Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday's my reflective day

It has been quite a couple of weeks, and the way that my time works is that this first part of Monday I usually leave clear after Sunday duties, just to give my brain a bit of time to cool off after lots of 'public visibility' and a fair amount of emotional engagement as part of our Worship services. Particularly after a quite draining Sunday such as yesterday. Quilly is right (I'm sure she's glad I said that) in saying that we remember those who are willing to serve in our Armed Forces every day, but (and there's always a but) there is a difference between our own personal feelings and a public acknowledgement of the sacrifice made by many in wartime. That's why I put so much energy and thought into Remembrance Sunday, my sermon this year was quite personal too, inasmuch as it said why I thought it was an important day - I might post it later.

One of the things that I have learnt to appreciate over the past few years is that two minutes of silence to mark the importance of the occasion, to pray or reflect or just to stand. I think when words are inadequate silence is the best response, despite the fact we often resort to words to fill the gap...

Which leads me on to one of the things that has profoundly affected me over the past couple of weeks. I spent a week meeting daily with a 'prayer guide' with whom I discussed my own life of prayer, and it came out - much to my surprise - that I find a growing attraction to silence. Perhaps its because my life seems to have got busier over the past few years, perhaps its just getting older, perhaps its recognising that when it comes to God our words are nothing but inadequate (great thing for a writer to say!). Anyway, we spent most of the week discussing the importance of silence or, as would seem appropriate, sitting silently in prayer.

It was nothing short of life changing.

One thing my guide, Ann, shared with me was a poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins which talked, in Hopkins usual powerful way, of the choice for silence and stillness within which we can encounter the God beyond words. I'm not sure about copyright, this is from the 1918 edition of his works so it might be in the public domain - if anyone knows otherwise please let me know - I thought I'd share it here:

The Habit of Perfection

ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


quilly said...

It took me a long time to learn this: I think when words are inadequate silence is the best response .... You've come to it a few years ahead of me.

I have grown much closer to God since I stopped watching television. The ensuing silence left plenty of time for reflection. In fact, I watched so little TV in the last several years that I left the one I had behind in Vegas and have yet to buy another.

Allow me to suggest a book for a change ...When God Is Silent: The 1997 Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching by Barbara Brown Taylor. The prose is gorgeous, and the thoughts on our silence, and God's, are profound.

Btw, I read all your posts through my feed. I just don't always comment.

Tom said...

In a world so hell-bent on distraction, it's nice to read about quiet reflection.

Thanks for sharing the poem and the insight.