Silence and Music

My last post remembering Saint Herman prompted Pom Pom to ask me if I had read The Music of Silence, book she had just received in the mail. I haven’t read such a book, so I googled it and immediately have several tangents to run along now. I don’t know if she meant this memoir of Andrea Bocelli, or this one about singing the Hours or services of the church through the day in Gregorian Chant.

One reviewer wrote of the latter book, “Nothing is as ordinary, or as sacred, as time. Far from being an infinitesimally small unit of measurement or a means of separating one event from another, time provides the means by which the still, small, silent voice of God may be heard.”

Silence….hmmm….I know so little of it.

When I read about music, silence, solitude, it can be an inspiration and a reminder, but my readings and thinkings are typically like so many rabbit trails, to use a term that hints at the fun of scurrying from one author or thought to another. A rabbit is doing what he was made to do, and glorifies God by it. I was made to live by the Holy Spirit in communion with my Creator.

So I need to STOP on the trail and pray–and maybe even get off the trail sometimes! It wasn’t books and ideas that made it possible for Father Herman to sing with the angels. It was prayer. The kind of prayer St Isaac of Syria is talking about when he says, “The wisdom of the Holy Spirit is much greater than the wisdom of the entire world. Within the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, silence prevails; the wisdom of the world, however, goes astray into idle talk.”

My mind is given to talking idly with itself. So much of my remembering of my Savior is like the awareness I might have of an earthly friend when she is in the room with me, but I am not paying close attention. I might hear her talking without really listening, I might even speak with her–but not make eye contact.

Don’t we all have this weakness in our human condition, worsened by modern life, that we can’t settle our minds down firmly even when in prayer? Abba Dorotheus of Gaza said, “Just as it is easier to sin in thought than in deed, correspondingly, it is more difficult to struggle with thoughts than with deeds.”

But as C.S. Lewis said, “Virtue–even attempted virtue [I hope this includes attempted prayer]–brings light; indulgence brings fog.” So I will keep struggling in prayer, to push past the distractions, to listen for the Silence that is God’s music.

It’s not the wonderful blog posts and the writers of them that are my problem. Nor my own writing, because just the discipline of organizing the chaos at least gets me on the road to taking every thought captive to Christ, though my readers might legitimately question how often I get to my destination. With God’s help, I know His presence and see His working in the world by the goings-on of the blogosphere and the piles of books throughout my house. Glory to God for all things! Lord, have mercy!

One more rabbit trail, leading quickly to the spot where all those paths ought eventually to end up, was posted by hiddenart this month, a poem by George Herbert:

Christmas

The shepherds sing;
and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul’s a shepherd too;
a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word:
the streams, Thy grace,
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing,
and all my powers
Outsing the daylight hours.
Then will we chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord;
wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.

I will go searching, till I find a sun
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n His beams sing, and my music shine.

-George Herbert

6 thoughts on “Silence and Music

  1. I can relate to so much here.

    Prayer is so much more than words, yet I find that now that I'm writing more, I struggle in prayer more. Writing gives an immediate catharsis, allowing me to unload my words and ideas and rabbit trails. Then I'm ready to move on and *do* something… yet I have a feeling that's when real prayer can begin.

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  2. There is also the other silence…Psalm 94:17
    “Unless the LORD had been my help, My soul would have soon settled in silence.”

    I like Janet's response…it reminds me of the serious joke: “Don't just do something, pray.”

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  3. So sorry you are still having trouble with comments. This seems to be happening with a number of people's “blogger” blogs. I have tried various corrections on mine. It seems that if your first comment is rejected, try two or three times and then it usually goes through. Be Persistent!
    blesisngs xx

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  4. Yesterday in my book of meditations there was a quote about St. John of the Cross, in honor of his feast day, teaching “the way to inner silence and outward peace.” A good reminder not to listen to the voices that disquiet.

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