Thursday, December 13, 2012

Go to your cell.

(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)

In some monasteries the hour of None marks a time of contemplation. The monks spend time in their sparse rooms (called cells) where they spend time in reflection and prayer. The cell is the place where you must be alone with yourself. It is a place of comfort and challenge. The loving light of God's love shines upon us with no distraction.

Most of us don't live in monasteries. We create our own places to be alone with God. I often spend time with God by sitting at the piano. The bench becomes my cell. I play my prayers and communicate my frustrations.  I am brutally honest with God .I pray with Harmony, with Dissonance, with Rhythm, with Melody, with Dynamics. As my fingers move across the keys they are able to express in sound what I may not be able to put into words.

I have had some incredible encounters with God......and sometimes I'm just sitting playing piano. I can be in my cell and using the very tools with which I encounter God to avoid him. I do the same in church. I can be singing a hymn, listening to a prayer, hearing a sermon without ever worshiping, praying or responding. I can fool myself that I am connected with God, when all I've done is heard (or half heard) great music and oratory.

None is an invitation and a challenge. An invitation to find your own personal cell, your own place of encounter with God, and a challenge for each of us to face the reality of our lives and make peace. However some of us are so uncomfortable with being alone that we inflict ourselves upon others every waking moment. Some of us are so uncomfortable with silence that that we constantly fill it with noise. Some of us are so uncomfortable with God that we hide in religious activity.

Where is your cell, your place of encounter with God?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sunday of the First Week of Advent

For 400 years God had been silent.

Priests still led worship, sacrifices were still offered, but no prophets spoke to the people. Messiah was nowhere to be found...

...until one day in the temple a priest burning incense has an encounter with an angel. Zechariah doesn't believe what he is told, he and his wife are both getting on in years, but the angel says they will have a son who will be filled with the spirit of God and prepare the way for the Lord.

His disbelief is understandable. I would respond in the same way.

The angel tells him he will be mute, speechless, until the child is born. So for nine months he says nothing. First God is silent, now Zechariah. Until finally, his son John is born, and Zechariah's first words are ones of praise to a God who has not abandoned his people. The canticle of Zechariah - the Benedictus, is recorded in Luke 1:68-79 and is part of daily prayer in many Christian traditions.

I envy Zechariah’s faith. I have difficulty dealing with the silence of God.  My voice is raised more often in complaint than praise. I shy away from silence and from stillness, something that is particularly easy to accomplish during the Christmas season. Yet Advent is an invitation to wait in silent anticipation.

Silence is a two-edged sword. It can shut down a conversation or lead the conversation past cliché into deeper waters. Silence amplifies my internal disquiet and gives it a space to speak. I may not like what it says, but there are lessons it can teach me. Silence is an invitation to step deeper into the mystery of God.

For reflection: How can you make space for silence today? 
What is silence trying to teach you about self, others, God?