Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silence as Spiritual Work

While no expert in the art of holy silence, I am a long time practitioner it. Sometimes I even wear a button that says, “I am a Quaker – in case of emergency, please be quiet.” That is more that a joke. Silence is a deep part of my faith life.

Even though the old Quaker gag is that we are called to, “Don’t just do something, sit there,” holy silence is more than just sitting there. If it isn’t something more, then we’ll end up like the Quakers described by some west England fishermen – “They Quakers just came here and sat and sat and nobody never said nothing, until at last they all died and so they gave it up.”

Silence is something we do, not something done to us. It is a participatory act. It engages our heart, mind, soul, and body. We actively listen for the voice of the Beloved. Quaker silence is not passive. After all, how could Holy Communion, which deepens our faith and fills us with passionate love for God, ever be inactive?

But this meeting, since it happens in our spirits and souls, may not seem so different to an outsider who sees us practicing it. She would not see any angels descending. He would not notice halos appearing over our heads. There is no physical evidence of the life changing activity that goes on inside us as we feed on Christ in our souls. “Outwardly,” says Friend Thomas Kelley, “all silences seem alike, as all minutes are alike by the clock. But inwardly the Divine Leader of worship directs us …”

That active listening for God’s direction is the very stuff that gives us Life – and life more abundantly.

-- Brent

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