Her voice is soft and firm. She is clear as a listener, even more clear as a speaker. Her 85 years are hidden in the land line; she mentions peacefulness, incredible gratitude, the Diminishment which is her constant companion, and Stillness, which offers each of us the invitation to know who we are. Her life has been lived within the seclusion of a monastery; her vision embraces a world brokenness and hurt. Enclosure and contemplative life have deepened her understanding of the journeys shared, burdens carried, moments lived. “It is the first Sunday of Advent, a new beginning, ” she says. “You need to find that stillness, that quiet where God can show us who we really are and where we can know that God is with us.”
We talked for a little over 45 minutes, she from the confines of a faraway monastery, me in a parking lot. The conversation ended, but the new year is just beginning.
In this season of Advent, there is the chance to take the time to locate true quiet, real space, and know, if even for a second, the touch of the divine. This is the time to carve minutes and hours of Stillness from frantic hours of activity. In Stillness, the last moments of frenzy can find rest; constant interfacing can yield to alone time. Breathing can define its own purpose, name its pace. The whole self can, at last, taste a sweet completion measured only by attentiveness. The point is to try it, to test capacity for it, to know the expenditure of time and the exchange of doing the ordinary for the sense of trying the extraordinary is well worth the effort.
Stillness is like a well to be drawn upon: something there, to be accessed and utilized, drawn upon and attended to. It is a silent friend, a companion, a comfort. It can become an escort through the journey of life. Like the best friend who can touch base anytime and know familiarity and constancy, Stillness has the capacity for giving and enriching every aspect of life. Stillness can visit in trials, mentor in suffering, companion in transitions, celebrate in those moments of triumph.
Stillness dares us to face Diminishment, to name fragility, to move forward with purpose and patience and to look back with forgiveness and empathy. Stillness is a risk as much as a promise, and Advent is the time to begin the adventure of discovering its depth.