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There is an Anglican tradition of contemplative prayer (patrimony) which consists in kneeling, sitting, lying, in silence. It is an aphophatic way,it uses no images or narratives, it has no theme or passage, it does not seek pathways or destination; it is silence before the reality of God. It is a way taught within Anglicanism for most of the last century; Fr Gilbert Shaw was the great apostle of the methodology, in recent years Fr. Bill Scott has guided people in this way.

It is a methodology without methodology, it consists in the silence, not in listening for a voice in the silence, not in listening to the silence as a voice, it is the silence. This way is not to be found in intrusion into the silence, it is not a journey to God found beyond the silence by becoming one with the silence in which God may be found. It is the silence. The prayer is not in embracing, moulding or entering into the silence, it is not in letting the silence be moulded around the soul at prayer, or the woman in the application of the silence.

It is the loss of everything that is not the silence, it is not the loss of self, it is the silence. It is not discerning the ‘heart-beat’ of God, but it may be hearing therumours of the wordless love of the Sacred Heart, which can be heard only in the silence.

Reposted from Fr Jones, of St Peter’s, London Docks HERE on 25 January.

Last Tuesday my local clergy book club met.  We discussed Sara Maitland’s new(ish) book: ‘A Book of Silence’.  We were not overly impressed.  We though she was approaching the subject of silence in a far too academic a way – and was sometimes confusing it with ‘solitude’.  For example, she writes that she had spent some time alone in the Sinai desert reading the Sayings of the Desert Fathers – we all felt she should have left the book behind and tried to read the silence itself!

However. Three of us (out of six) had attended a meeting last September addressed by Fr Laurence Freeman, a Benedictine monk who now heads up the late John Maine’s ‘World Community for Christian Meditation’ http://www.wccm.org/, and he had much more powerful stuff to say about silence. 

The current welcome page of the WCCM website has the following picture:

lfcushion091A meditation mat and cushion, a Buddhist ‘singing’ bowl (chime) and striker, a watch, and, by coincidence, a copy of my latest discovery: ‘Benedictine Daily Prayer – A Short Breviary’ produced by St John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota (ISBN 1-85607-495-1 The Columba Press, Dublin).

As someone who has struggled for the last thirty years or more to find the ‘right’ form of daily office (- I know, a desperate situation to be in!-) this comes very close to fitting the bill.  For the last few years I have been juggling with two forms: ‘The Divine Office’ (the official UK RC version) and ‘Daily Prayer’ (the Church of England’s Common Worship version).  Both have much to offer.

I have used ‘The Divine Office’ for most of my thirty years and love the flexible arrangement, the Grail Psalms, the ‘all-in-oneness’ of the book – but sometimes find some of the non-scriptural readings a bit heavy, some of the ‘incidentals’ (antiphons, responses, etc) a bit ‘unreconstructed’, and the intercessions often dire (although in great variety!).  ‘Daily Prayer’, on the other hand, is a bit more ‘self-conscious’, almost as if it were trying too hard to be an office book, certainly very ‘wordy’, very uptight, as it were.  It also involves at least three books (office book, bible and lectionary – four if you want more that half a dozen hymns!) and a lot of page flipping.  But I am an Anglican…

‘Benedictine Daily Prayer’ is one book, Grail Psalms, two scriptural readings in the night office (all NRSV), only occasional patristic readings, traditional office hymns (albeit in a modern translation), re-written antiphons and responses, and even the occasional Anglican feast day to supplement the Benedictine Calendar.  It is a joy to use.  I recommend it.

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