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12    Silence: precious but ...

Even over those who know the value of silence as a means of rediscovery of values, of close encounters with the spirit of God, and of communion with people, (even when this is voluntarily sought, calmly taken on and offered as sweet-smelling worship to God) there hangs the temptation to throw themselves voluptuously among crowds thronging larger than life, and to take part in the chorus of words that are vain or pregnant with ill portent.

The temptation of the dizzy fairground ride of words, even after the sweet spiritual experience of God, can get the upper hand over a fragile creature.

It is hard for those who are spiritually fragile to pass by a Cistercian performance and not personally to enter into it, not to become actors in a psychodrama, a group ritual. Memories of other good moments of high involvement, more uplifting and rewarding than worldly diversions, fade from the eyes of the weak, and there follows a quick plummet, as befalls all who court a vice.

The bitter awakening of those who have taken part in an empty game with lifeless prizes, the glamourous show now over, with no more lights or sounds or excited company, turns into desolate solitude of an unwelcome kind that grips and frightens, related to claustrophobia.

At a conscious level, in those same ones who have been victims of worldly illusions, there is the growing anguish of a seemingly bottomless abyss of spiritual emptiness.

The memory of neglected silent worship brings on the regret of missing the fullness, communion, and peace that it offered.

And for those able to go — beyond regret — to repentance and trust in the mercy of the Lord, there reopens the serene vision of meeting again with Friends on earth and the Friend in Heaven, of re-living together time and worship and fellowship, sharing thoughts and words, spoken and unspoken, cancelling the night, the emptiness, and the loneliness that for a time filled their lives because of a wrong relationship with the world.

In silent worship rediscovered, little by little it becomes clear how one can relate healthily to the world: a world to which must be brought the fruit of an on-going witness of faith, of hope, and of charity.

Bologna, 12 II 1988

I may reach God through Keats, you by Beethoven, and a third through Einstein. Should not education to the Christian mean just this - enlarging and cultivating the country of God; and the subjects on any school time-table be thought of as avenues to an increasingly fuller life in God, or, to change the metaphor, windows, each of which gives us a new view of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Caroline C. Graveson (1937), Christian Faith and Practice (1960), 444.

The living church has a prophetic function - the duty of using its faculty of spiritual vision so as to penetrate below the surface of life to its inner meaning...

William Charles Braithwaite (1909), Christian Faith and Practice (1960), 360.

English text by Simon Grant, based on the translation by George T. Peck revised 2008-02-22
[Original Italian by Davide Melodia]

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Please send any suggestions for alternative translations of any of these meditations to Simon Grant.