Today as we begin the Fast of the Order I wanted to say something about silence and prayer. But to be honest when I began to look at texts about silence from Kees Waaijman’s The Mystical Space of Carmel, something didn’t sit well with me. I realized that the silence that has taken place in our church concerning the abuse crisis was contaminating my thoughts of what silence means for us. There are different kinds of silence.
The silence surrounding the current catastrophe in our church is not the sacred silence we attempt to live out in our Carmelite lives. Chapter XVI of the Rule states,
The apostle recommends silence, when he tells us to work in it. As the prophet also testifies, Silence is the cultivation of justice; and again, In silence and hope will be your strength.
It is the prophetic and mystical silence of Elijah that enabled him to comprehend when God was passing by on the mountain. It is the contemplative silence that we are being called to embrace more deeply at this time. In silence and hope is our strength, not by any means of our own, but by letting God enter into ourselves to show us new ways of being and relating, not only in our community, but also in our world and especially in our church.
Bruce Steggert, SJ, mentioned in his homily last month when addressing the abuse situation that we are in a Good Friday moment in our church. I believe that Good Friday will lead to a Holy Saturday moment and ultimately Easter Sunday. We must grasp this moment and internalize the nothingness of Holy Saturday and let God fill it as it was unexpectedly filled on Easter Sunday with the Resurrection. We come to Easter Sunday by letting go of our ideas of church and letting the Holy Spirit reveal to us her designs for the future and for God’s people. As Carmelites we are called to hold this sacred prophetic silence of prayer and contemplation in the heart of our church asking God to hear our pleas to transform all of creation into Christ who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
I will end with Edith Stein’s quote from her essay on Elevation of the Cross, September 14, 1939 Hail Cross, Only Hope, with a few variations on her theme.
Make your heart free by the faithful fulfillment of your vows: then the flood of divine love will be poured into your heart until it overflows and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the [universe].
Do you hear the groans of the people of Syria battered and wounded from war and destruction? Do you hear the anguish of those dying from famine in Yemen and other places in our world? Does the crying and lamentation of the children and parents separated from each other at our Mexican border distress you? Is the unfathomable behavior of clergy and the coverup of their actions by the hierarchy in our church the basis of anger and disgust in your soul? Does your heart cry out for justice for those who are suffering from violence and hunger, especially for the most vulnerable? Are you alarmed at the return of fascism and racism around the world?
Look at the Crucified. Bound to him, you are omnipresent as he is… You can be at all fronts…in the power of the Cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the Divine Heart. Its precious blood is poured everywhere—soothing, healing, saving.
The eyes of the Crucified look down on you—-asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer?
Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.