Sacred Silence and the Inner Light: Part Two

Mick Turner

As we saw in Part One, the practice of Christian meditation in no way involves emptying the mind. Instead, it is aimed at positioning ourselves in a receptive state whereby we can have a fresh encounter with our Inner Light. The practice of contemplation is central here, however. Through it we connect with the Holy Spirit at the deepest level by entering in through the Sacred Silence.

 

Quaker mystic Thomas Kelly again speaks of the experience of taking the comfort and wisdom we find in the Sacred Silence and carrying it into the cauldron of daily living. Listen carefully to his words:

 

…and in brief intervals of overpowering visitation we are able to carry the sanctuary frame of mind out into the world, into its turmoil and fitfulness, and in a hyperaesthesia of the soul, we shall see all mankind tinged with deeper shadows, and touched with Galilean glories. Powerfully are the springs of our will moved to an abandon of singing love toward God; powerfully are we moved to a new and overcoming love toward time-blinded men and all creation. In this Center of Creation all things are ours, and we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. We are owned men, ready to run and not be weary and to walk and not faint.

 

Notice here how in very potent language Kelly alludes to Christ’s great prayer in John 17. Jesus prayed that we be his, just as he is God’s. When, through the grace of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and our own diligent practice of entering into the Sacred Silence, we become more and more capable of abiding in our inner sanctuary we make manifest that chain of possession spoken of by Christ. Kelly tells a poignant truth when he says “we are owned men.”

 

In another relevant passage Kelly states:

 

Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living. Let us explore together the secret of a deeper devotion, a more subterranean sanctuary of the soul, where the Light Within never fades, but burns, a perpetual flame, where the wells of living water of divine revelation rise up continuously, day by day and hour by hour, steady and transfiguring.

 

Kelly’s teaching here is most profound. Beginning with the reality that only regular, repetitive practice of Sacred Silence can give us “renewed immediacy of the Divine Touch.” Unless we are diligent and consistent in our pursuit of this sacred sanctuary and its inherent blessings, we run the risk of letting the experience of the Divine become little more than a quickly fading memory.

 

Kelly then goes on to reiterate the fact that it is in this Sacred Silence where we find not only the Inner Light, but also those ever-flowing wells of living water Christ spoke of. Further, he reminds us that these waters are more than refreshing, although they are certainly that, but also emphasizes that these wellsprings are “transfiguring.” These blessed streams are capable of changing us at our core. These waters of healing and transformation have their source in God’s unlimited gift of grace.

 

In order to get a firm grasp on these issues, it is important that we have a deeper understanding of a pair of key principles. The first is related to the various methods of meditative tradition in our faith that are conducive to the kind of receptivity that was described above. Second, we need to have a least a modicum of insight into the concept of the Inner Light.

 

In terms of Christian meditation, space does not permit a detailed explanation of the different meditative practices. The context of an article or a blog entry is much too brief. However, we can at least look at a few of these beneficial methodologies.

 

I have personally found meditation, especially Christian meditative practices, to be among the most spiritually lucrative practices I have ever undertaken. Spiritually, my walk of faith grows stronger, deeper, and more stable when I commit myself to regular periods of meditation practice.

 

In terms of technique, among the more popular forms of Christian meditation are the following:

 

John Main’s Christian Meditation

 

The Prayer of the Heart

 

Centering Prayer

 

Ignatian Meditations

 

“Christian Meditation,” aside from being a generic term, is also the name of a specific meditation technique developed by John Main, a Benedictine monk who was stationed primarily in India and was a disciple of the great Catholic genius Bede Griffiths. In brief, this meditative practice is similar to “mantra meditation” whereby a word or phrase is repeated in order to quiet the mind. The word selected by Main is the four-syllable word “Maranatha.” Maranatha end the final book in the Bible, Revelation, and is Aramaic for “Come, Lord.” In Christian meditation, one repeats the word with equal time and stress on each syllable, Ma-ra-na-tha. When thoughts intrude on the mind, one does not suppress the thoughts, but instead, allows them to pass gently as one returns to the word. According to Main, the word Maranatha was used extensively as a prayer tool, especially in the Fourth Century works of John Cassain.

 

The “Prayer of the Heart” or the “Jesus Prayer” is from scripture as well. The practice itself involves repeating the phrase of scripture in coordination with the breath. The scripture in full is “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” Often the phrase is shortened over time to Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” or “Lord Jesus, Have Mercy.” The technique was developed in the Eastern Orthodox Church and is still widely practiced in all Orthodox traditions, especially the Russian Church. The prayer’s popularity in the West spread with the appearance of the anonymous spiritual work entitled, The Way of a Pilgrim.

 

“Centering Prayer,” developed and popularized by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, both Catholic monks and writers, is based on instructions given in the 14th Century Christian Classic The Cloud of Unknowing. The technique involves choosing an appropriate word to use as sort of a ‘hitching post” for the mind. Whenever the mind begins to wander from the silence, you gently return to repeating the word. Once the mind is again brought back under control, the word is dropped until the mind wanders again.

 

The Ignatian Exercises, developed in the 17th Century by St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, involves visualizing basic scenes from the gospel stories and putting ourselves in the image.

 

Whatever technique one chooses as the focus of their meditative practice, the important principle involves the training of the mind to be still. This is no small task, as anyone who had tried meditation well understands. The mind is like a chattering monkey that resists all efforts to bring it under control. Still, with persistence, diligence, and the help of the Holy Spirit, the mind gradually but surely comes under increasing control.

 

(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reseved

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