Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stillness- Be Still and Know That I Am God

Forgive me. I think of the words of St. Pambo, or a variation thereof, "If I cannot help you with my silence, I cannot help you with my words." I put the lie to that by putting my hand to keyboard and purporting to write something that I hope you will read. ............................................................................................................................................................

Accept that as the Silence that Helps. It seems to me that the call to Contemplative Prayer from the West, and the Call to Unceasing Prayer that leads to the descent of the nous (understanding/attention) into the heart (and the Stillness of the Father) are pointing us to the same Thing. The Thing that troubles me in both expressions of the Truth of Centering Prayer and of Hesychasm is that language is so very inadequate to express the profundity of what is being described.
Throughout my childhood in my wakening moments I had the desire to hide in a cave. Oh, I so wanted that cave! But what was it? I did not know. I did not know that the hunger for that cave, that hiddenness, that place of security, corresponded to a Place to which we are all called to resort.
That Place is the Stillness of the Father, to which the Word ever calls us. It is so aptly expressed at the website Contemplative Outreach in its discourse on the Lectio Divina of the Desert Fathers
"In the Trinity, the Eternal Word is always emerging from the infinite silence of the Father and always returning".
The infinite silence of the Father is not the mere cessation of outward and physical bustle and noise, but it is an entering into- into an Unknowing where we find ourselves at home and in the security that we always sought and the communion that we alway desired. Outward stillness is often a necessary precursor to inner Stillness, as the experience of the desert for many Christian ascetics is the necessary precursor for encounter with God. But outer stillness, outward hesychasm is a preparation- a pre-condition for entry into the Divine Stillness.
Such expression finds its roots at the beginning of the Christian Tradition. St. Ignatius the God-bearer said, "those who acquire the word of Jesus must also acquire is stillness so as to be perfect." The Stillness of the Father is no new aspiration of the heart, no aberration of the Christian yearning, but is fully Apostolic, and fully Trinitarian.
Orthodox Psychotherapy puts it so succintly "That is why man, in order to come nearer to God, is not satisfied only to receive His revealed energies but must also advance towards receiving in silence the mystery of His unknowing. It is not enough to hear His word, but one must also advance towards the unhearing of His stillness. This second part leads to perfection, and so the first is presupposed. In fact, as St. Ignatius the Godbearer observed, only `he who has truly acquired the word of Jesus can also hear His stillness, so as to be perfect'. So then the movement of man towards God should not be only a movement of action, but also a movement of hiddenness; it should not only be a witness of confession, but also a witness of silence and stillness"

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