At the core of the Oratory ministry is silence, for in that silence God moves. When we step out of the way, when the clutter of distractions with which we plague our days is set aside for just a few moments, a silence deeper than words rises like a tide. In that silence God speaks. She may not speak in words, for she is the Word. She may not flow like a concerto, for she is the Music. She may not literally put food on the table, but her Peace fills us from day-to-day.
"God abhors a vacuum," as Meister Eckhart said. So somehow, through the right means of contemplative practice, we can become empty so that her power and love may live in us.
I remember a Sufi story about fruit trees and monkeys. A passerby spied luscious fruit on a beautiful tree and desired to taste the sweetness. But there were monkeys in that tree enjoying that fruit for themselves, and when our pilgrim approached the tree, the monkeys started screaming at him threateningly, protecting their territory. So the pilgrim pondered and came up with a solution. Some of the fruit was scattered, fallen on the ground. So he picked one up and threw it at the monkeys. The monkeys looked around and, in response, picked the fresh fruit at hand and threw it at the pilgrim. Soon, our wily pilgrim filled his satchel with the fresh, sweet fruit, and went on his way.
The tree of life may not be filled with monkeys and throwing fruit at them may not yield God's life, but certainly our minds are like chattering monkeys protecting their territory in us and they won't easily let go of their hold . So we pray, we meditate, we offer up a sacred word or gesture, a mantra, again and again, into the chattering, to bring us to stillness. After months or years, God's peace will rise, slowly at first, and perhaps only for a few moments. In time, however, a sweet life beyond our understanding will give us hope and deeper nourishment. Then we can go on our way, from day-to-day, with our satchels full.
At the core of the Oratory ministry is silence, practicing the peace of God. While seclusion can, at times, assist us, we do not practice as hermits or even monks cloistered, safe, from the marketplace of the world. We carve out times of regular practice in our daily lives, between doing laundry and cooking meals, paying bills and going to work, amidst the day-to-day hustle and bustle. And the practice gives us strength to engage, to live out our calling to serve, to share the peace that passes understanding, even in small ways, with a spinning world.
For somehow, in our still hearts, God is born and so is the world. In a miraculous way, we become co-creators of a new world beyond selfishness and greed, beyond the racism, violence, and climate catastrophe threatening our days. In the womb of the empty heart, God fills us with new life. And, as the Word speaks, and the Music sings, new patterns of living morph our days. Those patterns emerge unbidden as if from a deeper genetic blueprint, calling us to create with God, enlivening all of us into love and justice.
So, we return to the silence each day. And we offer Oratory Services and Silences every Wednesday to remind us as a community to return to stillness. For in the vacuum which God abhors, She will nourish us with the sweet fruit of life. Her peace will rise in us as a tide of love for all.