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Sheer Silence

By Canon Cate Edmonds

…after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”
– 1Kings 19:12

Travelling to the Cathedral I often listen to the C of E Morning Prayer on my phone, connected into my hands-free system. When the service is over, there is just silence. The radio does not come on automatically but there is just a noticeable stillness. It reminds me of the verse from 1 Kings19:12. Elijah has been fleeing from persecution and needs to hide. He is told by God to stand on the mountain and as he does so there is a great rock splitting wind, then an earthquake and then fire and after all this noise there is silence. The Bible describes it as sheer silence. What a wonderful description, sheer silence.

That is what I experience on those occasions when Morning Prayer has finished, sheer silence and it allows me to reflect on what I have heard in that service. Sometimes taking these thoughts and musings into my day ahead. Sadly, in our lives sheer stillness is often difficult to find. There is so much noise around us; not just through our ears but our eyes also, in fact through all of our senses.

Over the past week, we have had several periods of silence in the various Remembrance Services. How do we spend those two minutes? Do we spend the whole time praying for those who made the ultimate sacrifice? Do we pray for peace or do our minds drift off to other things?

Elijah in the silence heard the voice of God speaking to him. Do we give ourselves the space and time to listen to God? Are we silent enough to appreciate that God may be speaking to us, not directly in words but through all our senses in the stillness, the quiet around us?

As we move towards Advent and then Christmas, there will be much noise, Christmas songs and Carols will be heard in every shop, in every café and bar, and Christmas adverts bombard us on the TV. The atmosphere of our Christmas Market will be cheered even through rain by the sounds of traditional carols and popular festive songs. Finding stillness and silence at this time of year can be difficult. But it is important for us to do so, in order to give ourselves time to reflect on the season and to listen out to what God may be saying to us. The two minutes of silence at Remembrance Services forces us to stop, to give ourselves a few moments of silence to reflect, to pray, and to just be still.

Perhaps we need to force ourselves to be silent for a couple of minutes on a regular basis throughout the busy season to come. The occasional sheer silence is not frightening but can be uplifting and revitalizing. I’m sure we will find it helpful, allowing us to appreciate the noise around us. Maybe, like Elijah, we will hear the word of God, words of encouragement, direction and support. I certainly will continue to enjoy the silence after Morning Prayer even as I’m driving.