From the Rector
Holy Quiet – Last Epiphany
We’re once again on the threshold of Lent, so now is the right time to begin considering how you’ll observe this ancient season of holy discipline. I encourage you to think differently about Lent than simply as the time when you give something up like Diet Coke or fast food. The fasting we are invited to observe in Lent is about far more than creating minor inconveniences in our comfortable lives. It is a time when we carefully reflect on the nature and practices of our lives to see what we need to change in order to grow closer to the one we profess to follow. If Diet Coke really is the thing that’s keeping you from more closely following Jesus Christ, then by all means, throw them in the garbage! Lent can, after all, be the time when we ask God’s help to break habits that are negatively impacting our lives, which is why, since ancient times, most Christians have fasted from alcohol (I highly recommend fasting from alcohol to all who drink regularly).
But it could be that we’re called to something even bigger and harder, something that has greater potential to bring us closer to our Lord. Which is why this year I’m once again embracing a fast from something I consider one of the biggest obstacles to holy living in our current age — unnecessary speech – and I invite you to consider joining me in taking on the practice of being quiet.
I first stumbled into this discipline last year, when I noticed a funny and easily missed detail in the story of the Transfiguration – a story we always hear in church on the final Sunday before Lent – that has everything to do with this. Peter, James, and John accompany Jesus up the holy mountain and witness the fullness of his divine glory, and how does Peter respond? With a bunch of babble. He is amazed and frightened, but rather than sitting in awed silence, he prattles on about building some booths for the three heavenly figures. And then a voice interrupts Peter to say, “This is my son, the beloved, listen to him.” Listen, God says. Stop talking so much. Stop babbling. Stop filling this moment with noise and chatter. Be quiet. Listen.
The most common characteristic of all the truly holy people I’ve encountered in my life is that they are quiet in their souls. They are not eager to speak, but use their words carefully and intentionally. They talk when they have something important to say, but they do not assume every thought that passes through their minds is worthy of utterance. They understand that God wants us to do a lot more listening.
This Lent, in addition to praying daily, worshipping regularly, and reading the Gospel of John, I encourage you to embrace a fast from unnecessary speech: to pursue a quieter life, to resist the compulsion to talk, and to be a more intentional listener. As Christians, we need to model a more Christ-like presence in this world with our words and our ears, because I am convinced that the level of dialog and conversation in our society will not change unless Christians begin to model a holier way of speaking and hearing.
When you are in a group, consider what it might be like to not try and get a word in every single time. When you are in a conversation, consider what it might be like to ask more questions rather than make more statements. When you are perusing articles or content online, consider not posting or commenting at all, or at least make a personal policy of not clicking submit for at least an hour, to make sure your words are good and necessary and above all kind. Post less, and pray more. Speak less, and listen more.
By doing so, we just might have enough quiet in our lives this Lent to listen harder for the voice of the one who blinded the disciples with his radiant glory, the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, the one who we’re preparing to follow all the way to a cross on Calvary.