The true celebration of CHRISTMAS is an invitation to “inner silence”, where we learn to live with opposites.
A Jewish Rabbi, teaching the Talmud to a group of students, asked them what they saw on the page. All said that they saw the “words ” on it. None of them had noticed the “white spaces that separated the words”. Were it not for these spaces, the words would become unintelligible. What is more, he pointed out, these spaces formed the background and the context I which what was written could be understood.
God has been described as a sphere whose circumference is everywhere, but whose centre is nowhere. We are enfolded by the Spirit and it is the context in which we live our daily lives. Most of the time, however, our activities are so closely juxtaposed, that like words not separated by spaces in between them, they seem meaningless. Our proximity to one another as we jostle for space in public transport systems only ends up as our being a juxtaposition of solitudes.
Social networking affords us the opportunity not only to be more connected to others, but more disconnected from the core of our being. For those who still, somehow, manage to make the time, the spiritual becomes an ‘add-on’ that often fails to load since the basic operating system is out of sync and out of date.
The “spiritual” is embedded in our collective subconscious. The Christmas story is about our being awakened to its presence, like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, who are characterised by their state of wakefulness.
Individuals have always been conscious of the presence of the Divine. The history of religions reveals that there has been a progressive deepening in the understanding of God’s presence. It has evolved from God’s presence in nature, controlling its various elements and reflecting his glory in creation to a localised presence in temples of worship. The celebration of Christmas draws our attention to the fact that God is not only with us but also within us. We do not have to ‘go into his presence’. The outward journey to places of worship and pilgrimages to holy place are meant to direct us to the journey inwards where we experience his real presence with us. It becomes the source, meaning and purpose of everything we say, everything we do. God is the context in which we live our lives. The written word begins its existence only when it is placed on a page. It owes its being to the space that surrounds it.
Creation is the revelation of God’s silence —— the space between the words ——- in which his presence is felt and experienced. The poet Kabir laughed when he was told that the fish in the ocean were thirsty. We often thirst for God’s presence, unaware that we are surrounded by it.
Contrary to what we might expect, the true celebration of Christmas is an invitation to inner silence. It is a silence in which we recognise our connectedness by being enfolded within it. The journey into the world of silence is a journey that takes us back from the world of dissipation into wholeness.
By its very nature silence cannot be exploited. The power of silence is its ability to mediate the irreconcilable. In the realm of silence, irreconcilable differences can co-exist without tension, because silence is non-judgemental, and differences travel toward one another with no need to swallow or disintegrate or demolish each other. Silence frees us from the expectation that we can understand and resolve the myriad irreconcilable elements of existence. Journeying into the ‘womb of silence” in meditation, we discover the capacity for co-existence : we learn to live with opposites.
May the silence of that first Christmas night be the harbinger of peace on earth to all people of goodwill.
————– CHRISTOPHER MENDONCA (Speaking Tree)