Quiet

I need quiet. And I’m pretty sure a lot of you do, too.

SERVING IN one of the largest of our parishes in NYC— let alone the USA—with an office abutting a busy thoroughfare, an animated office environment, a school with hundreds of elementary- and middle-schoolers, and so on and so on, makes finding that quiet time and place quite a challenge.

Anyone who’s been in my office has seen this. When I’m in the office, this is my quiet place during the day. I often have a candle lit. I stop to pray occasionally. It’s the center of my attention when I look up from my desk.

At its center is the Cross. Christ crucified. Between two jeering thieves. Above mocking crowds. Deafened by the silent screaming pain of wounds and strain, and a heart pounding in the eardrums. Crying out, “why have you forsaken me!”

Gasping. Dying. Dead.

Quiet.

What better way to drown out mundane clatter—both that outside my head and the grumbling voice of self-pity and annoyance inside it—than to recall the noise endured for us by Christ? What better way to find gratitude for noise engendered by peace and freedom, not by war? What better way to be revived than to recall Jesus’ life-giving death?

I need quiet. We all do.

I suggest the Cross of Christ as a place to discover it, no matter where we might be.

How are you dead?

Mural in the guesthouse at Holy Protection Monastery, White Haven, Pennsylvania.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God”

Psalm 50 (LXX)

Are we dead in sins, or dead to sin?

Christ resurrects us from the “death” of sinful living and constantly giving into temptations, and helps us put sin to death (cf. Colossians 3:5) in us. He cleans our pierced hearts of the poison deposited there by the arrows of temptation.

St. Syncletica on thoughts

“The soul, like a ship, when it is swallowed up by external waves, is overwhelmed by internal bilge water. Certainly, we are destroyed sometimes by external actions, and other times we are led astray by internal thoughts. Therefore, we must watch out for encounters with external spirits, and drain out the impurities of internal thoughts; and always be vigilant of thoughts, for they occur continuously. In reference to the external waves, when sailors cry out, often their salvation occurs by means of the nearest boat. But the bilge waters, often while the sea is silent and the sailors are sleeping, come in and drown them.”

Do not be ashamed

“Do not be ashamed.”

People would think you were insane if you had multiple physical maladies and didn’t go to a physician for help. They’d think you were even crazier if you were trying to diagnose and heal yourself. Yet because our spiritual maladies and wounds are often invisible to the eye (either to our own or to that of others), we become pathologically comfortable lying in our own spiritual filth, covered in spiritual sores, and we avoid a great gift of Christ to his Church: forgiveness of sins in confession.

Do not be ashamed to begin the process of cleansing and healing.

St. Isaac of Syria on editing our life

“For so long as we are in this world, God does not affix His seal either to what is good or to what is evil…”

Life in the world is like a manuscript of writings that is still in rough draft. When a man wishes or desires to do so, he can add something or subtract from it, and make changes in the writings. But the life in the world to come is like documents written on clean scrolls and sealed with the royal seal, where no addition or deletion is possible. Therefore, so long as we are found in the midst of change, let us pay heed to ourselves; and while we have power over the manuscript of our life, which we have written by our own hand, let us strive earnestly to add to it by leading a good manner of life, and let us erase form it the failings of our former life. We have power to erase our debts from it as long as we are here. And God will take into account every change we make in it, so that we may be deemed worthy of eternal life before we go before the King and He sets His seal upon it. For so long as we are in this world, God does not affix His seal either to what is good or to what is evil, even up to the moment of our departure when the service of our fatherland is completed and we set out upon our journey.

St. Isaac of Syria. The Ascetical Homilies. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011. Homily 62. [Text and image.]