Category Archives: Silence

A Whole Philosophy of Life

Contemplating Wadi Musa

Abba Isidore of Pelusia said, ‘To live without speaking is better than to speak without living. For the former who lives rightly does good even by his silence but the latter does no good even when he speaks. When words and life correspond to one another they are together the whole philosophy of life.’

—–Abba Isidore of the Desert

The age old saying of our actions speaking louder than our words is seen here in the words of the Abba. . We hear it in the words of Jesus, Buddha and all s world religions. Yet it is still the most difficult task that is faced by anyone desiring to follow the path of Jesus.

Words are easy, cheap, and abundant; actions are difficult, for they require discipline, time, and selflessness. Those virtues are ones that we develop over a lifetime of prayer and study. We are geared toward having answers and not actions. There are few among us who lack the cognitive knowledge of our obligation to our fellow man, but many who just give lip service only to giving and sacrificing for the sake of others.

Christians are called to know and do. We know the commands of God and we have hidden them in our hearts, but that is not the end of the story. Perhaps we even testify to the importance of refraining from gossip and slander, visiting the prisoner, clothing the naked, and feeding the stranger, but we utterly fail at putting action to our words. This dilemma existed in the church of 1600 years ago and it exists today. Perhaps, as the advice of the Abba tells us, we can learn from silence and be jolted into action-action that will become a whole philosophy of life.

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Filed under Christian Living, Contemplation, Desert Fathers, Missional Living, Silence

Discovering the Desert of My Soul

Candle PrayerI don’t exactly know why, but a few years ago I felt a real spiritual unction to study Christian Mysticism. My first thought was to look at the experiences of the monks of the desert. These Desert Fathers fled to the parched lands of Egypt to escape the “one size fits all” Christianity of Constantine’s Empire. The Abbas of the desert wanted to experience God as they thought He wanted to be experienced. That experience would not come as a result of legislated belief at the point of the sword of a Roman Legion. That kind of belief was no belief at all, for such a faith had to be discovered within their own souls. They could experience God in a mysterious way in their desert monasteries, and then direct others by sharing these experiences. God is a mystery, and He is best seen in a mystical way. In the desert they would find the Spirit that had apparently left the organized church, and indeed, they did. They were the first mystics.

 Many factors prohibited this mystical movement from being the major driving force of the church. All throughout history there have been famous mystics. Notable ones are, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ignatius of Loyola. I wanted to learn as much from them as I could, but in the middle of that experience something happened to my own way of thinking. Suddenly, the idea of certainty of belief was replaced with a deep, abiding appreciation for the mysterious nature of God. After all belief in God is mystery, not certainty, and can best be understood through the eyes of the mystic.

 I don’t claim to be a Christian mystic at the level of the people I have mentioned, but I do contend that thinking as a mystic can open new panoramas of faith. These panoramas can lead to a much broader view of the work of God, and a more intimate involvement with Him. Things like meditation, Lectio Divina, silence, and icons have taken on a new meaning in my life. They have become invitations to spiritual portals that I never knew existed.

Major realities I discovered by embracing Christian Mysticism:

  • God does live within me
  • God really speaks to me (not audibly)
  • God protects me at all times
  • God gives me strength beyond my ability
  • God owes me nothing
  • Evil wins sometime
  • Suffering is a spiritual discipline
  • Scripture is the Word of God and it still lives
  • Silence is the loudest prayer
  • Silence is a portal to God
  • There is more than one right answer

My journey into mysticism has not so much brought me closer to God, as it has helped me to understand how far I have to go. Jubilantly, I can say that I am not alone on the journey. He is with me! The mystical, monastic journey brought me to the desert of my soul, and there I found the face of God. I continue to travel through that desert with the traveling companions I have discovered. Thanks for reading this story and the other stories that I have written about these mystics who have become my friends.


Filed under Christian Living, Contemplation, Desert Fathers, Icons, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Lectio Divina, Silence