Saturday, October 20, 2007

Entering the Silence

The monastic church is the Church of the wilderness, the woman who has fled into the desert from the dragon that seeks to devour the infant Word. She is the Church who, by her silence, nourishes and protects the seed of the Gospel that is sown by the Apostles in the hearts of the faithful. She is the Church who, by her prayer, gains strength for the Apostles themselves, so often harassed by the monster. The Monastic Church is the one who flees to a special place prepared for her by God in the wilderness, and hides her face in the Mystery of the divine silence, and prays while the great battle is being fought between earth and heaven.

Her flight is not an evasion. If the monk were able to understand what goes on inside him, he would be able to say how well he knows that the battle is being fought in his own heart."

(Thomas Merton, The Silent Life, London: Burns & Oates, 1956, p11-12)

When I read this today, I was blown away by the spiritual awareness of Merton in terms of spiritual warfare. If we are constantly too busy with other things, making ends meet, rushing from place to place to get things done, skipping meals to get more things done, avoiding meeting with people in order to stay 'ahead' in life, life gets reduced to a series of hitting and missing temporal targets. It is ironical that the human being despite knowing that the earthly life is temporal, yet he often lives as if they are his permanent concerns! Do we need to become blind like Fanny Crosby before we can start writing hymns of faith? Do we need to become a quadriplegic like Joni Eareckson Tada before we can share words of hope? Do we have to see someone crucified for us before we can start to love that person? Whatever we have, whatever abilities we possess, there is a reason for them. We should not just talk about our gift. We ought to use them by sharing them. How can we discern what to do with our gifts if we have not entered into the silence of hearing God? Are we attracted only by the earthquakes of the world? Storms of everyday struggles or winds of change that affects our material lifestyles? If we are, then we will miss the gentle whisper of God. Elijah was able to hear God in the silence. Let's take a leaf from his example.

The gospel is not easily spread just by simply talking down to people. In fact, talking should be second. The first is described in the following quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi.

"Go and preach the gospel to the world, and if absolutely necessary, use words,"

A great spiritual discipline is to follow the desert fathers' advice: "When praying, if absolutely necessary, use words." Now, about the word 'monastic.' If is common for people to simply brush it aside and say that it is a word reserved only for people who are in monasteries or those who have said goodbye to the outside world. If we read carefully Jesus's directive to his disciples to give up all and follow him, we will understand that all believers of the gospel, are called to be monks, in the sense that we do all we can to love God and neighbour.


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