[At SSU today, we started a new experiment that we’re calling the “School of Contemplation.” Here are two quotes that were discussed at our first gathering:]
- All that we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart, and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some shy, unpredictable manifestation of his presence.
– Thomas Merton, The Inner Being
- For a religion is known from the inside. Catholics say this of Catholicism, but it is true of every religion. Religion is a form of nourishment. It is difficult to appreciate just through a look the flavor and dietary value of a food that one has never eaten.
– Simone Weil, Awaiting God
(Thanks to Peter Fitch for including the second quote in a sermon at the St. Croix Vineyard yesterday.)
[more from John Main:]
….[F]aith is not a matter of exertion but of openness.
We need to see faith in this way as openness, and to see it as a positive, creative, sensitive way of being – miles apart from mere passivity or quietism. The effectiveness of all doing depends on the quality of being we enjoy. And to be open implies certain other qualities: such as being still, because we cannot be open to what is here if we are always running after what we think is there; such as being silent, because we cannot listen or receive unless we give our whole attention; such as being simple, because what we are being open to is the wholeness, the integrity of God. This condition of openness as the blend of stillness, silence, and simplicity is the condition of prayer, our nature and our being in wholesome harmony with the being and nature of God in Jesus.
- John Main, Selected Writings
We need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time, for God and God alone.
This asks for much discipline and risk taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer.
In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God.
Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
[some valuable advice from Parker Palmer on conflict in meetings – there have been several times when we have clearly witnessed the truth of this]:
….In the midst of such a liturgy, it would also be important to call for periods of silent meditation as the decision was being made. So often we heighten our conflicts by trying to “talk them out,” only to end up in a warfare of words. Where words divide us, silence can unite us, for in that silence people can sort and sift their passions and be given opportunities to hear beyond the words. In my own community’s business meetings we sometimes say that the longer and the more loaded the agenda before us, the longer should be our periods of silent worship, and results often prove the rightness of this approach.
– Parker Palmer, The Company of Strangers
In those who have suffered too many blows, in slaves for example, that place in the heart from which the infliction of evil evokes a cry of surprise may seem to be dead. But it is never quite dead; it is simply unable to cry out any more….
…those who most often have occasion to feel that evil is being done to them are those who are least trained in the art of speech….
Apart from the intelligence, the only human faculty which has an interest in public freedom of expression is that point in the heart which cries out against evil. But as it cannot express itself, freedom is of little use to it. What is first needed is a system of public education capable of providing it, so far as possible, with means of expression; and next, a regime in which the public freedom of expression is characterized not so much by freedom as by an attentive silence in which this faint and inept cry can make itself heard; and finally, institutions are needed of a sort which will, so far as possible, put power into the hands of [people] who are able and anxious to hear and understand it.
– Simone Weil