“The trouble is that we live far from ourselves and have but little wish to get any nearer to ourselves. Indeed we are running away all the time to avoid coming face to face with our real selves, and we barter the truth for trifles.”
I recall being in seminary, every day we would wake up and pray, then study the holy texts, then have conversation about what we learned, and then pray again. This is the stuff of a scrumptious recipe for growing in our relationship with Christ, right?
Well, I also recall taking trips to St. Macrina, where our Byzantine Sisters hosted days of silence—two days of no conversation and one loaf of bread. How much did I really know God? There I was silent in prayer, secluded from the conversation with men and women, ready to experience the divine energies, but it was silent so how could I? There was no one to fill my mind with the delusion of a deep relationship. The silence was deafening. My thoughts flooded my mind, my cravings were always knocking at the door of my stomach, so why not walk around, see something new, find something to stimulate my brain? As much as I thought I wanted to, I did not want to be alone. I did not want to think over my life’s failures. Yes, I mostly wanted God. But here is the thing, when we are alone we are faced with the reality of the stability and separation we feel from God. Ironically, it is only in inner stillness (hesychasm) that we really have the opportunity to get to know ourselves and what our relationships with God are really about: sobriety at its peak. It is only when we remove the obstacles of our thoughts, our cravings, our constant need for entertainment and the companionship of others that we come most close to God. Yes, communal prayer, fellowship, and reading are necessary, but silence alone gives us the clearest understanding of ourselves and the true depths, or shallowness, of our relationship with God.
Try it out and tell us what your experience was like, or if you have any thoughts about this, either in person, or for more discussion with the community book club webpage. Go to Byzantinela.com, click on the drop down tab, and click Byzantine Catholic Bookclub.
–Fr. Nathan Symeon
Saturday, January 30 –