Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Sabbatical/Sabbath Challenge: the noise

Above is a picture of where it all started for me: the cloister of St. Trophime Church in Arles, France. This is not a "pure" example of Romanesque architecture, but a patchwork of styles woven together since the 4th century and many wars. What appeals to me about the cloister (in most every church) is that it is a dedicated interior space removed from both the street and the church. The cloister was not meant for everyday churchgoers, but for the resident clergy to go for prayer, solitude and refreshment. Many cloisters' center, open areas were designed as gardens to replicated the Garden of Eden, complete with trees and wells. The columns facing the garden had capitals with biblical scenes carved in them. A priest or monk could go and park himself near a particularly timely or relevant carving and meditate on the text and truths from that scene.
The cloister helps people leave the noise for solitude, quiet listening and deep reflection. As I am into the fourth week of this precious sabbatical, I fight the noises, the noises that distract, divert and send me off onto other tangents. Because we are internet connected, I fight the noises I bring on to myself with email, web site cruising, news sources (I am a serious news-addict!). I have managed to stay off of facebook with few side effects! I really am in charge of what I let into my head (short of fire alarms and knocks on the door). And I realize how attractive noises are as an excuse to avoid the important issues of the heart that this sabbatical is taking me into. Responding to noises is easier than listening in the silence. Being active and doing is more "satisfying" than sitting and reflecting. Responding to emails is easier than generating new thoughts.
I'm right in the painful middle of the book of Jeremiah. One of the recurring refrains from God through Jeremiah is that the people "do not listen to my voice" and instead choose to listen to all the wrong voices of the false prophets who promise easy victory instead of a painful exile. Listening to/for God's voice requires the companion discipline of "not listening" the the false voices of culture, fear, tribe, comfort.
Today it's raining and will be raining for four or five days. The candle is lit, the coffee is on, I'm done blogging....it's time to listen.


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