For as long as I can recall, my mom has attended St. John’s Advent Quiet Days. When I was little, this day was shrouded in mystery – not unlike Advent itself- as my mom would announce where she was going and disappear to a church that I’d never been to (the beautiful St. Columba’s Inverness). The most mysterious part of the whole concept to me, however, was the idea that she could be still and silent for those hours and just think – just be. Stillness and silence have always been a little bit difficult for me. And yet stillness and silence are things that I treasure. So, over the years, I’ve realized that my definitions of stillness and silence were too limited.
I don’t believe that stillness is equivalent to a lack of movement. Rather, it could be seen as a conscious state of being, a connecting to the earth beneath us and the spirit around us and fully realizing just how enmeshed we are within this living world and this moment. Silence is less about a lack of sound and more about our listening.
I have found labyrinths to be incredible devices for seeking out God, not through getting lost in thought and sitting without a sound, but in embodying the act of reflection and prayer. Labyrinths, found throughout a number of different traditions and known by a multitude of names, serve humanity as physical tools for seeking that which transcends the physical realm. While the purpose is to get to the center – symbolic of the divine – the practice of the labyrinth is about the process of walking it. We know we are on the right path, and thus, we are able to walk in reverence. The act of walking itself is the meditation.
In many ways, the season of Advent is a labyrinth. In the time leading up to the birth of Christ, the world was not quiet and motionless – rather it was full of conscious journey. Mary and Joseph, the Magi, the shepherds… they were all moving alongside the spirit as they traveled to Bethlehem. There would have been no Christmas as we know it without this path.
So, I would like to offer some thoughts for reflection – as we may not be meeting in person for an Advent Quiet Day this year, but we all have the opportunity to seek out new forms of stillness and silence on this labyrinthine path we are walking towards Christmas. You can journal about these, reflect on them with loved ones, or just be with your thoughts surrounding them. Let any ground beneath you be the labyrinth, and wherever the spirit moves you be your path.
As I walk…What does the ground beneath me feel like?
Who has walked on this spot before me?
What sounds are filling this “silence”?
Am I walking alone?
How am I a part of my surroundings?
What has my path toward God looked like so far?
Who do I walk alongside on this path?
When do I feel most connected to the path I follow?
How do I come closer to myself, and God, by journeying further from what I have known?