Grace and Silence go Hand in Hand

Reverend Francis RitchieSpiritual Disciplines0 Comments

Recently I was giving some thought to how I would describe those moments in contemplative silence where I have felt like I experienced something – a sort of transcendence. For me those moments are few and far between but they’re important to my ongoing journey. Most of the time silence feels like a bit of a struggle and hard work, but I’m at a point where my day doesn’t feel like it started out right if I don’t do it – if I don’t place myself before God and give myself over as the beginning of all else that will proceed from that point in my daylight hours. Yet amongst that, there are times that are different, where I’m drawn towards letting go.

Grace and Silence

By Kontizas Dimitrios (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Edited by me.

If I was putting the indescribable into words it would be like standing on the edge of a cliff and being called to step out. When I first experienced it I felt fear and apprehension. It was a call to giving over control and exercising a great deal of trust and in that first moment I couldn’t do it. I spoke about it with one of the monks at Kopua Monastery and he assured me it was a completely normal feeling and to just go with it – let go. Since then I have felt it on a couple of occasions and have ventured to ‘take the step’ so to speak. The result has been a great sense of freedom and the very real knowledge of being ‘in God’ – floating. It has acted as an assurance. So rather than stepping off a cliff and entering free-fall it has been stepping off a cliff (the cliff being my own need for control) and stepping into the presence of God.

I remember preaching a sermon a very long time ago, well before the journey I’m on as a beginner in the contemplative path, where I tried to describe what it means to step into God’s grace and funnily enough I used the same analogy – stepping off a cliff and needing to just let go. We stay grounded on the cliff out of a need for control. Grace, freely given, calls us to let go, trust and accept. It invites us to step into the Divine, not because of any amazing merits of our own, but simply because God is love and that love desires to engulf us. Grace draws us into that and shapes us in it when we choose to let go.

With that in mind, grace and silence go hand in hand. The practice of silence accepts that there is nothing I have done, am doing, or will do that can gain the favour of God. Silence accepts that I am loved and have been given grace just as I am. Silence pushes against the temptation to be somebody. In silence I just am and God just is. In silence we allow God to say ‘I Am what I Am’ and it allows us to say ‘I am what I am’. It strips away all that we add, require and strive for. It reminds us of, and places us within God’s grace where so often we step away from it. Silence is a deliberate and mindful practice of accepting grace and our struggle with it is because of our constant need and desire for control. Grace and silence together.

Grace and silence allow us to dwell with God. The struggle I often go through in my practice of silence feels like the story of Genesis 3 playing out time and time again. In those moments when I let go and take hold of the grace so freely offered, the beauty of Revelation 21:3 is glimpsed – God dwelling with me. This may sound like God’s grace comes and goes, but it’s is always there, it’s just a question of whether I’m stepping into it or away from it – maintaining my grip on the cliff or stepping into what we’re all invited into.

The practice of silence is the practice of mindfully taking that step. It puts aside words, actions, roles, status and it embraces grace. It brings grace and silence into the same sacred time and space. For me the practice of silence and the gift of grace go hand in hand.