Friday, December 15, 2006

A Vow of Silence


I fully recognize that it has been a while since I last posted, nearly two months in fact. I have also noticed the lack of blogging to be a trend among some of my friends and fellow bloggers as well. But I don't think it is a failure to be introspective, or because there is a lack of reflection in our lives. I think that some of us have learned to be silent. There are times in our lives that we encounter crisis or difficult situations and we can respond in a number of ways. Some of us want to talk openly about the problem, voicing our grievances and letting others know how we have been wronged. Others like to report the information they know, perhaps because it makes them feel important, needed, or close to something. Maybe they find purpose in this. In my humble opinion, these people often do more harm than good. They might seem removed from the situation, and are simply reporting their findings, but they are a clanging symbol.

Then there are those that are silent. They say nothing, attracting attention from no one, remaining quiet. But just because they do not speak on the subject matter does not mean that they are doing nothing. Because they are not engaged in a war of words does not mean that they have removed themselves from the situation. Perhaps they are the ones doing the most. Some may read this post and will not understand what I am speaking of. Others will identify heavily and will find themselves in the heat of a battle.

This leads me to think of my brothers at the Abbey of Gethsemani. The monks at Gethsemani are silent more often than they speak. They spend most of their day in prayer. If you ever have a chance to go to the Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky, you will see that they truly are engaged with God. They pray for their cloister, they pray for the Church, and they pray for the world. Their silence allows them to often see the world differently than if they had been distracted with noise of mindless chatter. I think that some of my brothers and sisters in the Church and in the Academy could learn a lot from the monks in Kentucky.

Sometimes, I think, we speak before our thoughts are fully formed. Speech and words are a gift from God. We can communicate so much love and beauty through words, but we can also commit great crimes against humanity, the church, and God with these words as well. As a minister, people feel the need to let me know how well I am doing my job. One person's hurtful words can cancel out ten people's encouragements. The hurtful words stick, while the positive is forced out of the peripheral.

There are times when we must speak up for those that cannot defend themselves. There are times to shout from the rooftops that there is an injustice being done. But, there are also times to be silent. There are moments that it is more helpful to the kingdom and to our community for us to not speak on the matter at hand. It is then that we should put down our weapons and seek the face of the Lord.

Thomas Merton says this:
"How tragic it is that they who have nothing to express are continually expressing themselves, like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark, where there is no enemy. The reason for their talk is: death. Death is the enemy who seems to confront them at every moment in the deep darkness and silence of their own being. So they keep shouting at death. They confound their lives with noise. They stun their own ears with meaningless words, never discovering that their hearts are rooted in silence that is not death but life. They chatter themselves to death, fearing life as it were death." (262, No Man is an Island)

These are times that I longingly desire to spend the day with my brothers at Gethsemani.