Some years ago in a Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault, we learned a chant that was quite instructive for me. We sang: Listen, listen, wait in silence listening for the One from whom all mercy flows.” It was a very quieting verse and, sung over and over, had a mesmerizing effect, bringing us to stillness as we began our periods of Centering Prayer. I found those words again this morning in a translation of Psalm 130, verse 6, where the psalm was subtitled “The Call for Healing.” Even without the music, the words of that verse themselves could lead one to feel the healing presence of God, the One from whom all mercy flows. I was grateful for the additional commentary on the psalm, however, which emphasized the possibility contained in those words. See if you don’t agree.
The contemplative tradition of silent listening in prayer began in the ancient world and has strengthened across the centuries. Prayerful listening in the modern world is called “the Prayer of Quiet” in which thought, speech, image, and imagination are stilled, and one remains silently alert and expectant before the Holy One. Such a form of silence, however, is not inert; it is an active, open and attentive space. After a time of mental or imagistic prayer, enter into a period of silent meditation. Imagine yourself listening for the voice of God who speaks softly in the heart…It often takes time to heal the wounds in our experience. Like healing for the human body, spiritual and psychic healing is a process that unfolds through stages in time. The healing mercy of forgiveness is the medicine. (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.334)
In this noisy, busy world where we find so much sadness and regret, sitting is such a posture of silent expectation of God’s merciful presence might be just the thing that brings us peace today.