[The Lord of Silence: general index]

1    Quaker Silent Worship and Biblical Exegesis

In unprogrammed worship as practised in Europe, after a few minutes of centering, anyone may express a thought, offer a prayer, quote a passage, or simply describe the inspiration of the moment. Here is no preacher charged with analysing a sections from the Old or New Testaments, nor are there any special times devoted to liturgical songs, readings or prayer. Everything is completely spontaneous, whether silence, spoken message, or the occasional song offered by a Friend so moved.

Certainly the dependence of a whole assembly of believers on a preacher is not in evidence. Quaker religious expression leaves at the door the automatisms of ritual and the programmed rhythm of listening and choral singing, liturgical prayer, collective recitals of doxologies, etc. What counts most is the search for a direct connection with the Spirit of God, inspired in the great majority of cases from the respect and love that Friends have for the Written Word - the Bible.

There is no one accepted interpretation of this or that verse, no doctrine or theology that imposes a given exegesis, no preacher who involves the assembly in a personal vision of the world or of sacred scripture. Furthermore, there is no risk of weekly biblical interpretations that can on being compared either seem or be actually contradictory. And finally, there is no risk of being thought a tepid Christian if one's speech isn't stuffed with biblical quotations.

The more time passes,- the more translations of the Bible appear, the more discoveries of relatively ancient texts, the more updatings, the more interpretations by translators and commentators. Discoveries of Greek manuscripts, even non-biblical ones, in those parts of the Mediterranean world dominated by Hellenic culture, allow us to understand New Testament words whose meanings were unknown until yesterday. So confusion is created, especially among those with fundamentalist tendencies.

The risk of depending on more-or-less "correct" biblical interpretations is absent from the start ... Friends meet to meditate on and, yes, to speak the Word, often made lively by the presence of God felt at a deep level. Of course, human silence has its limits and risks, but it does not necessarily involve the whole community. At most there may be an error of omission.

Frino di Ghiffa, 3 III 1992

Death as generally understood does not in truth exist. What we call death is governed by the principle of Shiva, that is to say, death is nothing but a transformation, a going beyond form. It is a simple changing of the state of consciousness that can happen to some in a way so unrecognised as to be unnoticed.

The great majority of humanity, especially in the West, has not and does not find a true relationship with death. Dramatization of the event, attachment to human form, identification with earthly goals, etc., represent infantile delusions for those who know and understand death. Someday it will be revealed that birth is under the law of limitation, while death is under that of liberation.

Raphael, Beyond Doubt

Translation by George T. Peck

[Original Italian]

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