April 26, 2017

Merton on Contemplation (1)

Full Fathom Five, Jackson Pollock

Number 8, Jackson Pollock

The curious state of alienation and confusion of man in modern society is perhaps more “bearable” because it is lived in common, with a multitude of distractions and escapes — and also with opportunities for fruitful action and genuine Christian self-forgetfulness. But underlying all life is the ground of doubt and self-questioning which sooner or later must bring us face to face with the ultimate meaning of our life. This self-questioning can never be without a certain “existential “dread” — a sense of insecurity, of “lostness,” of exile, of sin. A sense that one has somehow been untrue not so much to abstract moral or social norms but to one’s own inmost truth. “Dread” in this sense is not simply a childish fear of retribution, or a naive guilt, a fear of violating taboos. It is the profound awareness that one is capable of ultimate bad faith with himself and with others: that one is living a lie.

• Thomas Merton
Contemplative Prayer (xxxiv)

• • •

We will take some time in coming days to consider what Thomas Merton has to say in his book, Contemplative Prayer. This book was written at the end of Merton’s career as a monk and it was designed to speak first of all to his fellow monks, though he hoped it would be helpful to all Christians no matter their vocation.

Merton begins by takes up the topic of monastic prayer, and reminds us that in practice it was relatively simple, drawn from the scriptures (especially the Psalms), and centered on the name of Jesus. This “prayer of the heart” was seen “as a way of keeping oneself in the presence of God and of reality, rooted in one’s own inner truth” (xxxi). But what does this kind of prayer have to do with contemplation?

First, Merton warns us against a false view of contemplation.

Nothing is more foreign to authentic monastic and “contemplative” (e.g. Carmelite) tradition in the Church than a kind of gnosticism which would elevate the contemplative above the ordinary Christian by initiating him into a realm of esoteric knowledge and experience, delivering him from the ordinary struggles and sufferings of human existence, and elevating him to a privileged state among the spiritually pure, as if he were almost an angel, untouched by matter and passion, and no longer familiar with the economy of sacraments, charity and the Cross. The way of monastic prayer is not a subtle escape from the Christian economy of incarnation and redemption. It is a special way of following Christ, of sharing in his passion and resurrection and in his redemption of the world. For that very reason the dimensions of prayer in solitude are those of man’s ordinary anguish, his self-searching, his moments of nausea at his own vanity, falsity and capacity for betrayal. Far from establishing one in unassailable narcissistic security, the way of prayer brings us face to face with the sham and indignity of the false self that seeks to live for itself alone and to enjoy the “consolation of prayer” for its own sake. This “self” is pure illusion, and ultimately he who lives for and by such an illusion must end either in disgust or in madness. (xxxii)

Facing this existential dread is a key component of true contemplation. In fact, Merton says that monks, in part, are called to take on the courageous task of exposing themselves “to what the world ignores about itself” (xxxiii). Contemplation involves, first of all, facing the worst in order to discover within it the hope of the best.

“From death, life” (xxxiv).

Comments

  1. Woodman says:

    “Facing the worst in hope of discovering in it the hope of the best.” Seems like a oxymoron but how many times does this bear out when one walks away from the glitz to face what the “world ignores about itself”. Not exactly the prosperity message but ironically it brings about a “type” or “kind” of prosperity. The becoming partakers of the Devine Nature type. Sadly to often it’s only after one has given up on his own grandiose self delusion and effort and ends upon the floor in some puddle form.

    • “Facing the worst in hope of discovering in it the hope of the best.”
      While doing this can certainly be an ultimately good thing, I think it’s a bitter pill best taken in moderation. As someone who has fallen into the obsession of trying to peel my own personal onion down to the last skin of depravity, pride, and self-delusion, taking it too far can leave you in a pit of despair and depression you can spend years trying to crawl out of. While true and honest self-examination is important, it’s also important that we occassionally take a break from dissecting that horrifying image in the mirror and just enjoy some stupid dog time basking in the mindless, drooling joy that Master loves us in spite of our fleas and the fact that we’ve been rolling around in smelly dead things.

  2. Merton says that monks, in part, are called to take on the courageous task of exposing themselves “to what the world ignores about itself”

    “I have often said that the sole cause of humanity’s unhappiness is that they do not know how to stay quietly in a room (alone).”

    Pascal, Pensees, #136

    “We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hold in our hearts and be terrified…”

    Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans (commentary on Pascal’s Pensees

    • Should be “hole”, not “hold”. (Only one mistake pre-caffeine is pretty good for me…)

  3. Robert F says:

    When I was a young man, I believed that there was a “false self”, and a deeper, authentic identity; I also believed that, through meditative practices, I could dispel the illusions and lies of the “false self”, and uncover, get in touch with and develop the “true Self”. I embarked on several years of Zen study and practice as a result of these convictions.

    I never did find that deeper, authentic identity, that “true Self”, as a result of my spiritual practices over several years. On a number of occasions I was convinced that I had, only to subsequently realize that what I had thought was my authentic, deeper identity was actually just as deceptive and superficial and false as what had gone before.

    Now, I’m resistant to the idea that the “deep Self” is anything other than a different view on the “false self”. And I’m convinced that illusion and self-deception is just as present in the deeper levels as at the surface, only it’s more sophisticated and harder to see through in the depths than in the shallows.

    Now, whenever I pray, whether it’s simple or meditative or contemplative prayer, I try always to be mindful that the heart, the depths of my soul, is deceitful above all things. This has made me skeptical about any claims that the practice of contemplative prayer is more authentic or “courageous” than the practice of simple prayer, but it has also made my prayer life in all its different forms more fruitful, because it has led me to take my shallow and deep self, as well as the forms of prayer I use, less seriously.

    • Robert F says:

      Of course, just because this was true for me doesn’t mean that it would be for everyone. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from undertaking any prayer discipline on the basis of my experience.

      Otoh, there are those who have found that such prayer has not been fruitful. If so, don’t beat yourself up for it the way I did; it’s not for you, and I daresay God is not disappointed in you for not being able to make it work. There is nothing intrinsically less spiritual or authentic about simple prayer, and God can lead you along by this path as well as he can lead others along by the contemplative path.

      I suspect that contemplative prayer may only be fruitful for those who embark on it already having a strong conventional sense of self, and a degree of already established confidence in their identity and place in the world. If you’re like me, and have struggled with the issue of self-esteem and self-value all your life, that is, if you have struggled with the project of establishing an identity that can competently and confidently navigate the social reality, then this path of contemplative prayer may not be for you. But that’s just a guess based only on my own personal experience.

      • Robert F
        I like you have pursued contemplative prayer or the version I pursued was Centering Prayer that Merton then other Trappist’s picked up later. I thought Centering Prayer was the highest and most Spiritual prayer one can engage in. It’s natural that we all what to be on the top of our prayer game. Authors like Keating, Pennington, Rohr and maybe Rolhieser and others that stress a holistic Perennial philosophy were always stressing Contemplative silent prayer in their books and materials. After 11 years of this kind of stuff and associated guilt. I’m not sure there is an hierarchy in the stages of prayer or even in stages of spiritual growth. I have found for the lack of any prayer method or rule, that reading the same psalm every day for a week and then moving on to the next one…seems to be all I can do at this stage in my life.

        • Jazziscoolithink says:

          Hey Bob (and Robert F), I’m fairly new to contemplative/centering prayer. I’ve been practicing various forms of it (off and on) for about 3 years. At times, I feel like it has been beneficial to my spiritual life, but at other times, I’ve noticed a spiritual arrogance in myself simply because I’m praying like the monks. Still other times, I’ve developed a guilt for not having “progressed” enough–and then a (protestant) guilt for feeling like I should or even can progress at all. But so far for me, all this junk has gone in cycles: times of positive growth, times of arrogance, times of awareness of my spiritual poverty, times of guilt, etc. At this point, I am trying to take this whole cycle as part of the journey, not knowing what progress looks like anyway.

          Bob, could you elaborate on the guilt you’ve experienced in association with contemplative prayer?

          • The guilt for me at least is the feeling of never connecting with God as these authors promised doing the prescribed method. I have grown in Christ and becoming more of a decent human being with or without Centering Prayer. Again the guilt also is the fact that to be a Merton one has to do Centering Prayer. I have found a perspective through all this with a monthly meeting of Spiritual Direction for the last 3 years. All this to say that Centering Prayer maybe right for a season….I have a tendency to turn spiritual practices into legalism. I know Centering Prayer is a subset of Contemplative Prayer

          • Robert F says:

            Jazziscoolithink,
            I think what you are experiencing is the normal cycle of experiences/feelings/moods for contemplative/centering prayer. Pride, a sense of inadequacy, a sense of growth, seasons of boredom, etc.,all of these are normal, and the fact that you don’t get stuck in any of them is a very good sign. Getting stuck (in other words getting addicted) to any of them, including the sense of benefiting from the prayer, is considered dangerous by teachers and spiritual directors.

            But that brings us to the hill you need to get over now to continue growing in this type of prayer: you need a spiritual director of some kind, someone who has been through what you are undertaking now, and who can gently help you understand what your current prayer experience is leading you toward and teaching you. This is also really the only way to get around the tricks that you play on yourself. If you don’t take this step, it’s likely that you will get stuck in a cyclical rut, and eventually become disillusioned and stop praying this way.

            Roman Catholic clergy can frequently help connect you to a network of spiritual directors, who will be happy to work with you whether you are Catholic or not. It’s important to find someone you can really work with, so don’t assume the first director you contact is your lifelong guru; spiritual direction really should be collaborative endeavor, and your director ideally should be someone who learns as much from directing you as you do from his/her direction.

          • Jazziscoolithink says:

            Bob and Robert F,

            Thank you for your thoughtful responses. They are very helpful. And I’ve flirted with the idea of getting a spiritual director. Really, the main thing that has kept me from doing it is the price. I guess I don’t make enough money to be directed spiritually. But I think I’ll contact a local Catholic church soon and see what they can do. Thanks again.

      • Robert – well, Merton was strongly influenced by Zen during his later life….

        I think yhe who falsez/true self bit is misleading, ultimately.

        • Robert F says:

          Yes, I think what Merton is calling the “false self” is a real and indispensable part of our identity. What he might call the “true Self” exists not on the other side of a chasm from the “false self”, but on the other end of a continuum from it. Both are essential aspects of who we authentically are. At all levels, and all the way along the continuum of self, it’s good to work toward reducing illusion and self-deception, pride and vanity and “capacity for betrayal”. But my experience has been that these tendencies and problems exist both at the surface and in the depths of the self.

          And there are many for whom it’s important to first work toward constructing a sturdy, healthy, boundaried and functioning self before even thinking of undermining any putative “false” self. For some, dying to self involves doing the work of sculpting a healthy self before anything else.

          • Jazziscoolithink says:

            I think Merton may have agreed with you. This passage from “No Man Is an Island” has been helpful for me (as a balance for some of Merton’s negative descriptions of selfhood):

            “The salvation I speak of is not merely a subjective, psychological thing–a self-realization in the order of nature. It is an objective and mystical reality–the finding of ourselves in Christ, in the Spirit, or, if you prefer, in the supernatural order. This includes and sublimates and perfects the natural self-realization which it to some extent presupposes, and usually effects, and always transcends.”

          • Robert F says:

            Yes, I know that there are passages in Merton that say something similar.

      • Thanks for both your posts, Robert; they certainly resonate with me.

        Merton’s thought on prayer were not only painful but unhelpful to me: “For that very reason the dimensions of prayer in solitude are those of man’s ordinary anguish, his self-searching, his moments of nausea at his own vanity, falsity and capacity for betrayal. Far from establishing one in unassailable narcissistic security, the way of prayer brings us face to face with the sham and indignity of the false self that seeks to live for itself alone and to enjoy the “consolation of prayer” for its own sake. This “self” is pure illusion, and ultimately he who lives for and by such an illusion must end either in disgust or in madness.”

        That may well be helpful to many, and I am glad it’s so. But to me it emphasizes the bleakest aspects of individual existence, and I don’t see why. Anguish, nausea, vanity, falsity, betrayal, sham — all ending in disgust or madness? My “prayer in solitude” may take me to one or more of these states at times, but never without the balancing follow-on of repentance and forgiveness and strength to “love and serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart.”

        As for the opportunity to “face this existential dread,” I have faced it for many years, thanks very much. Prayer has at last brought me relief, not more dread.

        Merton was a great contemplative thinker and pray-er, but did his prayers never involve love, peace, kindness, generosity of spirit, a sense of brotherhood? Maybe he speaks more about that in his books — it’s only fair to remember this is an excerpt, and a short one at that.

        But in this excerpt alone, he first speaks (rightly, I think) very strongly against any belief that would “elevate the contemplative above the ordinary Christian,” yet by the end of the passage, his idea of “ordinary Christian” prayer (which most of us do in solitude except on Sundays) becomes that list of gruesome spiritual conditions with which I started this post.

        For Merton, the *only* decent prayer is conemplative prayer. I haven’t found this to be true for me.

        • H. Lee – very well said!

          I think, honestly, that Merton’s style of contemplative prayer might be good for some people, but it certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda thing.

          Agree very much on the negativity.

        • I think that ‘This “self” is pure illusion, and ultimately he who lives for and by such an illusion must end either in disgust or in madness.’ is a very disturbing thought, and not one I can agree with.

          • Robert F says:

            I think Merton would have ended in disgust of madness if he had tried to live an ordinary life, and was headed that way until he experienced his conversion and subsequent calling to monastic life. And because he felt so strongly the threat of this disgust and madness, and indeed was always walking the razor’s edge between these two threats until his dying day (disgust with the religious constraints that held him tightly in the Trappist order driving him to madness to live the life of a contemplative hermit and find brotherhood among monastics from other world religions), he saw this as the primary danger for the entire world.

        • Robert F says:

          H. Lee,
          I think Merton’s formation in contemplative prayer had two things going against it:

          1) The oppressive and authoritarian atmosphere that existed at the Abbey of Gethsemane (and was typical in Trappist houses), where rules even against friendships between the monks was part of the tradition (read the biography “The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton” for a harrowing account of the hell one of Merton’s abbots, with the help of a renowned psychiatrist, put him through); and

          2) His introduction to Eastern forms of meditation mostly by way of exposure to the Rinzai school of Zen and its spokesman to the West at that time, D. T. Suzuki. Japanese Zen in general, and Rinzai especially, take a desperate and rigorous approach to cultivating enlightenment through very intense forms of meditation. In the traditional Japanese Zen monastery, the aspirant was encouraged to prefer death to defeat in the pursuit of samadhi, and the all day, several days long sessions of intense meditation called sesshin were typically grueling and exhausting affairs punctuated by frequently humiliating interview with the roshi in his private quarters. Should the meditator relax from correct posture due to weariness, they would be struck on the back by a teacher wielding a firm stick, but only after he had tapped them on the shoulder, signaling them to get up and bow to him in thanks for the blow he was about to administer.

          This rigorous and macho form of spirituality is by no means typical of all Zen. For a much gentler approach filled with the loving kindness , read anything by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who wrote the Introduction to the edition of Merton’s “Contemplative Prayer” quoted in the post.

          • Robert F says:

            Merton actually was a very loving, tender guy. It was his misfortune to embark upon the spiritual life in a monastic setting during a time when monasteries were still employing many of the life-denying practices typical in Medieval enclosures. That he managed to be as human and vulnerable as he did despite living in an environment that militated against it is a tribute to him. He kicked hard against the inhuman traditions he lived in, even as he tried in his own way to be an obedient monk, and he paid a high price for it, including the loss of the love of a nurse he met and came to love when he had to go to hospital during an illness. There is a lot of heartbreak in Merton’s story, much of it caused by his religious superiors and the unreformed, pre-Vatican II traditions of his order.

          • Robert, thatall serms like a revipe for a perfevt storm of craziness, imo. Also, “particular friendships” were discouraged in all Catholic religious orders, active as well as contemplative.

            I could never find solace in Merton’s work. I read some when i was quite young, and am afraid it had a negative effevt on me.

        • Robert F says:

          And, yes, H. Lee, I think Merton is contradicting himself. First he disclaims the idea that the contemplative is in any way “elevated” above the ordinary Christian, and then in the final sentences of the post he’s saying that the special vocation of monks is to expose themselves to “what the world ignores about itself” (is there any doubt that he’s including “ordinary Christians” among those who are ignoring these things?). Sounds pretty elevated to me, almost superhero-ish.

        • Robert F says:

          H. Lee,
          If you click on the link to the book “Contemplative Prayer” provided in the the post above, and then click on “Look Inside” above the image of the book cover, you will be treated to the loving-kindness and gentleness of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh’s Introduction to this edition of the book.

          • Thanks for all this, Robert. I had no idea at all that Merton was subjected to/subjected himself to all that ugly “discipline.” It would make a psychological mess out of St. Francis or Pope Francis, let alone an “ordinary Christian.” Bless him.

            I’ll look at that “Contemplative Prayer” book, and I appreciate your giving us all this information.

            Heather

  4. Henry Darger says:

    Deleted

  5. Christiane says:

    with respect to the many faith communities that are represented among us imonkers, I found something of interest to do with the experience of ‘contemplation’ where a Baptist minister visits Gethsemane Monastery and writes about his time there:
    http://edge.edge.net/~dphillip/Abbey.html

  6. Christiane says:

    ‘Silencium’ . . . (pardon, if any ‘commercials’ precede) . . . for me, it is a piece of music that is evocative of the part of our human experience that has no words

    https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=C111US105D20140614&p=Silencium++youtube

  7. Christiane says:
  8. Lisa Dye says:

    “… the dimensions of prayer in solitude are those of man’s ordinary anguish, his self-searching, his moments of nausea at his own vanity, falsity and capacity for betrayal.” By this standard, I am a contemplative for this is my daily round. Who knew? Actually, I find this comforting because I thought I was doing something wrong, as I have found very little consolation in prayer for the past several years. Thank you for this, Mike. This sheds another bit of light on the subject. Contemplative prayer is something I have been trying to practice and understand. At times, I think I must be ridiculous because I have a job and family and a whole lot of chaos. Other times, I try to relax and think of Brother Lawrence practicing God’s presence while scrubbing pots.

  9. This is the ‘work’ to which I feel called. The work of seeing through the false self, which is the persona that protects itself and its standing. The true self emerges, over the course of a lifetime ( that’s crucial to know for anyone who considers this employing a technique in search of a tangible and verifiable result) as I glance in the mirror and begin to see, at a tired snail’s pace, Christ emerge. The inner work of seeing begins slowly to translate into the outer expression of patience, kindness, love. The outward good is often in tandem with the inward pain. Failure may be the biggest and most effective part of what Merton is getting at here. Richard Rohr, spiritual superman, has said something to the effect that the contemplative aspect is at times very challenging to him. I read that in one of his daily emails I think. Maybe it was in one of his courses, I don’t remember. Anyway, he was saying that it presented a real challenge to him. This is the guy who runs The Center for Action and Contemplation. It is a life work of being still. It happens in fits and starts but once a desire is found for it you forget the fits and get back to the starts. That’s the beauty of it. There is no guilt. Failure is part and parcel of the process. After the hundredth time that I have failed to engage with the Spirit I find her (I say her because the Holy Spirit is a feminine expression of the Godhead to me) calling for the hundred and first time. There is a joyful, experimental and imaginative aspect involved in contemplation that plays along with the somber silence so it’s not all pain and difficulty. Like love, it is multifaceted. It really is about love in the end. Personal and intimate. That seems like an impossibility with an invisible and seemingly distant God but I guess that’s why it takes a lifetime. One day we shall know, even as we are fully known. Its not about us and our deep spiritual persona. That’s the false self again. It’s about stillness. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about love. It’s about Christ.

  10. Thomas Merton said,

    But underlying all life is the ground of doubt and self-questioning which sooner or later must bring us face to face with the ultimate meaning of our life. This self-questioning can never be without a certain “existential “dread” — a sense of insecurity, of “lostness,” of exile, of sin. A sense that one has somehow been untrue not so much to abstract moral or social norms but to one’s own inmost truth. “Dread” in this sense is not simply a childish fear of retribution, or a naive guilt, a fear of violating taboos. It is the profound awareness that one is capable of ultimate bad faith with himself and with others: that one is living a lie.

    So far, I haven’t gone off the rails. Once in a while I joke about running off to Vilcabamba with a red-haired massage therapist, but so far I come home every night—mostly because I love my dark-haired wife and would be a fool to destroy what we have—but partly because I’m scared of redheads and, by the way, haven’t had any offers.

    Disappointments by old friends in recent years, however, have caused me to question what I’m capable of. People whom I’ve loved and trusted have taken turns for the worse, one so bad that he’s in prison, and these events have made me ask, “Could I be capable of something like that? How am I different?”

    Other disappointments, in the form of ugly divorces, have had less effect in that regard. Once the bloody thing is over, we can say, “At least she’s rid of the bastard.”

    But, when someone we love and trust is found to have been doing something dangerous, illegal, and terribly out of character for years, destroying lives in the process, should we not ask if we’re capable of that too?

    In the garden-variety failings, where a friend or relative stumbles in a direction that we also have a weakness toward, we can say, “There but for the grace of God go I” and resolve to keep from going there. But, in the earth-shattering scandals, in matters that we never talk about, we often say, “I would never do such a thing!”

    But could we?

    Should we share Merton’s “profound awareness that one is capable of ultimate bad faith with himself and with others: that one is living a lie.”?

    • In my very mundane and pragmatic opinion, Ted, I would say that the answer to your last question is: maybe we should keep it in mind, but not dwell on it. For me, I try to do my best to being the Kingdom a little closer every day, and that works for me.

      It seems to me it’s really impossible to know what we would do in an extreme situation until we’re in it. Would I ever kill someone? No, of course not. But suppose someone said to me, “Do it, because I know where your daughter and grandchildren live, and if you don’t do it…”

      Fortunately, that situation has not turned up, nor have others of the same gravity. And in my ordinary life, they’re not likely to. There seems to me to be no use in speculating on just how rotten we *could* get.

      As for people we love turning on us, or turning to the dark side — been there, done that, got a closet full of the T-shirts. We get through it with patience, prayer, and lots of wine and chocolate. 🙂 We *have* to get through it.

  11. There is, in the deepest center of the soul, a chamber of peace where God dwells, and where, if we will only enter in and hush every other sound, we can hear His still, small voice.

    There is, in the swiftest wheel that revolves upon its axis, a place in the very center where there is no movement at all; and so in the busiest life there may be a place where we dwell alone with God in eternal stillness.

    This is the only way to know God. “Be still, and know that I am God.” “God is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

    A score of years ago a friend placed in my hand a little book which became one of the turning points of my life. It was called “True Peace.” It was an old mediaeval message with but one thought, which was this, that God was waiting in the depths of my being to talk to me if I would only get still enough to hear His voice.

    I thought this would be a very easy matter, and so I began to get still. But I had no sooner commenced than a perfect pandemonium of voices reached my ears, a thousand clamoring notes from without and within, until I could hear nothing but their noise and din. Some of them were my own voice, some of them were my own questions, some of them were my own cares, and some of them were my very prayers. Others were suggestions of the tempter and voices from the world’s turmoil. Never before did there seem so many things to be done, to be said, to be thought; and in every direction I was pushed, and pulled, and greeted with noisy acclamations and unspeakable unrest.

    It seemed necessary for me to listen to some of them, and to answer some of them, but God said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Then came the conflict of thoughts for the morrow, and its duties and cares, but God said, “Be still.” And then there came the very prayers which my restless heart wanted to press upon Him, but God said, “Be still.”

    And as I listened and slowly learned to obey and shut my ears to every sound, I found after awhile that when the other voices ceased, or I ceased to hear them, there was a still, small voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible tenderness, power and comfort. As I listened it became to me the voice of prayer, and the voice of wisdom, and the voice of duty. I did not need to think so hard, or pray so hard, or trust so hard, but that “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit in my heart was God’s prayer in my secret soul, was God’s answer to all my questions, was God’s life and strength for soul and body, and became the substance of all knowledge, and all prayer, and all blessing; for it was the living God Himself as my Life and my All.

    Beloved, this is our spirit’s deepest need. It is thus that we learn to know God; it is thus that we receive spiritual refreshing and nutriment; it is thus that our heart is nourished and fed; it is thus that we receive the Living Bread; it is thus that our very bodies are healed, and our spirit drinks in the life of our risen Lord, and we go forth to life’s conflicts and duties like the flower that has drunk in, through the shades of night, the cool and crystal drops of dew. But as the dew never falls on a stormy night, so the dews of His grace never come to the restless soul.

    We cannot go through life strong and fresh on express trains, with ten minutes for lunch. We must have quiet hours, secret places of the Most High, times of waiting upon the Lord, when we renew our strength and learn to mount up on wings as eagles, and then come back, to run and not be weary, and to walk and not faint.

    The best thing about this stillness is that it gives God a chance to work. “He that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his”; and when we cease from our works, God works in us; and when we cease from our thoughts, God’s thoughts come into us; when we get still from our restless activity, God worketh in us both to will and do of His good pleasure, and we have but to work it out.

    Beloved, let us take His stillness, let us dwell in “the secret place of the Most High,” let us enter into God and His eternal rest, let us silence the other sounds,and then we can hear “the still, small voice.”

    From The Holy Spirit or the Power from on High Vol. 1 by A.B. Simpson – 1896