Monday, April 19, 2010


Entering a church~~grand cathedral or tiny chapel, it makes little difference~~immediately reorients me. Places of worship exude a palpable sense of the holy. Vaulted ceilings, the lingering scent of candle wax and incense, sunlight filtering through windows of stained glass, all are evocative of the spiritual dimension.

There is also, though, a sacred hush in these places. There is silence. Quietude fills every corner. Coughs, the swish of clothing, the fall of footsteps seem only to magnify the stillness.

German theologian and mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote that, “there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence.” And yet, we often have so little of it in our daily lives. Television, traffic noise, shallow conversation are just a few examples of the omnipresent and intrusive sounds of modern culture.

In Anam Cara: Wisdom from the Celtic World, Irish poet and former priest, John O’Donohue, speaks of an impoverishment of the soul that comes from such a pervading racket. “People’s lives are being taken outwards all the time,” he notes. “The inner world of the soul is suffering a great kind of eviction.” He goes on to add that, “one of the reason that so many people are so stressed in modern life is not that they’re doing very stressful things, but that they allow so little space for the silence.”

There does seem to be a correlation between outer noise and inner unrest. Fortunately, though, by consciously adding periods of quiet into our lives, we create opportunities for inner stillness to grow and our souls to be replenished.

We may have to work at it a bit, though. After being inundated with noise over an extended period of time, the experience of silence can be somewhat unnerving. We then seem all too ready to substitute an internal babel to continue the agitation.

It often takes a while to settle into an inner calm. But settle we shall, if we regularly make room for silence in our lives. Whether sitting in a church, walking in the woods, or coming to rest in a quiet corner of our own homes, we nurture an inclination toward stillness.

The rewards are great. “In the attitudes of silence,” Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” In precious moments of meditation, we touch the Great Silence. It opens and stretches out around us, and we find ourselves relaxing into its embrace.

Then, to use O’Donohue’s words, “that which is deep and lives in the silence” within us is allowed to bloom. And with that blossom in place, we return to our everyday world more fully awakened to life.

A Quaker proverb comes to mind. “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.” After deep contact with that silence, we are more apt to make contributions, spoken or otherwise, that are worthy, ones that enhance the greater good.

As the attitude of silence Gandhi referred to deepens, we also become better able to maintain a conscious connection to that pristine reservoir of tranquility~~the font at the heart of our being~~no matter the din that may surround us.

May you experience the embrace of the Great Silence in the days ahead.

Be well!

Loanne Marie

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Story

Easter arrives again tomorrow. In honor of this occasion, I’ve spent the morning re~reading the Easter story as told in each of the canonical gospels.

Once again, I join Mary Magdalene and her sisters before an empty tomb from which the stone has been rolled away. I share anew in the women’s awe as they find themselves conversing with angels. And I stand once more beside my fellow humans as they prove themselves incapable of recognizing their beloved Jesus, risen now and returned to them in the flesh.

In my own life, I may never have the opportunity to speak with angels or to bear witness to an event that will figure so prominently in a spiritual tradition. But in these stories, I clearly recognize my own daily inability to know the sacred, even while my eyes are gazing directly upon it.

The mystics tell us that every aspect of our world is imbued with the holy. To them, all of creation inspires the deepest reverence. We walk among miracles every day of our lives, and yet most of us seldom notice. Just like the disciples, our vision is limited, and we see only what we expect to see.

I look out my window to a snow~covered mountain. While often I respond to the beauty of the view, seldom do I perceive the dazzling truths it contains. I see a mountain and I see snow, and that is all.

I am largely unaware of the eons of natural forces that have sculpted the unique shape of this mountain, and I am oblivious to the minerals that comprise it and the vast array of plants and animals that reside now within its folds. Likewise, I am blind to the stunning path that each speck of snow has traveled from oceans and streams far away~~rising first as vapor, swirling with its fellow molecules amid shifting cloud formations~~to arrive at this place to fall and nurture new generations of vegetation and living creatures.

The mystery of life, with its intricate and unfathomable processes, surrounds us whether or not we have eyes to see, and continues day after day, year after year, requiring nothing from us. The earth revolves around the sun without our aid. Photosynthesis needs not one iota of assistance from us.

I return now to the Easter story and am carried forward to John 21: 15~17. In this passage, the risen Jesus urges Simon Peter to demonstrate his love and fidelity by caring for others.

“Feed my lambs,” Christ exhorts. “Tend my sheep.”

By far, most of the miracles of life on this planet do not require our involvement in the least. But the triumph of love over pain and hatred and indifference? That miracle craves our efforts, fledging and imperfect though they may be. Caring for Christ’s sheep, in all their varied forms, is something only we can do.

And in this, the wonder of it all continues. For in each loving act, we are invited to participate in the heart of God, allowed to be a small part of the expression of the sacred in this world. Through sowing and tending the seeds of compassion, we are brought closer to the essence of all that is holy and are given the opportunity to partake of the miraculous.

An amazing honor, indeed, and one that enriches us beyond measure.

Have a lovely Easter~~and feed a lamb or two, while you’re at it!

Loanne Marie

To read last year's Easter essay, click here.