In the Quiet

"Silence is God's first language,"  16th-century mystic John of the Cross.

Last weekend I had worked off my to-do list and went to get a cup to pour coffee.  Written on the cup were the words “ Silence is God’s first language, everything else is a poor translation.”  That quote is from Thomas Keating, in his work Invitation to Love. The rest of the sentence is "In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.”  

A passage from 1 Kings 19: 9-13 reminds me that God comes to us in silence as the Prophet Elijah found out:

“ At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10 He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 11 He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?”.

During my Sophomore year in College, my brother and I went backpacking down into the Grand Canyon for a week.  As we hiked deeper into the canyon, I remember thinking how really quiet it was in this place. There was none of the usual background noise always present in a college dorm or apartment complex. At first it was unsettling for me, but gradually I came to appreciate it.  I’m thinking that Elijah came to appreciate the silence as well.

God is always with us, however, we at times are so busy with our activities and our constant thoughts that we don’t make room for God in order to cultivate a relationship with Him. This relationship has to be cultivated with time spent in prayer. This prayer isn’t just us asking for what we want from God. Remember that “..your father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matt 6:31. 

The fact that God knows what we are going to say before we ask doesn’t mean that we should not say anything. I think that God really wants us to hear our thoughts and feelings but like any good conversation there is a time to speak and a time to listen. That’s where silent prayer, or meditation if you will, comes into play. We need to quiet our minds enough to listen to God. To listen to God we need to sit and listen in silence to what our loving God wants to tell us. Now quieting our minds is an extremely difficult thing to do. I know I have  many thoughts popping in and out almost constantly. If I try really hard, I really can quiet things down and in that quiet I can listen to what God has to say.  This coming Saturday 27 January at the GGCC Annual Advance, you have the opportunity to participate in centering prayer. Quiet things down, be silent and rest in God.

Matthew Schneider

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