Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Making Room for Silence in Balanced Spirituality

Christianity, I’m afraid, has done away with the Silence, which has stunted our spiritual growth. We either want religion to be a school, where we constantly think and learn, or we want it to be a show, where we are entertained. Nothing is wrong with either camp, per se, but without the Silence they are incomplete. Without the Silence, “God” (or spirit or the universe or one’s higher power…pick your own name) doesn’t have a chance to speak to us. We can speak to God and we can speak about God, but the conversation is still one sided until we have a time to listen.

Catholics have the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (meditation) and the rosary (mantra), and the Eastern Orthodox have their “Jesus Prayer” (mantra), and Anglicans sometimes borrow from one or both of these other contemplative traditions. Quakers sit in the Silence and contemplate the “Inward Light.” Some churches (such as Grace Cathedral in San Francisco) now offer a labyrinth (walking meditation), and Christian monks and nuns sometimes practice Centering Prayer (sitting in Silence, perhaps focusing on a single word or image); so Christianity has within its traditions the means of going within and listening to the Voice of Wisdom. But popular Christianity continues to opt for “Christian Rock,” emotionally charged services, cognitive preaching, and other practices that fill the Silence and distract one from connecting to intuition, compassion, or inner guidance. Again, there is nothing wrong with cathartic experiences or joyful exuberance, but why must the Silence be totally sacrificed for these other practices?

At Sunshine Cathedral, we offer a quiet midweek service on Wednesday evenings that includes a time of silent prayer and guided meditation. The staff meets daily for intercessory prayer and that daily prayer includes 30-40 seconds of Silence, and we have recently added a 45 minute “zazen” style meditation service two mornings each week at the Cathedral. We also publish Spirit & Truth, a monthly booklet of devotions for people to read and contemplate during their personal times of quiet reflection.

Of course, at Sunshine Cathedral, we also have Sunday services with organ music, an orchestra, a 40 member choir, preaching, liturgy and ritual, and all the fun stuff, and we have Light University that offers bible and theology classes, but we are also trying to make room for Silent reflection and contemplation. We are trying to not only talk to and about God, but also provide space for listening.

A balanced spirituality will both “make a joyful noise” and will also “be still and know that I am God.”

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