Is Silence Preferable or Necessary?
A reflection shared by Angie Foster, Authorised Lay Minister for Worship, Prayer & Spirituality
Happy New Year! After all the joy and gladness as well as the busyness and rushing of getting ready for Christmas and meeting family and friends over the festive period, if I am honest the quiet and hopefully slowing of the pace of life for even a short time in the weeks after New Year and into the dark days of January, come to me as a relief. It is tempting to use the time for rest and even sleep, but perhaps we need to be more awake than ever.
There sometimes seems to be little opportunity to have periods of silence and quiet reflection and contemplation in our services and at home, and even less at work or other activities that we might be involved in.
Silence has a life of its own. It is a state of being which we can relate to and can become intimately familiar. Philosophically, we could say being is that foundational quality which precedes all other attributes. Silence is at the very foundation of all reality—pure being is that out of which all else comes and to which all things return.
To live and use times of silence can create a kind of resonance with what is right in front of us. Without it, we are just reacting instead of responding. The opposite of contemplation is not action, but reaction. We must wait for to know what action we should take as this should be proceeded by a period of contemplative silence.
We should be awake right now and silent meditation is a practice we perhaps associate more readily with various Eastern traditions. However, Rabbi Dov Berof the Jewish faith, commends contemplative silence as a way to meet God:“He who speaks too much brings sin.”
Silent contemplation offers greater possibilities for connection with God than does discussion or speech.
The silence of Christian contemplative prayer opens in mystery on a promising invitation to abide in and share more deeply the love of God.
As St. Teresa of Avila observed: “Contemplative prayer, in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”
Lectio Divina, (divine reading), is a type of meditative prayer that can have great value to the Christian disciple. For those, often within the Anglo-Catholic tradition, meditative prayer “engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This moving of our faculties is necessary to be able to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt a conversion within our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ. This form of prayerful reflection can be of great value, but Christian prayer can go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, and a relationship and union with him.
You may find using your Bible, prayer book or an App such as Lectio 365 or Time to Pray, a useful aid to entering a period of silence and contemplation. Before ending, I hope you now feel able to answer the question in the title of this article, in a positive way.
In addition, I am offering an opportunity for individual contemplative prayer at Christ Church Walmsley between 9.00am and 9.45am on Saturday 21st January. There will be time for silent prayer. However, if those attending would like to say prayers, psalms and readings, or even sing hymns, as Taizé and Celtic music are forms of contemplative prayer too, that would also be welcome – please bring what you would like to share.
As it is the Parish Coffee Morning between 10am and 12 noon in Walmsley Parish Community Hall, please stay and meet some new or familiar faces as well as enjoying a drink and something to eat and browsing the stalls.
(Acknowledgement is due to Richard Rohr from the Centre for Action and Contemplation).