Saturday, August 21, 2010

Clinging to silence...

When we enter into solitude to be with God alone, we quickly discover how dependent we are. Without the many distractions of our daily lives, we feel anxious and tense. When nobody speaks to us, calls on us, or needs our help, we start feeling like nobodies. Then we begin wondering whether we are useful, valuable, and significant. Our tendency is to leave this fearful solitude quickly and get busy again to reassure ourselves that we are "somebodies." But that is a temptation, because what makes us somebodies is not other people's responses to us but God's eternal love for us.

To claim the truth of ourselves we have to cling to our God in solitude as to the One who makes us who we are...

How can we stay in solitude when we feel that deep urge to be distracted by people and events? The most simple way is to focus our minds and hearts on a word or picture that reminds us of God. By repeating quietly: "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want," or by gazing lovingly at an icon of Jesus, we can bring our restless minds to some rest and experience a gentle divine presence.

This doesn't happen overnight. It asks a faithful practice. But when we spend a few moments every day just being with God, our endless distractions will gradually disappear...

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

St Seraphim of Sarov via Mind in the Heart - with thanks to FQOTD
This clinging to silence in the face of every inducement to do otherwise is very close to the heart of prayer. As St Seraphim points out, it is part of mercy too. Ultimately, all prayer must be for God's mercy to fall on his broken creation, his broken people, all the broken hearts in all that has been made. How is this possible except by clinging - clinging so closely - to silence, to the heart's own solitude that is the very place of God?


  1. just found this blog...just like you walked into my prayer life & put it up on the internet!

  2. Thank you, G - God does these strange things sometimes, doesn't he?