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On Silence and Stillness (III)

On Silence and Stillness (III) Each of us will have to discover our own most effective means to acquire a measure of quiet and a disposition toward prayer. For many people, it is enough to select a certain space—an icon corner in the bedroom or study, for example—and to set as far as possible a fixed time each day. Alone, away from phones and other distractions, we can light a candle before an icon, then

On Silence and Stillness (II)

On Silence and Stillness (II) Silence is the prerequisite for inner stillness, and only inner stillness enables us truly to listen to God, to hear His voice, and to commune with Him in the depths of our being. Yet silence and stillness are, like prayer itself, gifts that God can and wants to bestow upon us. The greatest truth about us is that God has created us with a profound longing, a burning thirst for

On Silence and Stillness (I)

On Silence and Stillness (I) Although they are often used interchangeably, the terms “silence” and “stillness” are not synonymous. Silence implies in part an absence of ambient noise, together with an inner state or attitude that enables us to focus, to “center” on the presence of God and to hear His “still, small voice.” To silence, the virtue of stillness adds both tranquility and concentration. Stillness implies a state of bodily rest coupled with the

On Silence and Solitude (II)

On Silence and Solitude (II) A catena of sayings, drawn at random from the desert ascetics of the early Christian centuries, well expresses the value and necessity of authentic silence, silence of the heart. “A brother asked Abba Pambo if it is good to praise one’s neighbor, and the old man said to him, ‘It is better to be silent.’” “A brother asked Abba Poemen, ‘Is it better to speak or to be silent?’ The

Listening in Silence

Human discourse and writing about God and the things of God—yes, even the best of it, the Scriptures held sacred by Jews and Christians—are always inexact analogues, precisely because they are expressions limited by the specifics of culture. However necessary as a guide for faith, the Bible itself represents the attempts of human beings to express what is finally inexpressible: the identity, the nature, the meaning of God for the world. Behind the words are

The Gift of Silence III

The Gift of Silence (III) From the time of Elijah through the period of classical prophecy, God continued to reveal Himself through His Word of blessing and judgment. At the same time, silence was increasingly perceived as something negative: the absence of God’s voice and thus of His presence. “The land of silence” became synonymous with Sheol, the place of the dead where, by definition, the life-giving God is not to be found (Ps 88:11-13;

The Gift of Silence (II)

The Gift of Silence (II) There is an obvious and deep irony in any attempt to talk about silence. It’s like trying to describe the ineffable or depict the invisible. The task itself is inherently impossible. Silence can only speak for itself: not through words, but through experience. The best way to begin, therefore, is not by any definition or analysis, but by a story. There is a familiar little account in the alphabetical collection

Silence as Sacrament

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.” (Ps. 61:1) “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Rev. 8:1) “Silence is the sacrament of the world to come.” (St. Isaac the Syrian) Silence is not just the absence of ambient noise. Nor does it mean the lack of laughter or music or shared reflection. Silence is a state of mind and heart, a condition of

To You, Whoever You May Be

Whoever you are, whatever you may be, says the Lord of Love, my hand is resting upon you at this very moment. By this gesture, I am letting you know that I love you and that I call you for my own. I have never ceased loving you, speaking to you, or calling you. Sometimes it was in silence and solitude. Sometimes it was there, where others were gathered in my name. Often you did

Wednesday of the First Week of Great Lent: One Route but so Many By-Ways. The Spiritual Pilgrim’s Guidebook.

One Route but so Many By-Ways Jerome said: ‘There are many virtues which lead those who practice them to the kingdom of heaven. There is only one route but there are many by-ways. ‘Whoever is anxious to make progress, even if he reaches a certain degree of perfection, can always find some need for improvement and become more proficient day by day. ‘No one can enjoy a good reputation both for virtue and for a