Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Silence

Holy Cross Day

Daily Readings
Sirach 9:17-10:31 + I Kings 19 + II Chronicles 8 + Philippians 2:5-11

Quote of the Day
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by. Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. I Kings 19:11, 12

Daily Text: I Kings 19

Silence
Elijah is fearless in the midst of big events. He confronts the kings, he confronts the prophets of Baal, he confronts the famine, he confronts the dead boy, but receive a threat from Jezebel, not an idle one, to be sure, and he disintegrates. He feels totally alone, he is ready to die, though, of course. he has put a thoughtful amount of distance between himself and the queen’s threat. His depression shows with the fear a consonant loss of trust in the LORD’s ability to preserve him. How easily we forget the goodness of God and the promises of God in our lives.

God’s response is to prepare him for a journey back to the place where Moses met with YHWH on Horeb, the mount of God—forty days journey. There God passes and demonstrates wind, earthquake and fire, and Elijah does fine, again fearless in the face of big events. But with the silence, the thin sound of silence, he once again articulates his aloneness. Is it silence alone that brings on depression and fear? If so, God demonstrates that it is in the silence that God can be found, there alone God is found. When we have something great to do, how much of that is in our own strength? Notice how Elijah recovers immediately when God gives him something to do—annoint a foreign king, a local king and his own successor. Those ‘little’ things he can handle with aplomb. Silence and depression are not necessarily linked, but they may be, and when they are God may be in them for you.

Chronology Broken by Kairos
Madeleine L’Engle

Silence was the one thing we were not prepared for,
we are never prepared for.
Silence is too much like death.
We do not understand it.
Whenever it comes we make up thunders and lightnings
and we call anxiously for the angels to sing for us.
It is all right for Elijah to kill all those false prophets,
though they were comfortingly noisy;
it is all right for him to bring that poor widow’s boy
back to life with his own audible breath;
that is only a miracle. We understand miracles.
But he survived God’s silence, and that is more extraordinary
than all the sounds of all of Israel’s battles rolled into one.
Why is God silent? Why does he not sound for us?
He came silently to birth. Only the angels,
taking pity on us, sang to make that silence bearable.
When he came to dwell among us men on earth
only his mother understood the silence,
and when he died she made no sound of weeping.
Why does silence make us shiver with the fear of death?
There was more sound to comfort our ears
when he was hammered to the cross
and cried out through the strangling bonds
and the temple veil was rent and graves burst wide,
than when he was born. I am not sure
that death is silent. But Easter is.
The angels did not sing for us, heralding the glory.
There was no sound to prepare us, no noise of miracle,
no trumpet announcing the death of death—
or was it what we call life? We did not understand
and we ran from the empty tomb and then
he came to us in silence. He did not explain
and at last I knew that only in silence is the word
even when the word itself is silent.

Thus in silence did that strange dark bird
Bring to Elijah in the desert the whole and holy Word.
2:151

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