Saturday, April 7, 2007

Choked Up and the Sound of Silence

Aaron's right - he's had a couple of posts about the hymn My Song is Love Unknown and how hard it is to get through it without choking up. I chose it for last night and then my colleague at Ascension chose it for this morning so I had a double dose of it. And choked both times. It is one of my favourite hymns and the last verse always gets to me. Like him I'm also having a hard time finding the energy or time for blogging lately. This week I was doing my regular chaplaincy stuff, teaching my course, guest lecturing in my friend Paul's class, and doing Holy Week prep for the parish. There hasn't been a lot of time to write (just ask my family).

I do want to write a little bit about the last couple of days though. This is my favourite season of the church year and last night's service was really lovely. We were only eleven and there is something very intimate about gathering with a group that size. I preach differently when we are such a small group. It isn't just that I am more informal, although I am that, but I feel comfortable sharing more from my heart. I know all the debates about using personal experience in sermons but I'm not really talking about that. I don't know that the ideas or basic content are different. But I think I take more risks with what I reveal of what is in my heart.

This morning's service was a real treat for me. Michael Ebsworth, the other priest in the parish, leads a small choir called Cave Cantemus. They are a wonderful accapella choir and they sang some beautiful pieces while taking us through a meditation on the seven last words from the cross. I got to sit in the pew and participate in the prayers and allow the music to carry me away. Afterwards I trained a new altar server who will assist me on Sunday.

This evening a friend and I watched the newly released Into Great Silence. It has been getting a lot of buzz and it was interesting. It is a documentary on a monastery considered the most austere in the world. There is no narration and almost no dialogue. Essentially it is two and a half hours of beautiful photography of the simplicity of life in the monastery. There are lots of shots of dust floating in sunbeams and drips of water. I must confess that I fell asleep for a bit in the middle but I still really liked it nonetheless. There is a delightful scene of the monks, who are allowed to go out and talk on Sundays, climbing up a mountain so that they can slide down in the snow. As beautiful as the setting is though it isn't immediately evident why someone would want to take on this solitary, silent life. And since there is no narration you have to figure it out through reflecting on the recurring texts inserted in the documentary. The film opens and ends with the passage from 1 Kings where Elijah hears the voice of God, not in the earthquake or the fire but in the still silence. There is a scene of two men being received as novices and from that and the recurring texts, 'unless a man gives away everything he can not be my disciple' and 'o Lord, you seduce me and I am seduced' one is given some insight into what draws men into such a severe life. I've spent some time in monasteries on retreat but I can't living there permanently. I can do silence for a few days but every day, no way!

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