A Pandemic of Noise: By Prasanta Verma

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure,” writes Henri Nouwen.

In silence, in the desert places, words develop a skeleton, flesh, and bone. Wandering in the wilderness, words develop greater fullness and depth. Faith grows a stronger backbone and a fresh set of wings. Our spirits flourish with greater sensitivity and nuances of understanding. A cacophony of endless words is meaningless; meaning grows out of the silence from listening in quiet, lonely, spaces.

By quiet, lonely spaces I am not necessarily referring to physical spaces, but those thin and empty places in our lives marked by loss, grief, pain, and suffering. Were it not for the silence of those places, I may not have learned or appreciated the full meaning of those words and the full meaning of their opposites. Indeed, joy is much better understood when underscored by seasons of grief. Health is enjoyed more deeply after seasons of illness. The opposites, the pain that I (and maybe you) want to run far away from, is often the very circumstance that teaches me.

So few in our world are prone to listening, yet we truly learn in the silence of listening from each other. Is it any wonder we talk past each other in political discourse, then? We speak too much and listen less. This is no different in our daily lives, too. In my conversations with neighbors and acquaintances, fewer people ask questions of the other. We are too busy, unavailable, judgmental, or self-centered. No wonder we ebb and flow in a sea of longing and loneliness.

Nouwen writes,

It is not easy to enter into the silence and reach beyond the many boisterous and demanding voices of our world and to discover there the small intimate voice saying: ‘You are my Beloved Child, on you my favor rests.’

We are living in an era where the daily barrage of boisterous news and continuous flow of information is almost like an insult to our systems. We are bombarded, and I can’t help but wonder that we need silence all the more. Eden was not a noisy place, I surmise. I imagine serenity, beauty, and the sounds of water and wildlife. What voices were speaking there in Eden, but of God speaking to His creation and of His creation speaking back? Yet today, the more prevalent voice is creation speaking to itself, or rather, screaming in blaring voices, all the time, all around us, so there is no escape. Are we hearing the voice of the One who calls us Beloved, amidst all the other voices? 

We are living in a pandemic of noise, silence is the treatment, and Christ in heaven is the cure.

***

Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

 

 

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: JULIAN OF NORWICH

The English mystic Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) is remembered on May 13 (in the Catholic Church — and on May 8 in the Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches).

This week, let’s pray one of her beautiful prayers:

 

 

Julian of Norwich

 

In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Savior.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

 

Source

WEEKLY PRAYER: FREDERICK BUECHNER

A Resurrection prayer from Frederick Buechner:

O Thou who didst rise again,

Thou Holy Spirit of Christ, arise and live within us now, that we may be thy body, that we may be thy feet to walk into the world’s pain, thy hands to heal, thy heart to break, if need must be, for the love of the world.

Thou risen Christ, make Christs of us all. Amen.

Source

 

 

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. PATRICK

Today is the Feast Day of St. Patrick, fifth-century bishop and missionary in Ireland. We’re praying part of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a prayer of protection against foes and darkness.

***

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

***

Source

 

 

Praying for a World in Need

January 12 was the Feast Day of Aelred of Rievaulx (c. 1110 – 1167), an English Cistercian monk and the abbot of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.

You might know some of Aelred’s thoughts on spiritual friendship, which have been written about by Wesley Hill, among others. But today I want to share a bit about Aelred’s life and other work.

A fellow monk, Walter Daniel, wrote a biography of St. Aelred. He said that Aelred often repeated the phrase, for crist luve— that is, “for the love of Christ.” It was like a short, spontaneous prayer. Aelred apparently preferred to say “Christ” in English rather than Latin (Christus) because the one-syllable English word is “easier to utter, and in some ways sweeter to hear.”

Aelred’s desire for brevity reminds me of the later Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th-century spiritual treatise that also advises choosing a short and sweet word (or two) for prayer (see my post on this). “A short prayer penetrates heaven,” to paraphrase the Cloud‘s author.

Aelred of Rievaulx
Possible portrait of Aelred of Rievaulx in De Speculo Caritatis, ca. 1140

But my favorite thing about Aelred is a beautiful passage he wrote about prayer. What good is prayer? It is useful, Aelred says. Practical. Prayer is of infinite value. And the world needs it so desperately. In his Rule for a Recluse, Aelred wrote:

What is more useful than prayer? Give it. What is more gracious than pity? Spend it. Hold the whole world in one embrace of love; consider the good to congratulate them, the wicked to grieve over them; behold the afflicted and compassionate the oppressed; call to mind the miseries of the poor, the groans of orphans, the desolation of widows, the sorrows of those who weep, the needs of pilgrims, the vows of virgins, the perils of men on the sea, the temptation of monks, the cares of the clergy, the hardships that soldiers endure. Open your heart to all, spend your tears on them, pour forth your prayers for them.

You may have seen me quote this passage before. I love it so much that I can’t stop sharing it. I think you’ll agree that we need this kind of selfless prayer more than ever today.

***

Source: For Crist Luve: Prayers of Saint Aelred Abbot of Rievaulx

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: EPIPHANY

This week’s prayer addresses Christ eternal and also the young Christ who was visited by the wise men in this season of Epiphany.

***

Toddler Christ,
whose light shines out,
not from a palace,
but from a village woman’s lap,
shine on us today
through the youngest and the least,
that we may open our treasures
and give them precious gifts
in your name. Amen.

Source

WEEKLY PRAYER: JULIAN OF NORWICH

The English mystic Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) is remembered on May 8 (in the Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches). This week, let’s pray one of her beautiful prayers:

In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well. Amen

Source

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. PATRICK

A prayer from St. Patrick (excerpted from St. Patrick’s Breastplate):

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Source

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: HADEWIJCH OF ANTWERP

Last week, we looked at an extraordinary passage in a letter by the Flemish mystic Hadewijch of Antwerp. In her letter, Hadewijch said that most of us think we should get a reward – from God or from other people – for carrying the cross with Christ:

We do not live with Christ, and we do not carry that cross with the Son of God, but we carry it with Simon who received pay because he carried our Lord’s cross (Matt. 27:32).

This passage really made me think. How often do I say, “Do you see, God, everything that I’m doing for you? Have you noticed how hard I’m working?” How often do I hope that other people notice (just a little bit) how spiritual or helpful or humble I am? Pretty often, it turns out. But if we’re seeking recognition for carrying the cross, we’re not really being crucified with Christ. There’s only one reason to carry the cross, Hadewijch says, and that is for love.

That cross which we must bear with the Son of the living God is the sweet exile that we bear for the sake of veritable Love, during which we must await with longing confidence the festival when Love shall manifest herself and reveal her noble power and rich omnipotence on earth and in heaven. In this she shows herself so unreservedly to him who loves that she makes him beside himself; she robs him of heart and mind, and causes him to die to himself and live in devotion to veritable Love.

Love – and not external rewards – is what makes us willing to suffer with Christ and also to do good works:

And thus we must always persevere with renewed ardor: with hands ever ready for all works in which virtue is practiced, our will ready for all virtues in which Love is honored, without other intention than to render Love her proper place in man, and in all creatures according to their due. This is to be crucified with Christ . . .

Have you been crucified with Christ today?

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: GERTRUDE THE GREAT

Gertrude the Great (1256 – c. 1302) was a German Benedictine nun at the monastery of St. Mary at Helfta. She was a mystic who was known for her devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus. Among her written works is a collection of Spiritual Exercises.

A few weeks ago we saw a comparison of the soul to a housewife by the Flemish nun Beatrijs of Antwerp. Gertrude the Great brings us another striking image. Although Gertrude was especially devoted to the sacred heart of Jesus, the Lord instructed her not to forget the other parts of his body. In the Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude, there follows an unusual account of Jesus’ body as a spiritual monastery.

A nun in Gertrude’s monastery writes:

One day, while she was singing Vespers, the Lord said to Gertrude:

 

Behold My Heart,—let it be your temple; then go through the other parts of My Body, and arrange for the other parts of a monastery wherever it seems best to you; for I desire that My sacred Humanity should henceforth be your cloister. . . .

 

Then Gertrude, obeying the commands of God, chose the Feet of her Spouse for her lavatory; His Hands for her work-room; His Mouth for her reception-room, or chapter-room; His Eyes for her school, in which she could read; and His Ears for her confessional.

I confess that I would never have thought of a lavatory in relation to Christ’s body. Call me crazy, but it just wouldn’t occur to me.

However, I love this passage in the Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude because it is such a beautiful image of intimacy. We draw from it the lesson that wherever we go, we can always be spiritually enclosed — housed, sheltered, protected. I think it helps us inhabit the biblical idea that our life is in Christ. Think about it — if Christ is our cloister, our shelter, then we are always in him. We are always just where we should be. We are always home.

Can you imagine making Christ’s humanity your cloister or shelter today?