Saturday, December 15, 2012

Programming the silence...

The notation of music is always puzzling to those beginning music lessons (usually piano).  You have notes, timing, and then silence -- programmed silence -- we call "rests".  Rests are not optional silences.  Take out the rests and you destroy the music.  You cannot skip them or ignore them.  The music only makes sense because of them.

It is like punctuation.  They are the pauses that make communication possible.  They give us pause to listen and to take in what we have heard.  They give definition to what is said and convey both emotion and intensity.  Skip the punctuation and you cannot read the written text nor can you understand the spoken word.

Faith requires these pauses.  Continual talking to God without leaving room to listen and hear turns prayer from conversation to monologue.  Continual use of the voice will render a person hoarse.  Our voices need rest.  Our minds need rest.  Our hearts need rest.  Our lives need rest.  Faith offers us rest, the pause that refreshes, to use a church sign motto.

Remember Elijah who did not hear God in the sound but in the silence -- the still small voice that could only be heard because of the silence around it.  How often don't we sing of silence (and how seldom do we practice it!)?  Let all mortal flesh keep silence...

Hymn singing and chant requires us to pause, to allow silence to speak.  From the breaths we take to keep singing or speaking to the rests that tell us when to pause, the music of worship is not just the notes.  Indeed, the key to a great organist is sensitivity to this sense of timing, the art of the pause, if you will.

Our lives in Christ involve and even require moments of silence.  Prayer is not only the words we think or say out loud but the groans and sighs too deep for words that still speak.  Hearing God means silencing other things --  most especially our own voice and incessant need to talk.  Honestly, the cell phone has only encouraged our constant need to talk about ourselves.  We laugh at the tee shirt that says "Everyone is entitled to my opinion" but the media make it possible for us to speak constantly -- from voice to texting to liking to comments.  But repentance is born of silence -- the silence that allows us to hear the Word of the Lord.  This is the physical silence of the pause and the spiritual silence of attention that moves from self to God and through God to others.

We need to listen for the pauses to be able to hear what others day.  We need to pay attention to the rests to play the music or sing the song.  We need to silence our minds and hearts before we can hear God speak to us.  Silence is as necessary as the sounds themselves.  In music.  In art.  In life.  In faith.

No comments: