but the bigger the structures of man get, the smaller the world feels…whether we’re talking about our compact municipalities and their feeling of insulation or our great technological innovations that foster a “global community.”

I’d say this applies to the realm of sound as much as sight and spatial relationships.  From iPods to blaring radios, from televisions to noisy streets, loudness has radically narrowed our focus and awareness.

Silent ChurchWhich brings me to the subject of silence in church.  Some people have expressed discomfort with Catholic churches for being too quiet.  They feel unwelcome in what, at first glance, may look like a collection of “stone-faced saints.”

First, let me assure my readers that this is not what is intended.  And furthermore, you will actually find a good deal of talk in Catholic churches today — especially after Mass.

I have mixed feelings about this latter point.  On the one hand, our Christian communities should be places of love and fellowship.  But I feel like when we bring too much chatter into our churches, we are bringing the “smallness” of our world with us into the one place where all the grandeur of reality is encountered (even if not understood).  I would suggest that we are missing a unique opportunity not only to discover God’s personal love for us, but also the depth of our unity with one another in and through His love.

Let me be clear — in no way do I think people should be kicked out of church, or discouraged from coming to church, for talking (and I am here assuming reasonable limits that everyone would agree on, of course).  What I think we need is to re-instill in our faithful an understanding of the value of joyful silence, where we abandon ourselves to God in trust, thanksgiving, petition, and adoration.

Let me just share a couple of Scripture verses that deal with this:

Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:11)

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD;the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. (1 Kings 19: 11-12 — bold mine)

(In some translations, the emphasized portion reads “a still small voice”)

That’s why modern ears have such a hard time hearing God’s voice.  You see, God is a gentleman.  He doesn’t talk over His creatures our try to “shout down” rivals for our attention.  He wants for us to open our ears to Him freely.

Plus, naturally, God’s voice is so very different from any other voice that it cannot be heard as one among many.  We must prepare for it by cultivating the womb of silence.

Here is a suggestion: Next time you go into church, give silence a try.  You might be surprised to find Someone there waiting to talk to you.

Images from Wikipedia

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