“Silence is God’s first language,” wrote mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century. His quote was later expanded by 20th century monk Thomas Keating, who added, “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”
So how do we do this in our fast-paced, multitasking, technology-driven 21st century world? Noise follows us everywhere we go. You can’t even sit in silence anymore in most restaurants or waiting rooms. We have TVs, radios, smartphones, music, interviews, reality shows, and seemingly endless chatter. Silence, however, must be pursued. And sacred spaces help us find it.
Sacred spaces. The very phrase evokes feelings and memories we long to relive. Most of us can think of special places we’ve visited that we consider sacred, though we may define the term in different ways. I’ve experienced a few such spaces in my life, and they’re all special for the same reason: I experienced God’s presence there.
My first sacred space was the church at the foot of the street where I grew up in Puerto Rico. It was the smallest church I’ve ever seen, simple and completely ordinary. The typical Sunday service was packed with twenty people. I don’t remember any of the sermons preached there. We had no choir or Sunday school. There were no bells rung that I can recall. But I do recall the peace I felt walking in, while I prayed, and as we sang together, and the profound sense of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. All that, I remember well, and just thinking about it brings back showers of comfort and peace.
Canterbury Retreat Center is another special sacred space. I’ve been blessed to participate in retreats, icon workshops, and conferences there that helped me grow in my faith. And every time I’m there, I know I’m walking on sacred grounds.
I believe God’s Spirit dwells at Canterbury.
A sacred space is a place where we experience God’s presence. It is more about God’s Spirit than it is about the place itself. And the Holy Spirit is present at Canterbury. Places like my neighborhood church and Canterbury Retreat Center help modern-day followers of Jesus find outer silence so we may experience inner stillness. They help us be still and rest in God, that we may return to the noise of the world changed—renewed and refreshed by God’s very presence and the Voice we can only hear in stillness.
Sacred spaces say, Come away and sit with God, close enough to hear His voice speak to your soul. Our part is to be intentional and pursue this stillness and silence. Our part is to leave the noise and go to that sacred space where we may “be still and know” that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Join me to experience the sacred space at Canterbury Retreat Center on December 5-6, 2014. Set aside these two days (before the busyness of the Christmas season begins) to worship, pray, and grow closer to God.
“Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” (Mother Teresa)