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Hallo again to all.

Lady ChapelWe spent Saturday at an Advent quiet day with a small group of gentle persons who kept silence from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We turned off our mobile devices and immersed ourselves in some of the richest seams of Christian devotion: the Psalter, hymnody, the recitation of Morning Prayer, a simple and silent meal with a Patristic reading, a celebration of the Holy Communion.

The meditative scaffolding of the day was a repeated sing-through and deep-dive text analysis of the hymn Let all mortal flesh keep silence, sung according to the familiar tune Picardy. Using these lyrics, and reflecting on their biblical-theological roots, we looked at some attitudes of the Christian soul during the four weeks before Christmas. Our meditations and song could have gone on for many more hours, but we had the trivial round and common task to which to return at the end of our concentrated time in the wilderness.

We wait for the coming of the Christchild, who will be born for many of us anew in our hearts at the end of Advent: our palms the manger where he visits us, our lives the dirty stables of each private Bethlehem where he is born according to ancient promises. We tried, in the words of the hymn, to 'ponder nothing earthly-minded' as we prepared ourselves quietly to welcome the 'Lord of lords in human vesture, in the body and the blood'.

It was a good exercise, but not in the moment an entirely easy one. The 30-minute stretches with no spoken meditations or singing felt longer than half an hour. There were moments when our minds went to places of wondering about what might be in that inbox or that inbox, coming over the transom of social media, what might in the course of our five focused hours have arrived in messaging apps of all sorts. We reflected that it has become the case that our only intentional and regular silence in a group is that ever-briefer 'moment of silence' observed at moments of shared shock or grief. There is no common commitment to successive minutes, let alone hours, of quiet during which to study or pray.

When all was said and sung, and the silence had begun to take root among us as the appropriate ground for our internal preparation together, we broke for tea and conversation. 'I find I actually get to know others better when we're silent together' said one day-retreatant. There was not a single matter that had arrived in inboxes or as a message that required immediate assistance or attention. All things were sorted easily when we walked from the Lady Chapel back out into the wind and cold to return to our quotidian works and duties.

We had chosen the better part, we trust, by carving out space for some hours of concentrated silence and prayer. And it is not a self-congratulation to say so: in the experience, it was a soul-strengthening luxury, a break, a time away, a space apart, an intentional undertaking of gentleness and examination. It was a refreshment. The time together was free and voluntary, and we only wonder why it is not a more popular observance during a season when fret and frenzy overtake most of us before the twelve happy days ever have a chance to begin.

'And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.' So we had heard, and tried in our simple way to listen.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

9 December 2018
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