Saturday, December 09, 2006

The joy of Contemplation

I've just been watching Into Great Silence again, which has made me think about the particular quality of joy found among contemplatives.

I have the great privilege of spending time with an eremitical community. We meet to share a meal at which we speak three Sundays a month. I'm always struck by the way the conversation has a great profundity, but at the same time a tremendous joy and lightness, with much laughter.

The shared silence draws us into a much deeper communion than if we had spoken to each other all week. Every word that is spoken matters: it is weighed carefully before being spoken and listened to with the attentiveness of people who spend most of their time listening to God.

One of the books that has profoundly influenced me is Max Picard's The World of Silence. He talks extensively of the difference between the silence of man and the silence of God. It is in prayer that the two come into contact. He writes:

"Elsewhere, outside prayer, the silence of man is fulfilled and receives its meaning in speech. But in prayer it receives its meaning and fulfilment in the meeting with the silence of God.

Elsewhere, outside prayer, the silence in man serves the word in man. But now, in prayer, the word serves the silence in man: the word leads the human silence to the silence of God."

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