Yesterday, we finally took down our Christmas tree and the icicle lights hanging from the front porch awning. While the feast of Epiphany may have been moved to a Sunday, I still keep my tree and Christmas decor up until January 6th. With the days in the Northeast still so short, it is good to have light in the midst of darkness. Lights that I hang on the wall of our dining room to brighten the family table will stay up until March or April to try to keep up good cheer!
In a couple of days, the Christmas season will end and we will briefly be back in ordinary time before a Lent that seems to be coming much too soon. Meanwhile, my academic classes have not yet started, and while I have plenty of syllabus preparation and professional writing to undertake for spring conferences, there is also an opportunity in my day for more rest and silence than usual. The end of Christmas can leave me feeling a little blue, with the celebrations over and leaving behind extended family for the ordinary day to day. But there’s a quieter and softer kind of beauty in the dark and silence of these January days that I increasingly appreciate.
In the Gospel reading for today (Luke 12:5-16), Jesus heals a leper, who goes and tells the priest, and the news of his healing spreads quickly. The scene suggests a lot of talk, with the news spreading from person to person. Jesus, however, goes off to pray in a deserted place.
Silence can be a beautiful gift. It’s not simply the absence of words, but rather a different mode of communicating. As my own prayer life has shifted from more imaginative prayer to a simpler desire to be in God’s presence, and maybe talk or maybe connect in non-verbal ways, my desire for silence has sweetened. The most basic way to connect to God (or to another person) is to love, and yet no words can fully capture the nature of love. Love requires a spaciousness that words cannot give. Presence communicates where words fail. In silent prayer, we make ourselves present and available to God and then let God do the work and to relate to us. Silence purifies us of our selves and our narrow, wordy concerns, and allows for a deeper aspect of self and other to emerge.
We see Jesus model for us the need to balance ministry and activity with times of rest and repose, times to heal and times simply to be. In silence, we find many unexpected blessings.
*Picture of moon and Venus by B Rostad, shared via Wikimedia Commons