Tag Archives: silence

18 February: Reduced to Silence

A Lampedusa cross should reduce us to silence. This is in the British Museum, it was made from wrecked migrants’ boats.

They did not dare to ask Jesus any more questions (Luke 20:40). This sentence from the Gospel of St. Luke comes at the end of a passage that tells of an exchange between Jesus and some Sadducees. As usual, the Sadducees have an agenda. They were not keen on this upstart travelling rabbi, Jesus, and were looking for ways to up-end him. They decide that a theological debate might be a good way to do it. Therefore, they think up a rather implausible tale of a woman who outlives not only her first husband but her seven subsequent husbands (all brothers of her first husband, obliged under the Law to marry the widow and ‘raise up children for the brother’ if the previous union had been childless). Finally the widow dies. And the Saducees’s question for Jesus is: ‘At the resurrection, whose wife will she be?’

The Sadducees did not accept the notion of the resurrection from the dead. The hypothetical scenario they invented is meant to illustrate how ridiculous resurrection from the dead is. They seem pretty sure of themselves here, convinced that they have articulated an unsolvable problem. They expected to stump Jesus and to make him withdraw from the conversation, a disgraced loser.

As I reread and ponder this passage of Luke’s gospel, I can see the Sadducees gathered around, the speaker feigning seriousness, while secretly flicking supercilious glances at the others. They are subtly mocking Jesus. In typical adolescent fashion, they completely overestimate their own abilities and underestimate Jesus’; they are unprepared for his skill in theological debate, unprepared for a mind and personality like his.

I would love to have been there. St Luke shows that Jesus, with consummate courtesy and intelligence, not only pays the Sadducees the compliment of taking their question seriously, but answers it on such a deep level as to leave them amazed (Luke 20:34-38). When Jesus crafts his answer, his listeners were given the privilege of observing the workings of a truly beautiful mind. Anyone who has ever been in the class of a teacher who is a brilliant and deep thinker knows how exciting it can be to witness that teacher’s handling of difficult and subtle questions – off the cuff. There is always a moment after the question is posed when everyone wonders how the teacher will deal with the problem. Then, all the students share in the moments of unexpected enlightenment that break through as the teacher unravels easily and eloquently what, to everyone else, was a very tangled knot. It is an impressive event. Even those who are prejudiced against the teacher cannot avoid, if they are honest with themselves, being impressed . They may defend against it, as did the Sadducees here, but for the moment, even they must be quietly gob-smacked.

If you want to study Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, I refer you to the text of Luke 20: 27-40. But the word-for-word answer is not actually what I want to linger over right now. What is amazing to me is that when Jesus finishes his answer to the Sadducees’s question, the whole pack of them ‘do not dare’ to ask him any other questions. This is a major achievement on Jesus’ part. The verbal cut and thrust of debate was what the professional religious thrived on, and practised daily. They were good at it and knew it. But Jesus was better. He could not be wrong-footed by them. They are, unusually, reduced to silence.

Most encounters that Jesus has in the gospels can tell us something about prayer. Can this one? At first this seems unlikely, but further reflection has made me change my mind.

There are some questions I think I need to answer honestly first. One, I wonder how prepared I am to experience a mind like Jesus’? Do I expect to be surprised by the depth of his penetration into my difficulties? Or do I want to reduce his mind to a smaller size – do I want, with at least a little part of myself, to outwit him? Two, do I realise that I am not always mature? Jesus will expose my immaturity – am I willing to accept what he may show me in that area? Three, on the other hand, I may be sincerely stumped, sincerely at the end of my endurance because of what life has thrown at me. I may ask for enlightenment, and Jesus may seem silent. In the event recounted by Luke, the Sadducees receive their answer immediately. I am, seemingly, not always so fortunate. But, what this story teaches me is that Jesus’ answer is probably going deeper than I expected. I may be right out of my depth, and that is why it seems that he has not answered. In reality, the answer is there, but I need to become deeper myself, to ‘grow into’ Jesus’ answer.

I seek, through prayer, a real encounter with Jesus, Lord and God. Like the Sadducees, I too may reach points when I do not dare to ask Jesus any more questions because of the depth of Jesus’ response to me. The Sadducees went away, however, only to continue to plot and scheme against Jesus. What do I do after I finish my prayer?

SJC

Lent is a time of prayer, a real encounter with Jesus. I’ve been saving this post from Sister Johanna till the right moment, and the beginning of Lent is a time of silence, as Our Lord experienced in the desert. It’s been something of a desert time for us all of late; let us use Lent to learn the depths of our love for those we are missing.

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22 January, Week of Prayer for Church Unity, Day V: Letting oneself be transformed by the word

Vine from St David’s Cathedral

“You have already been pruned by the word…”

John 15:3

Deuteronomy 30:11-20 The word of God is very close to you

Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed are you

Meditation

The Word of God is very close to us. It is a blessing and a promise of happiness. If we open our hearts, God speaks to us and patiently transforms that which is dying in us. He removes that which prevents the growth of real life, just as the vine grower prunes the vine.

Regularly meditating on a biblical text, alone or in a group, changes our outlook. Many Christians pray the Beatitudes every day. The Beatitudes reveal to us a happiness that is hidden in that which is unfulfilled, a happiness that lies beyond suffering: blessed are those who, touched by the Spirit, no longer hold back their tears but let them flow and thus receive consolation. As they discover the wellspring hidden within their inner landscape, the hunger for justice, and the thirst to engage with others for a world of peace, grows in them.

We are constantly called to renew our commitment to life, through our thoughts and actions. There are times when we already taste, here and now, the blessing that will be fulfilled at the end of time.

Pray and work that God may reign.

Throughout your day 
Let the Word of God breathe life into work and rest. 
Maintain inner silence in all things 
so as to dwell in Christ. 
Be filled with the spirit of the Beatitudes, 
joy, simplicity, mercy.”

Words recited daily by the Sisters of the Grandchamp Community]

Prayer

Blessed are you, 
God our Father, 
for the gift of your word in Holy Scripture. 
Blessed are you for its transforming power. 
Help us choose life and guide us by your Spirit, 
so that we can experience the happiness 
which you want so much to share with us.

Questions

What does it mean to you that “God may reign” in your life? Is there anything you could change or adjust?

If your church(es) were to live the “Beatitudes” each day what difference would this make to the communities they serve?

What does it mean in our world today to be blessed by God?

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20 January, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: A prayer service for small groups.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021

Service for use at home or in small gatherings

  • This service could be read for personal prayer, as large gatherings in church are unlikely to happen this year.

Each person needs a card heart, a pencil/pen and a tea light.

Music is played as people gather and a candle is lit in the middle of a large circle which everyone sits around.

Opening Prayer

Lord, you invite us to abide in you who are the vinedresser who cares for us with love.

You call on us to see the beauty of each branch united to the vine,

the beauty of each person.

And yet, too often the differences in others make us afraid.

We withdraw into ourselves. Our trust in you and one another is lost.

Come and direct our hearts toward you once again.

That as one family we may praise your name.

Amen.

Litany of praise

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the midst of the world and among all peoples,

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the midst of creation and among all creatures.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise among suffering and tears,

Reader 2 We sing your praise among promises and achievements.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the places of conflict and misunderstanding;

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the places of encounter and reconciliation.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

Reader 1 We sing your praise in the midst of rifts and divisions,

Reader 2 We sing your praise in the midst of life and death, the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.

All You who call us to be praise in the midst of the earth: glory to you!

First VigilAbiding in Christ: the unity of the whole person

Reading: Jn 15:1-17

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader God of love, through Christ you said to us: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” You invite us to receive your friendship. Teach us to respond more deeply to this invitation, and to grow and grow in a life that is ever more complete.

WPCU 2021 simplified / 2

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God of life, you call us to be praise in the midst of the world and to accept one another. May your loving gaze, which rests upon each person, inspire us to celebrate each other just as we are.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God you who gather, you knit us together as one vine in Jesus. May your loving Spirit abide in us at church and in our community that together we may celebrate you with joy.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Reader God of the one vineyard, you call us to live in your love in all we do and say. Touched by your goodness, grant us to be a reflection of that love in our homes, schools and workplaces.

All The joy of our heart is in God. (all touch their heart and smile)

Action: A time of silence where we reflect on God’s love, after which music is played as everyone writes/draws their name on their card and takes it up and places it by the candle.

Second VigilThe visible unity of Christians

Psalm: 85

Reading: 1 Cor 1:10-13a

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader Holy Spirit, you create and re-create the Church in all places. Come and whisper in our hearts the prayer which Jesus addressed to his Father on the eve of his passion: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe”.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, light the fire of your love in us so that suspicions and misunderstanding cease in the Church. May the walls that separate us fall.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Holy Spirit, Consoler of all, open our hearts to forgiveness and reconciliation and bring us back to you when we lose our way.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, give us poverty of spirit so that we may be open to your grace.

All Thank you. Amen.

Reader Holy Spirit, you never abandon the men, women and children who are persecuted for their faithfulness to the gospel. Give them strength and courage, and support those who help them.

All Thank you. Amen.

Action: Let us exchange a sign of Christ’s peace as our prayer and commitment to unity.

WPCU 2021 simplified / 3

Then each takes up their tea light and lights it from the main candle and places it by their heart.

Third VigilThe unity of all peoples with all creation

Psalm: 96

Reading: Rev. 7: 9-12

A short time of silence

Intercessions

Reader God of life, you have created everyone in your image and likeness. We sing your praise for the gift of our many cultures and traditions. Grant us the courage to stand against injustice and prejudice

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader Merciful God, you have shown us in Christ that we are one in you. Teach us to use this gift in the world so that believers of all faiths in every country may be able to listen to each other and live in peace

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader O Jesus, you came into the world and shared fully in our humanity. You know the hardships of life for people who suffer in so many different ways. May the Spirit of compassion move us to share our time, gifts and resources with all those in need.

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Reader Holy Spirit, you hear the fury of your wounded creation and the cries of those already suffering from climate change. Guide us toward new ways of living that are in harmony with all creation.

All God of peace, God of love, in you is our hope!

Action: Moving to the centre and out to the world (inspired by a text of Dorotheus of Gaza). Everyone stands and takes a step towards the candle and extends hands towards each other.

Reader At the centre of the world is God, in whom all our desires and longings find their meeting place.

As we move closer to God, so we draw closer to one another. And the closer we come to one another . . .

All The closer we come to God.

Short time of silence followed by the Lord’s Prayer after which people return to their seats and pray using words the Grandchamp nuns pray each day…

Reader Will you Pray and work that God may reign?

All With Gods help, we will.

Reader Throughout your day will you let the Word of God breathe life into your work and play and rest?

All With God’s help, we will.

Reader Will you maintain inner silence in all things so as to dwell in Christ?

WPCU 2021 simplified / 4

All With God’s help, we will.

Amen.

Suitable music could be played at this point.

Blessing

Reader Be one, so that the world may believe! Abide in God’s love, go into the world and bear the fruits of this love.

All May the God of all creation, fill us with all joy and all peace in faith, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

This simplified version of the Ecumenical Celebration was prepared by Lynne Chitty, on behalf of ROOTS for Churches Ltd.

ROOTS publishes weekly worship and learning resources at www.rootsontheweb.com

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17 January: Introduction to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity starts tomorrow. I have no idea what shared service might be possible, but we’ve been learning how to stay together in new ways for months now. If we cannot gather in each other’s buildings, we can pray together at Pope John Paul II’s ‘Altar of the World’.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2021 has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.
The Grandchamp Community has its origins in Europe in the 1930s, when a group of women of the Reformed tradition sought to rediscover the importance of silence and listening to the Word of God. Today the community has fifty sisters, all women from different generations, Church traditions, countries and continents. In their diversity the sisters are a living parable of communion. They remain faithful to a life of prayer, life in community and the welcoming of guests.
In producing the material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2021, the sisters are inviting churches across the world to enter into their tradition of prayer and silence that is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Church catholic.

Jesus said to the disciples, “abide in my love” (John 15:9). He abides in the love of the Father (Jn 15:10) and desires nothing other than to share this love with us. The Father is the centre of our lives, who centres our lives. He prunes us and makes us whole, and whole human beings give glory to the Father.
Abiding in Christ is an inner attitude that takes root in us over time. It demands space to grow. It can be overtaken by the struggle for the necessities of life and it is threatened by the distractions, noise, activity and
the challenges of life.
We who know the full value of a spiritual life, have an immense responsibility and must realise it, unite and help each other create forces of calmness, refuges of peace, vital centres where the silence of people calls on the creative word of God. It is a question of life and death.

Agnellus Mirror will reflect some of the meditations and prayers suggested for each day of the week of prayer; let us pray today for the gift to be silent with others, allowing them room to speak or just be quiet with us.

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4 December, Praying with Pope Francis: For a life of prayer.

hands pray dove
We pray that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ be nourished by the Word of God and a life of prayer.

That’s Pope Francis’s intention. Perhaps we could recall when Jesus gave some clear advice on how to pray. We see him doing just what he advises when we read the Gospels.

  •  And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. Be not you therefore like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him. Thus therefore shall you pray:
  • Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. 
  • Thy kingdom come.
  • Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Give us this day our daily bread.
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.
  • And lead us not into temptation.
  • But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Image from Saint David’s Cathedral.

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November 20: Lighting a candle

crypt (640x481)

Although the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral is usually quiet, there are always sounds to absorb or blank out; I think most people would soon find their inner silence undisturbed by passing footsteps of pilgrims or tourists passing by or finding a seat.

These steps were different, a measured tread, leather soles with steel segs to make the heels last longer, as worn by the Combined Cadet Force at my secondary school. The visitor advanced to the candle stand, took one, lit it, and positioned it upon the rack. A step back, and he stood ramrod straight before the altar for a minute, bowed deeply, turned and left. It was a man I have known by sight for maybe thirty years, but this  was the first time I had seen him wearing the regimental tie of the Buffs, the East Kent Regiment, now amalgamated out of existence.

It was obviously an important date for him to mark in this way. When I searched the web I discovered that the Battle of Cambrai began on 20th November 1917 and many Buffs were involved.

Perhaps this man’s grandfather was in the battle, but he had come to the crypt  in solidarity with his comrades, even with men he never knew; his regimental tie, his candle and his silent moment a prayer of hope for them and for this ravaged world; his visit, even if it was but a short walk from his home, a true pilgrimage.

 

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9 October, Little Flowers LXXXI: Dens in the Woods 5.

Saint Francis must have taken some looking after! His quest to live a more simple life must have worried his companions who, after all, had joined his company to be with him, among other motives.

Saint Francis sought how he might find a place wherein he might the more solitary keep the forty days’ fast of Saint Michael the Archangel, which beginneth with the feast of the Assumption. wherefore he called unto him Brother Leo; and said: “Go and stand in the doorway of the Oratory where the brothers lodge, and when I call thee, return to me again.”

So Broth Leo went and stood in the doorway; and Saint Francis withdrew himself a little space, and called aloud. Hearing him call, Brother Leo returned to him again, and Saint Francis said to him: “Son, let us seek for another more secret place, where thou canst not hear me when I call.” And as they searched, they found on the side of the mountain that looked towards the south, a lonely place and very proper for his purpose, but they could not win there because in front there was a horrible and fearful cleft in a huge rock. Therefore with great pains they laid a piece of wood over it as a bridge and got across to the other side.

Then Saint Francis sent for the other brothers and told them how he was minded to keep the forty days’ fast of Saint Michael in that lonely place, and therefore he besought them to make him a little cell there, so that no cry of his could be heard by them. And when the cell was made, Saint Francis said to them: ” Go ye to your own place, and leave me here alone, for, with the help of God, I am minded to keep the fast here, without disturbance or distraction, and therefore let none of you come unto me, nor suffer any lay folk to come to me. But, Brother Leo, thou alone shalt come to me, once a day, with a little bread and water, and at night once again at the hour of Matins, and then shalt thou come to me in silence, and when thou art at the bridge-head, thou shalt say; “Domine, labia mea aperies”1 ; and if I answer thee, cross over and come to the cell, and we will say Matins together, and if I answer thee not, then depart straightway.” And this Saint Francis said because at certain times he had been so rapt in God, that he nor heard nor felt aught with the bodily senses. And again Saint Francis gave them his blessing and they went back again to their own place.

1Lord, open my lips. The first words of the Divine Office.

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18 September: Still here.

Sharp eyes, Kentish or not, will have seen the Tabernacle or Aumbry to our left of the Altar. Jesus is sacramentally present here. We were a little late in the day to be able to linger anywhere in Saint David’s Cathedral; the crowd was beginning to press, but we can sit quietly and ponder these words of Sion Aled Owen in his meditation on The Accidental Pilgrim. Sometimes it’s easier to have heart aflame in a quiet moment than a crowded one.

And here you are
diverted by curiosity from the Coastal Path,
seeking some solace on a vacation rainy day
or on a taster tour from your ship
granted an hour to inherit centuries.
Or coming with heart already aflame
to claim the shrine’s promise.

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17 September: be still.

Sharp eyed Kentish Maids and Men of Kent will recognise the coats of arms behind the altar: this is the chapel of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, but in Saint David’s Cathedral in Wales. Far enough from London not to incur the wrath of a turbulent Tudor; I don’t know when the dedication was made to our local hero but under Henry VIII more than a couple of churches in England were switched from Saint Thomas of Canterbury to the doubting Apostle.

When we were in Saint David’s they had this banner on display. Let’s accept their invitation, and put ourselves in the presence of God.

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6 August: Evening thoughts of a gardener





It is evening, and the time for the flowers to close their petals.
Give me leave to sit by your side, and bid my lips to do the work
that can be done in silence and in the dim light of stars.
(from “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore)

I hope all have time to sit in silence under the stars this holiday time, before being driven indoors by the midges and mosquitoes!

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