(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 8:5-6 Luke 19:44)
According to the poet of the book Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything, including speaking or keeping silent.
But just not speaking does not necessarily have religious value, and it is not, as a rule, silence devoted just to God, as a form of worship.
The kairos of silence, the extraordinary occasion of an encounter in worship with Him, must be specially set aside, and we must find it at any cost even amid the impelling rhythm of modern life, in the narrowest intervals between one task and the next. If needed, stopping the clock of marked time.
Will time be lost?
The doubt, which often bothers newcomers, is answered, for frequent attenders, by the sense of peace and relaxation that is found during and after the period of silence, extending well beyond the limits of the hour's worship. Worship itself continues over the whole interval from one meeting to the next.
Problems appear in a less sombre light, in their real dimensions, and seem wholly manageable; daily worries are less pressing, or even appear banale. Hurrying does not make sense ("Where am I running?" you ask yourself, and "Why am I running like this?"). Distress does not dwell here any more. Everything is put in place and will be dealt with calmly, in its own good time. All of this without a hint of mystical elation.
After so much time wasted in wild goose chases, one rediscovers the real sense of life and of relationships with others, with nature, and with God -- losing for a long while, or forever, the attitude of wary defensiveness against everything and everyone.
Such is the miracle of a slice of time lived in a dimension marked out by the rhythm of the Spirit, not by the pendulum of a mechanical instrument which monotonously counts seconds, hours, days, with the end in sight.
A period of time lived thus, in religious centred awareness, shows up every other use of time as inadequate and insignificant, and anyway cast off through spiritual growth. There is a sense of shame for a life until now ill-spent, and a commitment to spend it better in the future.
And for the better spending of life, the use of time dedicated to silence for having divine leadings is a hallowed choice: it's not a bad way to offer the time we have left to God.
Florence, 5 IV 1987
I know, now that I look back across the years, that nothing has carried me up to the life of God or done more to open out the meaning of love, than the fact that love can span this break of separation, can pass beyond the visible and hold right on across the chasm. The mystic union has not broken and knows no end.
Rufus M. Jones, The Luminous Trail,
concerning the death of his eleven-year-old son.
The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.
Please send any suggestions for alternative translations of any of these meditations to Simon Grant.