Wednesday, December 11

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
[from the liturgy of St. James (4th CE) Trans. Gerald Moultrie 1864]

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descenders,
Our full homage to demand.

This hymn, which tradition ascribes to James the Less was found in the liturgy of Jerusalem and begins by acknowledging the proper response to one's encounter with God.  One is to be dumbfounded, silent, and reverent.  I assume that James had in mind those places where God says in effect, "Everyone who has created a universe -  feel free to say something.  Everyone else, shut-up and sit down" [Job chapter 38, and Psalms 96-97 come to mind].

I cannot help wondering about my wordy prayer life when I encounter a hymn like this one.  I so often approach God with my laundry list of concerns and complaints.  I barge into the presence of God and begin speaking.  But my wordy form of prayer is not the only way to pray.  The poet Mary Oliver has helped me with her poem "Praying."


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence!  Today in prayer let us at least begin our time in devotion to God with silence - deep and attentive silence in which we may begin to hear the voice of God.

Daily Collect:
You, Lord, are the One who is constantly calling us.  And yet, it is only with the deepest silence within us that we can hear your invitations to become fully human.  So help us today to listen; to keep silence in a posture of trusting expectation that you are calling and we can hear your summons.  In the name of the One who comes with blessings in His hand.  Amen.

Paul Lang