Vol. XXVI, No. 1
"Is there enough Silence for the Word to be heard?"
Happy New Year, dear Friends of Silence! As we embark on yet another year through this life of ours, let us do so knowing that we are filled with Light. Though sometimes we may feel we are lost, and though there are always many parts of this old world that are hurting and appear to be in deep darkness, we must remember that the Light is always present, all around and within us. It is up to us to turn, just slightly, and find that all-encompassing Light within ourselves. When we do, we find also that we can see it without. Let us begin this new year in full awareness of the Light that we are and the Light that surrounds us. We are called to be Light-bearers, dear friends!
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, thanks to Liz Stewart
Light dwells deep within each of us
ready to radiate forth
as our will freely surrenders
in alignment with our soul's purpose.
We are here on Earth to lift and deepen
our own awareness and that of creation:
co-partners in the Divine Plan
for the divinization of all creation.
Seek within and find the Source
of Love and Light.
Shine in unity with all whose joy
is to co-birth as a light
in the world.
~ from LUMEN CHRISTI…HOLY WISDOM by Nan Merrill
"Live up to the light that you have and more will be given to you" is a familiar Quaker saying. Indifference and inattentiveness dim the light, overzealousness causes it to flicker. William Penn warned against "running before we are sent." We can seldom be absolutely sure that we are following the light: psychology has taught us that the voice of the unconscious self may take on a spurious resemblance to a divine call. We can only do the best we know at the time and trust that the Spirit, the Eternal Goodness, Reality, The Christ Within, God -- the name seems to me to matter little -- may be able to make use of the willingness alone, as if just wishing to be sensitive to the light removed some obstacle to the movement of the divine in human affairs.
~ from QUIET PILGRIMAGE by Elizabeth Gray Vining, as quoted in AN ALMANAC FOR THE SOUL by Marv and Nancy Hiles
Your life is something opaque, not transparent, as long as you look at it in an ordinary human way. But if you hold it up against the light of God's goodness, it shines and turns transparent, radiant and bright. And then you ask yourself in amazement: Is this really my own life I see before me?
~ Albert Schweitzer
As we become purer channels for God's light, we develop an appetite for the sweetness that is possible in this world. A miracle worker is not geared toward fighting the world that is, but toward creating the world that could be.
~ Marianne Williamson
Thus the Light rains, thus pours,
the liquid and rushing crystal
beneath the knees of the gods.
~ from CANTO IV by Ezra Pound
Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.
~ Michael Strassfeld
The canyon bleeds, then deepens
and darkens ...
A sliver of white moon in the east.
Thin Light spills into the gorge
and the river sings an ancient song.
At the edge of shadow, night:
dark stone, pine scent, water,
~ from SO QUIETLY THE EARTH by David Lee
The flowers that sleep by night opened their gentle eyes and turned them to the day. The light, creation's mind, was everywhere, and all things owned its power.
~ from THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP by Charles Dickens
You must not think of the light of the sun as the true Light of God. It is a reflection of the true Light. That other Light, that we can neither know nor comprehend, is so subtle, so highly potent that, for us . . . it is darkness.
~ Omraam M. Aivanhov
Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.
And now above and beyond the birds' song, Andy hears a more distant singing, whether of voices or instruments, sounds or words, he cannot tell. It is at first faint, and then stronger, filling the sky and touching the ground, and the birds answer it. He understands presently that he is hearing the light; he is hearing the sun, which now has risen, though from the valley it is not yet visible. The light's music resounds and shines in the air and over the countryside, drawing everything into the infinite, sensed but mysterious pattern of its harmony. From every tree and leaf, grass blade, stone, bird, and beast, it is answered and again answers. The creatures sing back their names. But more than their names. They sing their being. The world sings. The sky sings back. It is one song, the song of the many members of one love, the whole song sung and to be sung, resounding, in each of its moments. And it is light.
~ from REMEMBERING by Wendell Berry
For light I go directly to the Source of light, not to any of the reflections.
~ Peace Pilgrim
Far from light emerging gradually out of the womb of our darkness, it is the Light, existing before all else was made which, patiently, surely, eliminates our darkness. As for creatures, of ourselves, we are but emptiness and obscurity. . . . Radiant Word, Blazing Power . . . reach us simultaneously through all that is most immense and most inward within us and around us.
~ from HYMN OF THE UNIVERSE by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
It’s a glowingly lovely early autumn day as I write this at Rolling Ridge. Our community garden is a riot of bright zinnias and marigolds; most of the vegetable plants have gone to seed. The garden deserves this rest and celebration, having yielded beans, peppers, blackberries, tomatoes and much more. The season of gratitude for an abundant harvest is at hand, inspiring me to tell you how the work of Friends of Silence this year has yielded its own rich harvest and to ask for your prayerful and financial support so that the Letter can continue to nurture a growing community.
Last year Bob wrote to tell you the story of how the work of Friends of Silence came to dwell here beside this garden nestled in 1400 acres of wilderness in West Virginia. He recalled how in her last days with us in this world Nan Merrill gave him a colorful bundle of past Friends of Silence Letters saying, “take my baby.” And he did, carrying Nan’s ministry to his home at Rolling Ridge, a nature preserve in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Here Friends of Silence has taken root and grown. Continuing with Anne Strader, four of us, Bob, Trish, Mary Ann and I, came together to hold Nan’s dream with listening and receptive spirits. We promised to hold fast to the heart of Friends of Silence, the monthly Letter, and we have. We understood that Nan’s hope for the life of her baby went beyond the Letter, and we endeavored to nurture Friends of Silence in new directions as they emerged.
We knew this would be quite a journey, and Bob asked for your prayers. We are grateful and humbled, one year later, to have experienced how bountifully those prayers have been answered.
Nan’s dream included establishing an actual, physical dwelling place where the readers and participants in Friends of Silence could come for renewal, rest and, of course, silence. Almost a year ago, in November, 2011, Friends of Silence became a partner of Still Point Mountain Retreat, a lovely three-bedroom cabin on a forested rise overlooking the Shenandoah River. Here many lovers of silence have come to contemplate the splendor of God’s creation while taking part in personal or programmed retreats. A smaller cabin, the River House, is similarly available for those who crave solitude closer to the bank of the Shenandoah.
Near the Still Point cabin is a simple, one-room building once known as “the writer’s cottage.” Tucked under stately oaks and birch, its rear wall is a large window that looks onto a walking labyrinth and the forest beyond. During the spring and early summer, many friends came together to transform the small structure, giving it a new hardwood floor, fresh paint inside and out, a modestly lovely deck, and an attached restroom with a clean and natural composting toilet and gravity sink.
The cottage is now the home of Nan’s collection of many books on spirituality, wisdom and faith. Trish, our own resident contemplative artist, spent time making the cottage interior a serene space in which to read and reflect. She took time also to organize the collection, which is lovingly arranged on simple shelves lining two walls of the cottage.
Still Point became the site for the birth of the Friends of Silence Retreat Ministry. Under Friends of Silence sponsorship, this year women have come to share their life journeys as well as their handcrafts and spirituality; girls spent a week learning from mentors in the arts and exploring their own expressions; Trish led a retreat on Nan’s interpretations of the psalms, using Psalms for Praying; in August, more than 60 people came to take part in the Pilgrimage of Peace, built around daily sung prayer and silence.
Reflections on these retreats and the immeasurable possibilities of being in silence while surrounded by sacred wilderness are recorded in the “blog-style” email launched this year, Inside Friends of Silence, which now goes out to nearly 900 online readers.
The Friends of Silence website is slowly unfolding into an ever-deepening well of resources and nourishment for those on a path of Silence. More and more quotes from all the Friends of Silence Letters are being cataloged and stored in a searchable database. We are poised to inaugurate courses and retreats that can be taken online, the first one aptly titled, “Befriending Silence.”
Recently I reflected on the first steps taken in the labyrinth, which is in the clearing behind the Friends of Silence Library at Still Point. This labyrinth was the work of the Pilgrimage of Peace, whose participants built it during the retreat using stones gathered from the land. At the conclusion of the Pilgrimage, we were the first group to walk its circular pattern, blessing all who would come after. It was an overcast morning, tender rain having just stopped as we began to walk. The gray light softened the edges of the forest as the leaves whispered above us. I thought about first steps, how Nan’s baby is taking them, here, surrounded by a Loving Presence, embraced by trees and morning mist. I believe she would rejoice.
The winding path still lies ahead, of course, with many more steps to go. The budding of the FOS retreat ministry has been enabled by retreat fees, thus growing Friends of Silence without taking away from its heart, the Letter. The Letter is sent to thousands completely without charge or subscription cost. Its publication and distribution still depends solely on contributions from readers. Your generosity enables Nan’s baby to thrive, because the Letter at its heart will remain full of life. Please make a contribution to sustain Nan’s baby today.
Your friend in Silence,
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