Saturday, 15 December 2012

15th December 2012

If it's possible to experience eternity, fullness of life unbounded by space and time in this life, a different perspective on existence is revealed. Giving wholehearted attention to the mystery of the unknown beyond knowledge is a means to explore consciousness of what life is, refining our perceptions, understandings and values. It's a way of addressing the deep seated longing to reach out to our Creator. Christians believe it's an innate longing, not acquired or earned, but received from God as part of the gift of life itself. It has evolved as our species evolved. We don't always recognise or understand this longing, yet it can awaken within us and take us somewhere different. 

All religions have a place for dwelling in stillness and silence. It's a stable threshold, where reaching out into the beyond can safely be done. Not that stillness and silence are always perceived as safe places. We take hidden things with us from the realm of activity - thoughts, feelings, insights, information processed consciously or unconsciously. Active life appears to depend on continually resolving different complex matters. We fear inactivity may lead us into threatening chaos and prefer to avoid stillness and silence for too long. We learn by letting go of everything it's an illusion. Matters may sometimes resolve themselves more effectively by a measure of detachment from urgent concerns, and directing our attention elsewhere. 

Stillness and silence can also seem threatening because it's a state where suffering emerges from where it is hidden beneath everyday activity. It can take the form of physical pain, symptoms of stress and tiredness, or unresolved bad memories. Relinquishing the desire to control and suppress things, as we face the simple task of opening up to the beyond, allows everything to be processed differently, going against natural survival instincts, it seems, but Christians and others say, it reveals the wounded self to One who is uniquely able to heal. 

In ancient times, when the character of Hebrew prophetic ministry and utterances were in the early stages of development, prophets danced wildly and performed rituals in order to fall into a trance. They were said to be seized by the Spirit of God in this altered state of consciousness, emerging from it as bearers of the Word. They plunged from intense activity into an state of composure where stillness and silence could be reached while surrounded by others. 

Stories of the prophets, notably Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist, depict them taking refuge alone in remote places where stillness and silence are unavoidable. Here they are prepared by God to be the bearers of his Word in speech and action. 

The Gospels tell how Jesus went away on his own to quiet lonely places to pray, following a prophetic tradition which influenced his entire ministry. When Jesus teaches about prayer he observes how important it is to hide away with God for this purpose, and be alert - the Advent watchword.

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