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Wednesday, December 24, 2014
The Eve of the Incarnation
Silence and Grace
My best writings and teachings have not come from thinking but, as Malcolm Gladwell writes in Blink, much more from not thinking. Only then does an idea clarify and deepen for me. Yes, I need to think and study beforehand, and afterward try to formulate my thoughts. But my best teachings by far have come in and through moments of interior silence—and in the “non-thinking” of actively giving a sermon or presentation or a moment of counsel.
For me, Aldous Huxley described it perfectly in a lecture he gave in 1955 titled “Who Are We?” He said, “I think we have to prepare the mind in one way or another to accept the great uprush or downrush, whichever you like to call it, of the greater non-self.” That precise language might be off-putting to some, but it is a quite accurate way to describe the very common experience of inspiration and guidance.
All grace comes precisely from nowhere—from silence and emptiness, if you prefer—which is what makes it grace. It is both you and yet so much greater than you at the same time, which is probably why believers chose both uprushing fountains (John 7:38) and downrushing doves (Matthew 3:16) as metaphors for this universal and grounding experience of spiritual encounter. Sometimes it is an uprush and sometimes it is a downrush, but it is always from a silence that is larger than you, surrounds you, and finally names the deeper truth of the full moment that is you. I call such a way of knowing the contemplative way of knowing, as did much of the older tradition. (The word “prayer” has been so consistently trivialized to refer to something you do, instead of something that is done to you, with you, in you, and as you.) Then, like Mary, you are ready to give birth. You are ready for Christmas.
Adapted from �Finding God in the Depths of Silence,� Sojourners, March 2013
(Reprinted with permission from Sojourners, 800-714-7474,
Gateway to Silence: Just be.
Fr. Richard and the Center for Action and Contemplation
wish you a merry Christmas!