I had a mighty migraine today and maybe this was due to too much left brain work, trying to figure out just what my institutional church is going to look like if the Pope's vision for it comes to fruition. Much frustration !!
Then this passage caught my eye today... actually it was mainly because of one sentence in it by Donald Nicholl, but I've included some more to give it a context too.
It is an edited extract From an address given by Esther de Waal on an exploration of Benedictine spirituality and its value for life in the modern world given at Westminster Cathedral Hall,2007.
"I want to end with some thoughts about stillness, reminding you of what St Gregory the Great said about Benedict: “he held himself still before the gaze of God.”
God was gazing on Benedict while Benedict gazed on God.
Donald Nicholl was one of the great lay prophets of the Catholic Church.
I visited him as he was dying of cancer. So did Gerard Hughes.
Donald told him, "I've been thinking. I think that thinking is a result of the Fall, so now I spend my days in gazing.”
Image via Wikipedia
Icons also have much to tell us about stillness, and about the gaze of the eyes, especially those in that most familiar icon of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev, of which someone used the striking phrase “the listening eye.”
And Thomas Merton when given an icon said that it brought its stillness to the whole hermitage.
Stillness and silence: what is the distinction between them?
Here is a Benedictine sister from the community of Osage in America (where East meets West) in a paper given to the American Benedictine Academy Convention in August 1994:
Silence can be legislated,
Silence is on the level of the rational,
Stillness opens onto the intuitive.
In stillness of heart we reach far deeper layers of consciousness than the ordinary keeping of silence.
There is a Latin tag from the Benedictine tradition: tranquillitas ordinis, the stillness of order.
But the present-day monk David Steindl Rast tells us that this is a dynamic tranquillity. It is like the stillness of a flame burning in perfect calm or like a wheel spinning so fast that it seems to stand still.
So I guess we end up with something that is not static or safe - just as it should be at the end of a day like this. I am tempted to stop here, because this would be a very good point.
YET it is from that centre that we must move outwards.
It is the place where God finds us and we find him. It is not empty space per se.
It is space for listening to the Word.
We enter into that conversation with God, in which our part is mainly to be silent and to listen. And then, from there, strengthened, we go out.
Thomas Merton, steeped in the silence of his hermitage at Gethsemani, was at the same time deeply engaged in the world – in radical and prophetic ways, he fought for the causes of social justice, against racism and war.
Outside his hermitage stood this wheel.
Where is the energy here?
Does it flow from the hub to the rim?
Does the centre hold the edges?
What is the relationship between the two?
Does the power of the wheel to move depend upon the firm stillness at the centre?
Do we have to find the right connection?
The way of coming and going? Going out and returning?