January 1989 (Vol. II, No. 1)

A MOST BLESSED NEW YEAR TO ALL FRIENDS OF SILENCE!

As I sit in silence

More and more people are discovering that one of Jesus' greatest gifts is the sharing of his life with us through the bread and wine of each day ... and, one of the greatest gifts that we can give to each other is the sharing of our selves. Alice Howell, through her book THE DOVE IN THE STONE: FINDING THE SACRED IN THE COMMONPLACE, gifted me recently with a remembrance of my own Dove story, which I offer to you:

Alone at home one winter's evening, while sitting on the couch barely aware of the snowstorm beating at the window, I wept into the Silence. After a long time, the sobs abated and an anger welled up within from the depths of despair. For the second time in my life, I cried out loud to God, "You promised You would not give us more than we can bear -- this is my limit, so please do something!" Then I covered my face with my hands and the tears continued to flow -- yet, with no accompanying sobs. In less than two minutes, I heard a soft noise at the window and turned to look. There on the outside sill sat a most beautiful white dove. Even though I thought this "couldn't be", there she was just BE-ing for me. We meditated on one another for maybe three minutes. I closed my eyes in a prayer of gratitude for the peace and love which now enveloped me. When I opened them, though the visitation had ended, the dove's imprint continued to live in my heart!

And sometimes now, as I sit in the Silence, I smile in wonder at the infinite variety of ways God creates to knock at the door of our soul, to love and to comfort us in our sorrows, to surprise us with new Life.

~ Nan Merrill

Being silent with friends

THE ROAD TO DAYBREAK, the latest sharing of Henri J.M. Nouwen's spiritual journey, is a gift of his struggles and self-doubts as he entered into a new vocation in the L'Arche community. From his entry on Being Silent With Friends:

"I feel an increasing desire to be silent with friends. Not every event has to be told, not every idea has to be exchanged. Once an atmosphere of mutual trust is present, we can be silent together and let the Lord be the one who speaks, gently and softly. Listening together to Jesus is a very powerful way to grow closer to each other and reach a level of intimacy that no interpersonal exchange of words can bring about. A silence lived together in the presence of Jesus will also continue to bear many fruits into the future. It seems as if a caring silence can enter deeper into our memory than many caring words. Maybe not always, but certainly often. But to create this silence requires much spiritual work. It is not the most obvious style for a reunion! And still, it may be the most blessed."

~ from THE ROAD TO DAYBREAK by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Lover of silence

Life is so filled with paradox! Words so often get in the way -- yet, we go into the Silence to hear the Word. And what a blessing are the words of Scripture, the words of individuals in every age that continue to live as gift. Isaac of Niniveh, a Syrian monk, offers us reflections on silence:

"If you love truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sunlight will illuminate you in God and will deliver you from the phantoms of ignorance. Silence will unite you to God ... More than all things love silence: it brings you a fruit that tongue cannot describe. In the beginning we have to force ourselves to be silent. But then there is born something that draws us to silence. May God give you an experience of this "something" that is born of silence. If only you practice this, untold light will dawn on you in consequence ... After a while, a certain sweetness is born in the heart and the body is drawn almost by force to remain in silence."

~ Isaac of Niniveh
St Isaac of Nineveh on Ascetical Life (English and Syriac Edition)
By Bishop of Nineveh Isaac, Mary Hansbury, Translator

The sound of the snow falling

How I would like
people to hear ...
the sound of the snow falling
through the deepening
night ...

~ Hakuin (17th century)

As we begin the second year of this little newsletter

As we begin the second year of this little newsletter, please know of the joy and gratitude received and given through our mutual sharing and prayer. That our "membership" almost quadrupled is perhaps an indication of how many hidden contemplatives live and work in our busy and noisy world. How crucial our Silence is for the balance and transformation of our planet!

In the November issue, having asked if anyone knew of THE ROLL, what a delight to discover a complementary group offering an in-depth, quarterly newsletter. Schola Contemplationis, dedicated to global spirituality, is a networking community for contemplatives in the world, at home and in monasteries.

"This is a new, yet genuine, way of 'living together', appropriate to the twentieth century, in which communication and interdependence enable us to dwell in the 'global village.' Schola (like Friends of Silence) seeks to provide a medium through which contemplatives who find themselves in need of support and companionship can minister to one another."

~ Nan Merrill