Sunday, 1 March 2009

1st Sunday of Lent - Seeking Silence

A good turn out at St. Cuthbert's for the First Sunday of Lent. The Children's Corner was full - and there was a sense of anticipation that we might end the Eucharist still more full, since one mother-to-be is now two days overdue.

My homily largely dealt with the issue of silence - one of the world's neglected qualities / virtues. Remarkably the youngest of children became quite quiet as I preached, though part of my point was that silence is more than simply "Peace and quiet."

As it happens I'm reading Sara Maitland's recently published, A Book of Silence - and very much enjoying it. She writes:

We all imagine that we want peace and quiet, that we value privacy and that the solitary and silent person is somehow more ‘authentic’ than the same person in a social crowd, but we seldom seek opportunities to enjoy it. We romanticise silence on the one hand and on the other feel that it is terrifying, dangerous to our mental health, a threat to our liberties and something to be avoided at all costs...

I’m sure she’s right that the quest for silence requires real commitment, and we shouldn’t under-estimate the demands that silence can make upon us. Before I undertook an eight-day Individually Guided Retreat, I was required to fill in a questionnaire - and there was a warning that people who had no previous experience of at least a few days of silence should not sign up. It’s when you find yourself on your own and in silence that you find not merely the opportunity for peaceful reflection, but also all the disturbing voices speaking which otherwise you can ignore amid the frantic hurly-burly of life the way we normally live it. Those things that wake us up in the early hours and won’t let us get back to sleep. The things that we try to put off, shirk and shake off… they all crowd in on us.

That found its way into my homily. As did the suggestion by Fr. Gerard Hughes – author of God of Surprises - that,

It is a very useful exercise to take a piece of paper, divide it into two columns, one headed 'Events which bring me to life', and the other 'Events which deaden me', then scribble down whatever comes to mind. Keep the list, and add to it whenever another item occurs to you. If you persist, the list will lengthen, and you may discover that you give more time and attention to the things which deaden you than to those which enliven you.

We need to look into our hearts and ask, do we find a spirit which deadens or a spirit which enlivens? Do we just try to get by, holding on to what we have got, but seeing it inevitably decay? Or do we take risks in living and loving so that we might grow?

Click here for more. Have a Happy and a Holy Lent.

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