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April 7, 2019: All Souls Pray • Embracing Silence

by Mother Diana

I am of two minds about silence. Often I retreat to it for prayer, meditation, and contemplation. At its fulfillment, it is the presence of God found in prayer. On the other hand, silence can reveal or amplify a kind of absence. In our daily lives, silence may be an absence of joy or the removal of needed disruption. Silence may be political. Imagine the joy silenced when a picnicking African American family in Oakland realized cops had been called because they used the wrong BBQ coals. Remember Elizabeth Warren, who “nevertheless persisted” when silenced on the Senate floor. In the coming weeks we will encounter different types of silence as we journey to the cross and tomb. Can we embrace the silence and what it has to offer us?

During Lent, a group has been meeting to discuss Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited.” Thurman likens the “Negro” and all those with their “backs against the wall” to Jesus and other powerless Jews in Roman-occupied Palestine. Thurman draws a devastating picture of Jesus as a man suffering, as one of the dispossessed and disinherited – the “silenced” – suffering under injustice and abuse of power. Over and over, Thurman draws his reader to think about a specific kind of silence. He recognizes a peace within each of us to which we may withdraw through prayer to find God’s presence. The Kingdom of God is in us.

I experience both the silence of absence and the silence of sacred connection in our Palm Sunday and Triduum services, and I find them both powerful and profound. Palm Sunday opens with Hosannas of Joy as Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly on a colt. And then there are the silences. There is the silence that comes as Jesus hangs, still living, on the cross, at the conclusion of the Passion reading on Palm Sunday. There is the silence following that first/last Communion together before Christ’s death and resurrection. Still to come are the silences of Good Friday, people kneeling, priests lying face down on the floor.

For me those silences in our liturgy are at first the silences of absence. I feel a God-sized hole in my heart. I feel anger as Jesus is silenced by Roman power, at joy disrupted. I struggle for the still, small voice of God in that silence. I listen. I open my spirit to the Holy Spirit and ask God to bless me with his Grace. If I am quiet and calm enough, I feel God’s presence. Like Thurman, from within a silence of absence I find a silence of connection. I hope you will too.

                                                                                                            — Mother Diana

This week’s Message is part of a series reflecting on different prayer practices as they are experienced at All Souls.

Last Published: April 4, 2019 3:55 PM
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