Friday, 30 July 2010

Sitting in stillness

"Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching." Luke 10:39

The phrase “sat at the Lord’s feet” is a rabbinic phrase meaning to be a disciple, and a disciple is one who hangs on every word that their Master says, even committing his sayings to memory before trying to live out that teaching in practical ways. Not too far fetched to consider that when Luke came to write his gospel, he may well have incorporated some of the things Mary had learnt while sitting at the feet of Jesus.

But there is more here. Listening to Jesus’ teaching and committing it to memory is one thing, but in order to do that, to absorb the words allowing them to sink deep into mind and heart, there needs to be silence accompanied by the discipline of dealing with those things that invade that silence when the body is still.

The ancient Fathers see in Mary a model for all Christians as they seek the way of salvation. For them and for Christians up until the 16th century salvation was not a moment or a decision, but a life committed to seeking God.

So we find Arsenius a 4th century desert Father who while working as tutor to the Emperor Theodosius’ princes Arcadius & Honorius praying: “Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.” As he waits for the answer to his prayer he hears a voice telling him: “Arsenius, flee from the world and you will be saved.” So Arsenius takes the command literally and sails secretly from Rome to Alexandria where he withdraws to a solitary life in the desert. Here he again prays the same prayer: “Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.” Again he hears a voice this time telling him: “Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the sources of sinlessness.”

Here he learns the truths of the scriptures that salvation is found when we stop doing and start listening. When we still our minds and confront who we are under the spotlight of God’s loving gaze. “In returning and rest you shall be saved, writes Isaiah 1000 years earlier, “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30;15

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