The sound of the world around us generally qualifies as little more than noise. Almost nothing advertises itself as unimportant or something to be attended to later. The insistent cries of everything often raise the demands for our attention to a deafening pitch. “Do this! Read this! Buy this! Remember this! Believe this!” The world constantly presents itself to us as though it were teetering on the apocalyptic brink of disaster – with the added note that our attention to the pending disaster will make a difference.
This is noise.
The world indeed teeters on the brink of an apocalypse, but not the one it fears. Its history has a direction but not of its own choosing. The coming apocalypse is silence.
The word “apocalypse” (from the Greek) means “revelation,” bringing into plain sight what had before been hidden. The Christian faith is, from beginning to end, apocalyptic in nature. It is always a bringing forth of hidden things. Very often the most important thing in the world is nearly invisible to everyone around: the birth of a child in a village in Palestine, the lonely execution of an itinerate preacher, an empty tomb that puzzles a city. Jesus is not what anyone expected. The entirety of His life is only understood after the fact, in the light of revelation.
On the morning of the resurrection, certain women felt that the most pressing thing in the world was to purchase additional spices and myrrh to give a more careful treatment to the dead body of their most beloved friend. It seemed so important that they started out “very early in the morning.” It was the first day of the week, a day for business. It was a day for opening shops and arranging goods. Some spice merchant in Jerusalem rejoiced over the first-thing-in-the-morning visit of some grieving women, virtually cleaning out his shop. Grief makes such great customers!
Everybody was rising for the day, with roosters crowing here and there, without significance.
In the tomb was silence.
The tomb was silent because nobody was there, except a stray angel or two. And into the silence were spoken words that made the noise of creation to pass into nothing: “He is not here. He is risen.”
After this, the women cannot hear anything of the noise. The angry words of a passing stranger go unnoticed. The merchants in their stalls along the souk calling out their wares are mute. For the women, the world has become silent. The apocalypse of the truth has the exclusive care of their attention. Only one thing is needful.
Nothing in the world has changed since then. The insistent noise of the merchants cries out and the impending disasters forecast by kings and criminals warn that an apocalypse is just around the corner. But all of this noise takes place in the silence of the true apocalypse. It is just noise. The silent Stillness of eternity has already entered the world. His first words continue to speak: “Peace be with you.”
Only one thing is needed.
This is Silence.
Thank you. I sit here out in my farm in the boonies and I am thankful I am here. This is exactly what I needed right now. Glory to God!
Many thanks, Father. It is so difficult to turn off the noise. Pray for me.
Stunning, truthful, beautiful, timely & poetic. Thank you.
Father, thank you!
Am I remembering correctly that one of your articles a long time ago mentioned a specific responsibility during certain services of one monk to continuously repeat the word “God” in the background of all singing/chanting during the service? I seem to remember this serving to show that, when all other sounds cease, God will be what remains. What is this person/role called?
Thanks Father, this was information I needed to think upon.
Just as your messages from this past weekend, really made me re evaluate my way of studying and thinking. You encourage me to continue on in my struggles.
Thank you father.
Thank you Fr. Stephen,
With all the noise of the upcoming election, these are words I truly need to hear. They remind me of these words from Psalms: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (62:1RSV) And, “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.” 62:5 This is from St. Theophan the Recluse…”If you descend into your heart, you will have no more difficulty. Your mind will empty out and your thoughts will dissipate….You will find life in your heart. There you must live.” Life is found in silence before God.
Writtten quite poetically, like you enjoyed writing it. Thanks, I needed to hear that silence
By the way, some friends and I got together tonight to talk about God. We decided to try to encourage each other in the faith now the footy season is over (shameful) (by the way we are in Australia) and we read out your blog post on how we don’t change and we need to have a little shame and we all really grappled with it. God bless you father Stephen, pray for us
I’ve found most often personal tragedy is the only thing that deafens the ears to the usual noise of the world. It seems only in the midst of tragedy can true joy and peace, through hope in God, bloom within the soul.
Everyone experiences the apocalypse at some point in their lives, and ultimately on their death bed, hopefully giving way to hope in God, finding peace and joy there.
Byron, you nor anyone can turn off the noise. If I am correct, the noise does not end, it becomes irrelevant as one approaches silence the noise and our reaction to it gradually fade away. Eventually noise like darkness is swallowed up in light. Or so we are told. The harmony of creation is revealed. All things are made new.
Only single-minded focus on God, not as mental concept, but as living person quiets us. This is the secret and grace of the saints I think.
Quiet in one’s soul is so healing, even if for only short moments.
To, I’m afraid, show my generational age, two snippets from song lines came to me as I read Father’s post. “Listen to the sound of silence”(Paul Simon), and “like the stillness in the wind fore the hurricane begins”(Bob Dylan) ‘jumped’ into my mind. First off, these are evidence of a deeper internal noise even as I contemplated how to avoid noise. But, still there is a deep longing for quiet, even if it is found for the briefest of moments.
There is a pond I love to visit. It is in the woods and is usually very quiet. One can see trees reflected almost from the bottom it seems. On a windless day it exudes a sense of stillness. A memory of this quiet resides in my mind and provides a visual reference for finding quiet for a moment as my days begin (fore the hurricane), or even in the eye of the day’s storm.
IF my soul finds this quiet then the slightest of breezes (of thought from outside) or the quickest blip of a fish’s movement (thoughts from inside) become very evident as ripples fan out from their source. To be able to live for periods of time in such a state today seems most improbable, but catching a moment now and then awakens a deep longing for more.
Lord have mercy.
Almost as soon as I sent my lines above on silence and about being in my heart in God’s presence, I realized how far short of living this out I am. I can, in morning’s darkness, at times experience this. But for no more than a few minutes. And to live in my heart, oh so, so far short. Lord, yes have mercy!
Habakkuk 2:20 “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” It seems these words are richer in meaning that meets the eye. Thank you Father for another reminder
We all have different lifestyles and obligations, I understand, and my life is probably easier than most. Hence, I am not judging the compromises that many need to make to accommodate their families, professions, etc.
Yet I believe we always have the option for silence – though we may have come to believe that we do not.
In very practical ways this can be true. Someone once asked me how I could not watch TV. I said, “I don’t turn it on.” (I still had one then. I’ve long since given the thing away.) It is really not such a hard choice to make and a lot of noise disappears with it.
A couple of times a year, I go to a hermitage to pray and read and walk with my camera. It is not totally silent, of course. I hear birds, cicadas, occasional farm equipment in the distance. But there is a deep stillness and silence within nature that awakens the same in my heart – much as Dcn James described.
Even when I must be around noise, it does not need to enter me. I can be in an airport, a grocery store or a busy doctor’s waiting room and be silent within. The noise moves around me and is noticed but does not come inside. (I am not claiming I always experience this but sometimes I do.)
The more we cultivate the stillness, the more we present ourselves silent before God and cherish that as our longing, the less the noise of the world can block out our awareness of the “hidden things” that are being revealed around us every day.
Thank you Fr Stephen. I’ve been so, so busy. But there is the lush golden goodness of just the “full silence”
Echoing Mary’s comment about not turning on the TV…just yesterday I was pondering how I am the “author” of much of the noise. I turned off Facebook two months ago, but I have felt almost compelled to check out the Google headlines or evening news/commentary. It invariably disturbs my soul…so why do I do it? Among possibilities: looking for some good news to counterbalance the harsh(never happens); not wanting to be “out of it”; imagining I “should” know so that I could do something (rarely if ever possible); perhaps not really believing that having a peaceful heart is best. I think the last might be the truth. Truly stepping out of the “world” and embracing the gift of peace requires a dying that I have been avoiding. What better time than now?
You brought to mind what I heard archimandrite Meletios Webber say about avoiding inner stillness.” We tend to always say, Anytime, but now; any place but here.”
I am a huge fan of Archimandrite Meletios and have read the first 60-70 pages of his book, Bread and Water, Wine and Oil at least 7 times. But there is, as you say, quite a gap between knowing and doing. Inner silence can feel like disconnection…which could feel like death or dying. A helpful image came in reading a passage last night from Victory in the Unseen Warfare. To paraphrase, it said we must seek to build a peaceful temple within so that God can dwell there more fully. That’s a “program” (hah!) that could bear fruit. Feels less like loss and more like gain.
Your September 19th 2007 post shown below really adds a lot of pragmatism for me that others may also find a useful complement to this post.
The Silence In Which We Dwell
There is a strange noisiness to our culture. Most of us live very busy lives in which time itself is noisy. My phones (there always seem to be two) are primed to go off at any moment and the very details that surround us carry a kind of noise about them. It is rare that the world would offer us silence.
And yet, the Fathers teach us about Hesychia (silence) in which we encounter God and see ourselves for who we are. I am a noisy person. I am likely to be bothered by the quiet when it surrounds me, and reach for a knob to fill the empty space with the sound of something. And if there is no knob, then the sound of my own brain chattering away fills the space with everything but God.
I do not think I am unique in this.
There is a fullness that is an emptiness and there is an emptiness that is a fullness. It all depends on the character of what fills us. If it is life apart from God – then its very fullness leaves us empty. If it is a life live towards God then our emptiness becomes the bowl which He can fill with Himself. I need only look at the fullness within me to know where my heart has turned.
It is the paradox of our Christian life that we find ourselves in losing ourselves – that the fullness of life is only found as we empty ourselves towards the Other around us. This, too, is found in very small actions. It is rare for most of us that the profound act of martyrdom, of the complete self-emptying that comes in giving our life for God, occurs in a single moment. Mostly it comes in thousands of small moments – the daily and momentary martyrdom in which we empty some small part of ourselves on behalf of the other around us. I make space to hear the sound of your voice instead of the sound of my mind. I make space to pay attention to your needs and not my own. I make space to simply be with you, present and not absent. And in such spaces, such moments of emptiness, we find a fullness that does not destroy us but feeds us and fills us with a Life that cannot die.
To dwell in such emptiness is to know the Fullness. To dwell in such silence is to hear the voice of God.
My Descent into Orthodoxy began last spring as I crawled, kicking and screaming it seems, onto the Cross of Christ.
It continues now from silence of the Empty Tomb.
Glory to God for All Things!
and especially these poignant reminders that you submit to us, Father.
This was something I needed to hear and a practice I need to cultivate. Thank you Father.
Thank you Father.
One of the truest, most important & best pieces I have ever read, Father.
Vielen herzlichen Dank from Germany.
Tragedy, indeed, deafens the noise. It can, of course, deaden the soul as well – though it can also awaken. Fr. Zacharias of Essex told me that “When we weep, we can only think of one thing,” meaning that it is impossible to think of more than one thing when weeping. One way of thinking about this is of being “vulnerable to the world.” There can be silence in the midst of the busiest and noisiest of places if we are, in fact, vulnerable to the world. I believe Christ always dwelt in this silence. He heard everything. He noticed the woman who just touched the hem of His garment – He was never distracted. He always heard the voice calling to Him even if there was a noisy crowd. He saw Zacchaeus in a tree, though a crowd was pressing on Him. The one thing needful formed the silence that is the sound of God listening to us.
God listens like the Spirit “brooding” over the waters of chaos in the beginning of the world.
I tremble and fear to ask: What is the “footy” season?
I think that you are remembering some thoughts I offered on the “ison,” the bass note that undergirds much of the chanting (Byzantine style) in the Church. I likened it to the voice of God undergirding all creation – but it is not a specific teaching or understanding of the Church. Just a meditation of mine…
Rather than turning off the noise, just listen for the silence. The noise will be drowned out by the silence.
Than you Father. I have been blessed on occasion with the gift of silence and of course now there is a yearning in me to stay there !
Thank you, Father, for your response.
Everyone is mentioning finding time in the day for peace and quiet, and eliminating our noisy habits (tv, phone, etc), which is indeed a beneficial and necessary ascetic practice. But my guess is that these practices are only images of the One True Silence. I think your comment to me alludes to this True Silence more clearly.
I would love (if at all possible) an expanded explanation of this “vulnerability to the world,” and the humility in weeping that opens us this very silence of God’s, that we are most often unconscious of. I think this would place the ascetic practice of silence under the right lighting, benefitting our understanding.
“The language of God is silence, all else is simply a bad translation.”
Fr. Stephen: Another wonderful post.
Dcn. James: Thanks for the beautiful visual of the pond.
Ironically all this talk of silence makes me sad and lonely and wanting to go out and get something sweet to munch on and soothe the pain of it all. From this I suspect the lack of silence in my life primarily comes from the fact that I’m afraid of it, that I have no idea what to do with it. Excuses of being too busy are easy to come by, but the truth is that such silence leaves me standing naked by myself with no idea what happens next.
God have mercy.
‘footy’ = nickname for ‘football’ (which doesn’t mean the thing Americans call ‘football’).
Still… The inner silence of the vigilant mind that dwells in grace-filled silence even amongst the distractions and causes of sin, and which would rather converse with God than turn elsewhere, has a different ‘flavour’ depending on its outward dwellings . There is a difference to its stillness and vigilant Godwardness when doing this amongst the noise of the world (which it incapacitates to a certain degree), and while doing this in the desert.. Even God Himself comes to you differently in the daylight noise of the city -rushing to your aid and protection- and in the nightime stillness of the desert – revealing His unutterable mysteries.
Beautiful words, Fr Stephen.
Pray for me, please. I am weak and drawn into the noise of the world too often.
Australian rules football, the season proper ends with a final series which is like lent culminating in the winner of the grand final holding up the cup.
The cup a team wins at the end of a sport season, does it reveal our deep longing for the chalice that contains His body and blood. Father schmemman would agree no doubt.
If ever you holiday to Australia, you will have a place to stay and a talk to give on a Wednesday night in my man cave, my garage.
By the way, about 3 years ago I journeyed to America for a holiday with my wife kids and my sister in law and her family. Before going my brother in law was so adamant we go to vegas and I became curious and after much deliberation we agreed to go. When we got there we stayed in New York New York hotel and just had a miserable time with our kids crying and covering their eyes whenever something risqué would pop out. But on Sunday, I googled orthodox churches in the area and we cabbed it to the church and it remains my fondest memory of vegas. A little church with so many different people, black children altar boys, a young girl leading the choir, and the sweetest married couple who came over and said hello and introduced us to everyone. After the service we ate Ethiopian dishes prepared by some ladies and people fought over who would take us back to our hotel. What a place, Las Vegas, I recommend it to everyone.
Wonderful words, Fr Stephen. I needed this today and am thankful for your insight and wisdom.
“Footy” = soccer 🙂
I know the parish. Wonderful place. When I visited there, there were children of a Russian acrobatics troupe doing the most amazing things on the play area after Church!
Thank you for reminding us what the ideal and highest standards are. We should be inspired to shoot for that, not excuse our failures. I am really grateful for these reminders about the Saints’ examples, to make me see how far I fall from it, even if sometimes I feel like I am doing pretty well. Especially when I start comparing myself to others (and judge them [I did that in one of the recent comments in front of all of you, please forgive me and pray the Lord would too]).
Agata, comparison is something modernity trains us to. Nothing is seen as it is or anything in itself.
To understand myself, as I am, is hard. I am all in pieces. Not yet whole much less holy.
Broken. All of us are broken.
Thank you Michael,
How true that we are all broken, and most of us don’t even know it (although many of us, at one point or another in our life, suspect it, and feel it in our bones, I think)…
I read in my favorite Orthodox teacher’s books that the only comparison we should be doing is seeing how far we are from the example our Lord Jesus Christ gave us (somewhere He even says “I have given you an example”). If we do that, our repentance on earth will know no end… Because we can never even near that standard…
May the Lord give us strength to at least attempt to live our life with 0.1% effort in that direction.
Our saints’ example is our “always-available strength”; we have our saints everywhere. God has made us inseparable. Our eternity is connected to a single Body: God has made real something that could not have been conceived by the human mind.
All these saints are like the electric generator which we turn on the minute the electricity goes down and it immediately transmits its energy. The saints immediately help us, particularly in our weaknesses, (when indeed these are weaknesses of our nature rather than our ‘volitional willingness’ which nobody can change).
After the earthquake and the fire Elijah heard “a still, small voice”/”the sound of utter silence”. That was when he knew he had to leave his cave and walk out to face God.
Dino does the category of weakness include what is built into our body or we put there through sin?
I would say that the category of ‘weakness-to-which-the-saints-rush-to-aid’ ultimately excludes only sin, and even that (volitional sin) is only excluded to the measure to which it is wilful and we desire it to be excluded ourselves.
The Saints are faster than the speed of light at helping us out, imitating God, Who is the first to rush to our aid – and usually does this in great force according to the measure that our weaknesses contain unintentionality…
If, for instance, a most vivid, (more realistic than reality itself), mesmeric image springs out of nowhere to tempt me while I am praying in the middle of the silent night, (a startling, yet fully accomplished temptation of irresistible power) even if this does have some clear foundation on what was once cultivated willingly by myself ( e.g.: in my youth), if I now cry out to God for help, or to the saints to help me because this is evidently immensely stronger than my power to resist it and it now fully engages all of my noetic faculties (and I instinctively do this instead of preferring to “examine” this stunningly formidable spiritual assault), then the Spiritual aid is prompt and mighty, so much so, that I will retain a greater (pleasant) aftertaste of my wonder at such divine aid that [demonstrably miraculously] liberated me, than of the shock I felt at the force of such a spectacular temptation.
On the other hand however, if I seek the knowledge of people’s affairs, – especially the evil that others do, big or small – this alters my judgement and weakens my powers: it becomes inevitably a realisation for me that does not corroborate with God, and I end up with a continuous temptation before me – one which nobody can help me much with–; I should ideally never desire to find out what others are up to, it’s better to dissuade someone or skillfully get up and leave if they come talk to me about others. And if someone comes to tell me their problems, I should preferably say, “have you got a spiritual Father? you really ought to talk to him, or you should look for one…”
You say, Our eternity is connected to a single Body…I like that. I’ve been thinking of how living saints are so much closer to the saints on the other side than we are. It seems our sins and lack of humility keep us from seeing what they see (among other things). It appears that an opaque curtain (sin) keeps me from seeing what is really all around us, whereas for holy ones that thick curtain for them exists as mere cheese cloth. They see through that thin sheer spiritual realities and beings that I am blinded to, most often unaware of. They are the ones truly living, moving and having their being in the one story universe.
“And if someone comes to tell me their problems, I should preferably say, “have you got a spiritual Father? you really ought to talk to him, or you should look for one…””
Dino, I have to take issue with this statement as it stands, because it precludes friendship. Part of how we help each other spiritually here is by listening and being present to one another— that’s not the exclusive domain of the spiritual father. And it might mean hearing their problems or bearing witness to the evil in their lives as they strive to make sense of it.
We might not have good advice, but anyone can (and should!) listen to a friend and pray fort them.
I also had the same objections upon first encountering this particular type of advice in the Elder Aimilianos. However, after asking about it I came to see that almost all our involvement in the life of others requires this extreme discernment because we customarily begin to fall prey to sin ‘from the right’ – i.e.: in the name of loving, being present to another etc. – rather than ‘from the left’… Vigilance against this – as described earlier- is not a destroyer of love; quite the opposite. It guards our exalted view of others, (eschatologically grounded [viewing them as the saints they can become] and trusting in their eventual salvation to the point that we can help more than we would have done with the various secular ‘techniques’…) Without it, we might start off wanting to ‘help’, but we will soon deteriorate to various mistakes and misunderstandings, or simply leave the place of the heart where we see all as saints and trust in God’s plan for all, entering the place of the mind, where we judge and measure as if God is not capable of taking care of things…
It is also much more of a problem for beginners to open up their horizons like this in the name of caring… Remember St Silouan’s counsel to that friend of his who claimed that he could pray more fervently if he read the news and was up on current affairs because his heart was moved by hearing of the suffering of others? He shook his head and said that to stay away from all this with a pure mind and enter the heart would reveal more about the world – but it would do this from the vantage point of God – and one’s prayer then becomes truly cosmic.
But here in the US if there are any true spiritual Fathers, they are well hidden.
Dino, I still respectfully disagree. St. Silouan’s advice to his friend isn’t what I’m referring to. There is a very big difference between seeking information a la gossip or the daily news, and listening to another human being tell his or her story.
Perhaps someone may indeed be more inclined to be tempted “from the right.” Certainly I accept that as a spiritual reality. But I don’t think the generalization that we all are equally tempted “from the right” as opposed to “from the left” is accurate.
I’m not an advocate of contributing to the babble of the world, and I agree that we must always guard our hearts. However, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God uses even the weak to enact His love and grace on the world– and my life would be far less sweet without the reciprocal mirroring I delight in with my closest companions. It is this “airing of problems” that I am defending– the sharing of life with a friend– not the desire to “fix” people.
One need not judge another nor try to solve their problems. Perhaps this is part of the difference between listening to someone “with the mind” and “with the heart” (I believe it was Agata who related that story)?
Also, one last thought— let’s not forget our spiritual mothers. 🙂
Thank you for your conversation with Dino. Both of you have very valid points, and my life is a good example. Some of my problems were helped because wonderful friends listened with care and attention and offered advise, support and guidance.
And other problems were helped because (in sheer desperation) I begged God to intervene.
I think this is what Dino is referring to, that our relationship with God is of greater importance because when this relationships is in order, all human relationships improve (Fr. Zacharias often talks about that). Dino’s experience is very unique, since he has an amazing spiritual father. Most of us don’t (although I really believe that if we earnestly pray for one, God will help us). It may be almost anybody, does not necessarily have to be a priest or a monk, or a nun…. I have a one such spiritual mother in an older friend, a mother and a woman of prayer, my great role model….
I can surely comprehend that point you are making, in fact I’d be the first that would intuitively listen and attend to those ‘airing problems’ rather than trying to guardedly discourage them as the Elder advised. However, we witness this ‘schooling’ to the contrary (and can come to realize the great worth of such peculiar advise) in some of the most discerning spiritual giants … This advise is firstly ‘to avoid people’s wickedness’, to try not to put oneself into the position of knowing the (big or small) sin of others as this kind of idle curiosity has always altered believers’ neptic judgement: it essentially introduces a incessant distraction and temptation before us that masquerades as ‘care’.
The first command is to love God with all our being, the second command – to love our neighbour- is only uncontaminated when it’s “firewood” is the first; the 2nd might be the ‘proof’ of the 1st, but without the first the second even deteriorates into a Babel.
A person who has a heightened gauge of their internal state [mainly due to having a nightly routine of pure prayer (such as those who advise this peculiar guidance do), effortlessly sees the effects of “Introducing material” into their own heart (through this active listening to the sins of others) and how this becomes a captivating cloud that disrupts their nightime standing-before-the-Lord. They perceive that whatever they give their hearts over to in the day, comes to later haunt them when they do not possess this heart of theirs in order to offer it to the Lord. However, there is a way to bring all others to the feet of the Lord but the vigilant advise is better suited to us than the sympathetic one I believe. Sympathy is a lot easier than vigilance… Our real problem is that we have hearts filled with everything but God!
This is the basis of this discerning counsel. Discernment is clearly required in the application of any virtue of course, and I cannot possibly hurt another who comes to me and then expect to stand before the Lord with any boldness… However we shouldn’t desire to learn what others are up to – in fact, it is expected of us that we will deter those who have a habit of opening up continuously if we have any self-respect [i.e.: awareness that we belong to the Lord], we would do better therefore to tactfully/skilfully get up and leave or to refer them to those who have this particular job of listening to people’s problems bestowed on them by the Church (spiritual Fathers and Mothers)
It is this “airing of problems” that I am defending– the sharing of life with a friend– not the desire to “fix” people.
I think that the act of listening is powerful in and of itself. It does not require that we give advice; indeed it is often better simply to be a friend to whom others can confess.
But we need to also be discerning of what listening can do to us. Even the knowledge of the details of another’s pain can cause a spiritual wound within us (via pride or envy or any other passion). If we listen, it is very important to do so only in love for them and not with a goal of helping, much less “fixing”, anything in their lives. Love them, pray for them, listen to them and leave their lives in God’s hands.
Also, I do think that there comes a point where we must refer them to their spiritual father. If the information they share, even willingly, should not be ours to receive then we need to, as Dino said, “tactfully/skilfully get up and leave”. Not in the sense of leaving them alone but to direct them to those who can best help them see God’s work in their lives.
Just my thoughts. It is a very difficult subject to consider.
If you can resist the urge to run to coffee hour you might be delightfully surprised at the silence in the church after all have left. I have yet to encounter a priest anxious to scoot everyone out so that he can lock up. If nothing else, have your coffee then return. It’s very, very quiet in there. All you really have to do is quieten the voice in your head which tells you you have some place else to be. And it’s closer than the country side. Think about it–alone in the church, surrounded by icons and the lingering fragrance of the incense and…..silence.
Gregory, a resounding YES to your comment. A thousand times yes!!
Gregory, I always appreciate your contributions here. Thank you for your down-to-earth wisdom.
Alan and Dino,
I discovered this quite by accident. In the midst of coffee hour I realized I had left my glasses in the altar (where I regularly serve). Upon re-entering the church I saw 3 or 4 people whom I had seen earlier at coffee hour but whom I assumed had left to go home. They were each sitting alone in the relative darkness (and quiet). One or two smiled and nodded then returned to their private moment. A young mother carrying her sleeping infant was slowly walking along, stopping to gaze at each of the icons on the walls. Some look up and, if they catch your eye, smile and nod. Others take advantage of the private ambience to not look up at all. The moment seems to convey the sense that, whereas the liturgy is appropriately communal, this time is a space for private meditation–in silence. My immediate conclusion was that this particular time within the church revealed a secondary life in the church which was not published on the sign out front nor on the website, but how could it be? It was unstructured and spontaneous. And, so far as I can tell, you can pretty much stay as long as you need. I don’t know how long this has been going on. If I hadn’t needed to re-enter the church I wonder if I would have ever discovered it. But now I know. And now, having received the healing Gifts at the liturgy, enjoyed fellowship with my brethren, retreated to the quiet church for a time, and then walk out the door, I am refreshed and grateful for the Divine Providence which led me to the Church in the first place. Glory to God indeed!
Your comment reminds me of a story Fr. Meletios Webber once told us in a retreat. He said that before becoming Orthodox, he visited Egypt (I think). He arrived at a Church shortly after the Liturgy concluded and, as non-Orthodox, was not allowed inside because the place “was still spiritually too hot, too holy”…
In some monasteries I visited, monks went back to their cells immediately after the Liturgy (for as long as they could manage) to pray… Thank you for sharing with us and showing us how it is possible for us too….
Wow. It’s midnight here in China. I’m enjoying a late night beer and grilled meat on a stick….I have no idea when I saved this in my Facebook articles…but boy did it hit me deeply….