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On Stillness
 
Be still and know that I am God. Tremble with fear and stop sinning; think
deeply about this when you lie in silence on your beds.
 
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! When
I awake, I am still with you.
 
Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, 'Be quiet[' and he said to the waves,
'Be still!' The wind died down, and there was a great calm.
 
You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You
calm the roar of the seas and the noise of the waves; you calm the uproar of
the peoples. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall want nothing. He makes me lie
down in green pastures, and leads me beside the waters of peace.
 
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. This is
what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest
is your salvation; in stillness and in staying quiet, there lies your
strength.'
 
Ps.46:10, RSV; Ps.4:4, GNB; Mark 4:39, GNB; Ps.139:17,18b, NIV; Ps.89:9, NIV;
Ps.65:7, GNB; Ps.23:1-2, NEB; Ps.107:29, NIV; Is.30: 15, NIV, NEB
 


We spend most of our lives, said Evelyn Underhill, conjugating three verbs: to
want, to have and to do. But none of these verbs has any ultimate significance
until it is transcended by and included in the fundamental verb, to be.
 
The culmination of our being, according to the New Testament, is 'union with
Christ'. Not justification by faith, sanctification in the Spirit, or even
reconciliation with the Father. These are spiritual means to the great end of
my 'living, yet not I, but Christ living in me' (Galatians 2:20). 'The one who
is united to the Lord,' says Paul, 'becomes one spirit with him' (1
Corinthians 6:17). So what is to be my desire?. In practical terms, as The
Cloud of Unknowing suggests, it is neither what you are nor what you have been
that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be. The life
of the Christian is a love affair, a life of love given freely in response to
the Father's love. Thus the main aim of prayer is to know God through love:
'affective knowledge'.
 
How does that happen?. Paul, describing his 'beatific vision', tells his
Corinthian friends how it came -- fourteen years ago, he says -- and passed (2
Corinthians 12:1-10). He had, then, an experience of God which was very
precious, and heard divine secrets he was not at liberty to reveal. However,
the 'normal Christian life' is rather the daily affair of a soldier's
hardships, an athlete's training, a farmer's toils (2 Timothy 2:1-6).
 
So knowing God through love involves obedient sacrifice, or, to change the
metaphor, the spiritual baptism of all we are, and do, and think.
 
The analogy of water is a marvelous one for our meditation in this regard.
Water is the stuff of life: if you're buried alive during an earthquake, its
presence or absence is crucial. Saints were made -- in biblical times and
since -- in waterless wildernesses. But even in water-full seas -- where water
is everywhere but not a drop to drink -- angels may minister to us. Water can
be a blessing or a curse, a life-giving or destructive force; it may quench
our thirst or ruin our landscape. It is essential for our survival and yet may
sometimes terrorize us. God 'who is present in all his works though still
unseen' (Justin Martyr) is with us when waves and billows threaten us or when
we enjoy the tranquillity and peace of 'the still waters'.
 
But our friendship with God is not an end in itself. We are called to service
as well as to piety. We are shaped in our communion with the Father so that
the world may experience his glory in these frail human vessels. Although
'there is only one sorrow, not to be a saint', a saint, like cathedral
windows, is someone the light shines through. A saint is useful, as well as
decorative. Saints love not just humanity but persons. They are God's saving
agents in the world: wounded healers, incarnating the love of God among those
who are being threatened in the storms of their lives (Rowland Croucher).
 

Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God ... We
are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word,
and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to
God... 'Seek God, not happiness' is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If
you seek God alone, you will gain happiness: that is its promise... Prayer
[ought] to be guided by the word of the Scriptures... in this way we shall not
become the victims of our own emptiness.
 
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
 

Be still and know that I am God. 'Let be,' reads a marginal notation, but in a
colloquialism we have it even more clearly: 'Relax'. Psychology has something
to say about the relationship of relaxation to sanity, and the familiar
exhortation is rendered in the Vulgate, Vacate, et videte. Indeed, the
treatment of minds broken by the cataclysms of earth, and the inhumanity,
fancied or real, of one's fellows, demands relaxation as the first step in
therapy. 'Give place and see!'
 
- Edwin McNeill, The Interpreters Bible
 



You must turn to him, the Lord, with all your heart... if your soul is to find
rest. Christ is ready to come to you, with what kindness in his glance! But
you must make room, deep in your heart, to entertain him as he deserves. Where
he finds someone whose thoughts go deep, he is a frequent visitor; such
pleasant converse, such welcome words of comfort, such deep repose, such
intimate friendship, are well-nigh past belief.
 
Up with you, then, faithful soul, get your heart ready for the coming of this
true Lover... You must make room for Christ and shut the door upon all
intruders.
 
- Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
 

Silence [is] ... a gift, one which is 'promising' in the true sense of the
word. The promise of this silence is that new life can be born. It is this
silence which is the silence of peace and prayer, because you are brought back
to the other who is leading you. In this silence you lose the feeling of being
compulsive and you find yourself a person who can be himself along with other
things and other people.
 
Then you realize that you can do many things, but it isn't necessary. It is
the silence of the 'poor in spirit', where you learn to see your life in its
proper perspective. In this silence, the false pretences fade away and you can
see the world again with a certain distance, and, in the midst of all your
cares, you can pray with the psalmist:
 
If Yahweh does not build the house, 
in vain the masons toil; 
if Yahweh does not guard the city, 
in vain the sentries watch. (Psalm 127) 
- Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands
 



For the first time, Alain tells me the words he has repeated to himself over
and over again for many years: 'Jesus my joy, my hope, my life.'
 
Brother Roger of Taize, The Wonder of a Love
 



Even if a man is deeply versed in the understanding and knowledge of all
spiritual things ever created, he can never by such understanding come to know
an uncreated spiritual thing... which is none else than God!... That is why St
Dionysius said, 'the most godlike knowledge of God is that which is known by
unknowing'.
 
- The Cloud of Unknowing
 

'Attend' and 'obey': these two principles underlie all Christian sanctity.-.
absorbing attention and utter obedience. The saints attend to God. There is no
instance of one great in sanctity who was not great in prayer... Holiness can
never be an aim in itself... The saints do not set out for ethical perfection.
They set out for God. They gaze on God in love and longing. Sanctity is given
by God to those who want nothing but himself, and who know no higher bliss
than just to be with him.
 
Not only do the saints attend to God. They obey him - utterly, instantly,
gladly. They will one will with him. 'Do not consult me' they say in effect:
'Command me.' Well, those are the two basic principles of sanctity: attention
and obedience. To those who were looking for something hidden and mysterious,
they will seem simple to the point of absurdity. To those who say 'We knew it
all the time', it will be enough to ask, 'How are you getting on in the
practice of them?'
 
- W.E. Sangster, The Pure in Heart: A Study in Christian Sanctity
 



Recollection opens our soul to heaven, but also to others. The contemplative
life is the active life. This problem is somewhat artificial, says St
Seraphon. The real problem is that of the heart's dimension. Acquire inner
peace and a multitude will find their salvation near you... This is an
interesting statement. The saint does not say 'through' you but 'near' you. 

- Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Poustinia
 



Hear my prayer, 0 Lord; let not my soul faint under thy discipline, nor let me
faint in confessing unto thee thy mercies, whereby thou hast saved me from all
my most wicked ways till thou shouldst become sweet to me beyond all the
allurements that I used to follow. Let me come to love thee wholly, and grasp
thy hand with my whole heart that thou mayest deliver me from every
temptation, even unto the last.
 
- Augustine, Confessions
 


Thanks, thanks to thee, O Eternal Father, for thou hast not despised me, the
work of thy hands, nor turned thy face from me, nor despised my desires.
Having known the truth through thy clemency, I have found thy charity, and the
love of my neighbour. What has constrained me?. Not my virtues, but only thy
charity... Who can attain to thy greatness, and give thee thanks for such
immeasurable gifts and benefits thou has given me...Thou hast been willing to
condescend to my need and to that of thy creatures -- the need of
introspection. Having first given the grace to ask the question, thou
repliedst to it, and satisfiest thy servant, penetrating me with a ray of
grace, so that in that light I may give thee thanks. Clothe me, clothe me with
thee, O Eternal Truth, that I may run my mortal course with true obedience and
the light of holy faith, with which light I feel that my soul is about to
become inebriated afresh.
 
- Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin
 



Be exalted, Lord, above the heavens, 
let your glory cover the earth. Keep our nation under your care, 
and guide us in justice and truth. Let your way be known on earth, 
your saving power among the nations. Send out your light and your truth 
that we may tell of your saving works. Hear our prayers, O Lord, 
for we put our trust in you. 
- An Australian Prayer Book
 



God of our fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob God of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ God of ocean storms and rippling creeks God of our ecstasies and
of our mundane commonplaces, who, mysteriously, yearns for me, wants me, even
'needs' me...
 
Lord, it is not so much I who am seeking you, but you are seeking me.
 
You are the 'water of life', the source of serenity amidst turbulence, the
great Creator of all the grenadiers of our world, Rescuer, Companion, Father,
Provider.
 
Help me to love you above all else, to desire only you, and enjoy your gifts
as an unexpected 'bonus ', to be pure in heart, so that I may 'see' you, to be
ready for all your perfect will to be brother/sister to all I meet in this
'bent world', particularly those who cannot enjoy your good gifts, through
poverty, hunger, sickness, oppression, ignorance or sin.

 
A Benediction

May God be in my whole being, before he is in my ministry. 
May God be in my heart as well as my head. 
May God be in my loving and my knowing and my willing and my speaking and my
acting. 
May I readily see Christ in others, 
And may my life be itself a benediction 
For your glory, Lord. 
Amen.
 

God the Father enrich you with his grace, 
God the Son make you holy in his love, 
God the Holy Spirit strengthen you with his joy. 
The Lord bless you and keep you in eternal life. 
Amen.
 

Rowland Croucher ed. 
High Mountains Deep Valleys 
(Albatross / Lion), chapter 3 

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland