Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prayer of Silence

So high above all things that be
Is God uplifted, man can dare
No utterance: he prayeth best

When Silence is his sum of prayer.

…Thinkest thou, foolish man,

that with thy clapping tongue

Praise of the silent Godhead fitly can be sung?
…… Angelus Silesius

The great Polish Christian mystic, physician and poet writes these beautiful words in his book
“The Cherubinic Wanderer”. Man has a very limited view of the divine especially when he feels the need for a communion to convey his innermost feelings. The ability to use language, while it has enhanced the development of knowledge of the manifest creation, both in understanding its nature as well as in the act of controlling it, woefully falls short in communicating one’s inner state of emotions and feelings to a perceived power that has the ability to respond in a positive way towards alleviating a current state of need to one of fulfilment. Language is an evolutionary tool in the development of the human brain and hence the human mind. But mind itself is the field of action of consciousness in evoking thoughts for which language gives expression. The etymology of the word ‘evoke’ clearly points to the direction of action. Evoke comes from the Latin word ‘evocare’ which means ‘to call out’. When we need the attention of an external sentient being, we call out but when we need the attention of something of inner nature we need to ‘invoke’ and invoke comes from the Latin word ‘invocare’ which means ‘to call in’. This is the reason that the great mystic says that only foolish men resort to clapping tongues to call the divine.

Carmelite spirituality is based on
Lectio Divina. It is the most traditional way to grow in an intimate relationship with God and it is by means of this relationship that we are transformed and rendered capable of living the Divine word in all its fullness. A monk in the 12th century described the fundamental elements of Lectio Divina: - read the Word of God (lectio); reflect on the Word (meditatio), respond to the Word from the heart (oratio); rest in the Word (contemplatio).

The process of contemplation changes the human ways of thinking, loving and acting into divine ways. Our human ways are very limited and so when we read the Word of God, we are limited by our experience of life and by many other factors. It is said that one can find in the Bible reasons to support any position. It is therefore not sufficient just to read the Bible; our way of looking at things must be purified. When we meditate on the Word of God, we try to understand its meaning and what message it may have for our lives but when we do this, we are still limited. Our little world must be enlarged and our minds reformed according to the mind of Christ. When we pray from the heart, we are still using human words. Our words and thoughts, no matter how beautiful, are still human words and thoughts and it is therefore necessary that they too be purified by the Word of God. This is a divine dialogue and not a one way communication.

St. John of the Cross wrote that God spoke one word and that word was His Son; this Word God repeats in an eternal silence and in silence must it ever be heard by the soul.
Lectio Divina moves towards silence. When our words and our beautiful thoughts are no longer sufficient, only silence can give an adequate response to the Word of God.

Love to you all


  1. Not only with god,even in our effrt to build up genuine human relationship,our words and process of thinking are often limited by narrowed down targets. The scope of any true relationship must be unrestricted and devoid of selfish goals. I feel the essence of purification you mention in the blog should begin from removing personal agenda -in any form of relationship,either divine or human.

  2. Subathra, Thanks for the feedback with your multilateral thinking.

  3. In this context I would like to share with you one of the dohas of Sufi saint Kabirdas.
    "The beads of the rosary rotates with great speed and the tongue loudly utters God's name but the mind goes in ten different direction and this is not prayer."

  4. Beautifully quoted and very apt.
    Thanks SS!