Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labours. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.
Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and what helps you to seek him, and when you have shut the door, look for him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart, I seek your face, your face, Lord, I desire.
Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you. Lord, if you are not here, where shall I look for you in your absence? Yet if you are everywhere, why do I not see you when you are present? But surely you dwell in ‘light inaccessible?’ How shall I approach light inaccessible? Or who will lead me and bring me into it that I may see you there? And then, by what signs and under what forms shall I seek you? I have never seen you, Lord my God; I do not know your face.
Lord my God, what shall this exile do, so far from you? What shall your servant do, tormented by love of you and cast so far from your face? He years to see you, and your face is too far from him. He desires to approach you, and your dwelling is unapproachable. He longs to find you, and does not know your dwelling place. He strives to look for you, and does not know your face…
Lord, how long will it be? How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you turn your face away from us? When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten your eyes and show us your face? When will you give yourself back to us?..
Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you, and love you in finding you.
Proslogion of St. Anselm, Office of Readings, Friday, First Week of Advent
Reflection - This came up in the breviary just yesterday, when I was in poustinia, and it struck me as so apt in that setting of prayer and silence, and so beautiful in any setting, that I thought I would share it today on the blog.
Advent, the season of seeking! This passage speaks so strongly and clearly of the longing for God, the hunger to see and know and love God, the sense of our distance from Him, and yet the sense that this very distance and state of non-knowing, non-possession of God is what draws and drives, stirs up and leads on, in our quest.
We live in a world that is determined to drown out the voice of God from without us and quench the hunger for God from within us. Noise, distraction, diversions, and the ceaseless flogging of the busy! busy! busy! pace of the world today drive us many miles away from what St. Anselm in his medieval world of silence and contemplation writes of here.
This reading is a primary example of why we should not despise the writings of the past and dismiss as irrelevant relics of a primitive age of humanity that which comes to us from other centuries. We silly moderns are especially prone to do that with the material coming to us from the Europe of the so-called ‘middle ages’ – an era of indistinct definition and of which historical prejudice and misinformation shapes most of our perception.
We see here that they have a word for us, and that word is ‘quiet down, you guys – there’s something waiting for you in the silence.’ Or rather, someone. Or, Someone. Advent, season of the shhhh! There is such a fear of silence today – so many people cannot bear to turn off their tunes, power down their devices, shut it all off and go within. There is a great panic that seizes them, or some great inner pain and distress that rises up, or some great interior clamour and chaos that overwhelms.
I believe it is this lack of inner silence today, this fear of going into silence and the journey it sets us on, that is one of the hidden drivers of our social and cultural collapse. Waiting for us in the silence is God; waiting for us in the silence is our own true selves, too. Waiting for us in the silence is so many things: hunger and thirst, but also the slaking of this, longing and desire, but also the fulfilment of desire, darkness and doubt, but also the quiet gentle light that radiates in the darkness and quiets the doubt.
It is all there, even if to get there we must pass through a measure of interior noise and turmoil. But we have to choose if we really want to do that or not: “Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labours. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.” Our choice….