And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
- 1 Kings 19:12
You sit down at the computer to get some work done, and you’re interrupted by a text message on your phone. You respond to the text message, but as soon as you get back into your work, you notice that urgent email. In the middle of answering the email, you’re interrupted by a phone call. Before you know it, it’s time for dinner.
How many times a day does this happen to you?
In the story of Elijah, the prophet witnesses a wind that tears apart mountains, but God is not in the wind. Then Elijah survives a powerful earthquake, but God is not in the earthquake. Then a mighty fire, but God is not in the fire. Only then does he hear the "still small voice" of God.
Today, the "wind, earthquake, and fire" might be "emails, text messages, and appointments" -- what our Associate Pastor, Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly, called "the tyranny of our calendars and emails." We live in the “interruption age,” where the constant fight for our attention leaves us in a state of exhaustion.
If God is to be found in the silence, then who has time for God? There is no silence in today’s world, which is why we as a church have to make it. The practice of Christian meditation gives us an opportunity to make room for the silence, so that like Elijah, we can hear the voice of God.
This was the key insight that led to our Sunday evening Christian Meditation session at the Wellesley Congregational Church (known as the Village Church of Wellesley). The informal weekly event has attracted adults, families, and children from the community, illustrating that deep down, our society really does crave silence. (You can read about the weekly service in this Spotlight story.)
Christian meditation is a simple, daily way of quieting the mind and opening yourself to God's presence. Like prayer, it can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, at any time. It’s a terrific spiritual habit. It's also part of our tradition as Christians.
The ancient Christian fathers and mothers were deeply contemplative. Jesus regularly withdrew from the crowds to renew his energy and focus. From the third through the sixth centuries, the Desert Monks relied heavily on contemplation to reach a state of union with God. The Cloud of Unknowing, a spiritual classic written in the fourteenth century by an anonymous English monk, outlines a method of contemplation around a single syllable (such as GOD or LOVE).
As the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault explains in her Christian meditation book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Christian meditation allows us to access "a selfhood deeper than the selfhood of ordinary awareness."
In other words, there is a self that's deeper than the self you know. In psychological terms, we call this the "unconscious," comparing it to the submerged part of an iceberg, which is much larger and deeper than the part we can see above water.
In Christian terms, we think of this part as our "spiritual self." In Christian meditation, we seek to improve our conscious contact with this spiritual self. In doing so, we are better able to discern God's will for our lives, and the world.
You’re welcome to join us any Sunday to begin your own Christian meditation practice. You’ll discover, like so many of us, that silence is golden.
Read the Spotlight article about the Prayer Meditation group at Wellesley Village Church, which includes 7 tips for Christian meditation.
We invite users of this website to post comments in response to posts published here. In order to maintain a respectful community, we insist that comments be polite, respectful and tolerant of opposing viewpoints. We reserve the right to remove comments that are hostile, hateful or abusive to others, or that constitute personal attacks. In the interest of transparency, we highly recommend that users comment using their full names. For those who feel a need for more anonymity, however, we will allow posts using first names and last initial.