Silence and Listening
Silence and Listening
Awakening BLOG #12 January 12th, 2020
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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 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?" NRS 1 Kings 19:11-13
Over the past several Awakening BLOG posts we have briefly considered the Christian contemplative postures of simplicity and solitude 1. Simplicity at its core a way of being detachment physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually from all that does not cooperate with our desire to live an awakened, intentional, and palpable with God life. We approached solitude as true presence as we considered personal solitude, inner solitude, solitude in Christian community and solitude in the world. This is a movement from intentionality to being drawn by God inwardly as a way of becoming, by God’s grace, balanced spirit, soul, mind, and body. This allows us to enter into being present together in Christian community living as the body of Christ united in purpose and desire. From here we then graced with solitude in the world as vessels though who Love flows and we recognize our interconnectedness, as well as the truth that all people are God’s beloved, created in the image of God, some already in Christ Jesus and others being called by the Holy Spirit to life in Christ Jesus. It is through solitude that we become present to the truth that the Holy Spirit is calling the lost to salvation in Christ Jesus, while calling those who are already saved in Crist Jesus to a journey of purification, illumination, and union, or holiness. These ways of being are not linear as much as they are dynamic and cyclical. Within these ways of being, as we allow the ways of simplicity and solitude to grow in our lives, we then begin to develop ears to hear and eyes to see, which is the realm of Christian contemplative silence. Having been rid of the distractions and the unhealthy attachments we all hold onto and having begun to be fully present with God as the body of Christ in the world we are now in a place where we can truly listen. This is the silent place that Elijah discovered on Mount Horeb when he was blessed with the gift of hearing God’s still gentle voice in the shear silence.
Contemplative silence is not the absence of all sound. Instead, it is the absence of all sound that inhibits us in hearing the voice of God, which is not an audible voice at all, but a mysterious inspiration, breathing in, of the Holy Spirit. This is perceptible inspiration by which we can know, hear, and respond to God’s voice within us, and around us. In fact, some sounds will draw us into contemplative silence. The sounds of nature in a forest, the ocean, streams of water, the wind rustling through the trees, a heavy rain, a thunderstorm. For many silence is prompted by the visual, a sunrise or sunset, a beautiful garden, a rainbow. In some mystical way these sounds and/or sights draw us beyond to the place from which they flow, a silent place. In this they become icons set before us by God that draw us in and then beyond into the silent place where God dwells. A place before creation. This somehow awakens us to the silence that surrounds all sound. Silence that invites us in to truly listen to and to hear and to respond to God’s voice in between. It is here that we then find ourselves being called to surrender to God’s draw into the mystical way of holy silence. Here we discover that silence is a place of holy listening whereby, we can hear God’s voice. The contemplative postures of simplicity and solitude, which have given us the path to an atmosphere of being undistracted and present, has been extended to now include contemplative silence where we are awakened to God’s Holy Silence from which all sound flows, all sound is held, and all sound is couched. We herein become very aware of the silence “in between” sound.
However, silence is covered over by so much useless noise in our world that we hardly know it exists. Yet, it does exist, and it is God’s place where we are able to listen, to hear God who is inviting us to hear God’s voice, the Word who is God, Christ Jesus who is in between sound, behind sound and that from which all sound, in fact all creation, flows. This contemplative silence has been referred to as the whitespace between the words of Scripture. The Word is not a sound but pure being from whom all creation flows (John 1:3-5), not as sound but as pure divine will. This is the way of contemplative silence.
1 Over the months to come we will unpack these as well as silence, stillness, and solitude in far greater detail. We will also discuss contemplative practice conducive to these contemplative postures, or ways of being. We will also consider the teachings and ways of Christian contemplative masters and their writings as avenues for our own contemplative journey’s. Most importantly, all along the way we will delve deep how our Lord Jesus Christ directs our path to union with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.