Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Numinous illuminous

The stained-glass poured its
Semi-precious light upon the altar,
Rainbow colours washing over
Sheets of sacred scripts,
In that numinous moment
When the transcendent becomes immanent.

In the rows of bowed heads,
One, fixed in a beam of light,
The lustre of her hair the
Radiance of glowing copper.

Later, extinguishing candles, an
After-image burnt into my eyes,
I heard ‘Let there be light’.
It was so. And it was good.

© David East 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Revelation 7: 9 – 8: 1

Silence doesn’t work very well on radio. I believe that some radio stations have a back-up system which automatically transmits music in the event of a long silence, which it presumes is a technical fault.

So the first ever broadcast of a Quaker act of worship on Radio 4 had hardly any silence, certainly compared with what would be expected in a normal Friends’ Meeting.

In ordinary life too, silence is normally taken to imply ‘a technical fault’. Something must be wrong if silence falls in the middle of a conversation, or if someone present is not contributing verbally to what’s happening.

That passage from the Book of Revelation tells us that, at the end of time, ‘there was silence in heaven’. It comes at a moment when it seemed essential just to stop the noise and absorb the enormity of what was happening.

Nothing else - not words or music or any activity - does justice to the occasion.

A silence in the middle of a conversation, whether in a group or on more intimate occasions, can be a time simply to be present and enjoy the moment, to absorb what’s happening or being said.

Silence, in the presence of God; time to be still and know who he is, is even more important.

Perhaps today we might resist the temptation to prevent a silence developing, to break into one that’s started, or to put pressure on somebody who is being silent to speak.

It may not work on radio, but in our relationships and conversations - and especially in our time with God - silence can make a valuable contribution.