One of the great joys of holidays is of course reading. Yesterday afternoon I lay on the lounger in the little sun trap courtyard at the back of our holiday let and read Rowan Williams Silence and Honey Cakes.
Reading about the asceticism and deep wisdom of the desert faithers and mothers while I'm on a sybarritic holiday in the vineyards of the south was a bit of a contrast.
Rowan Williams writes beautifully and very challengingly. The chapters were originally lectures, the content is easy to read. But the gospel call from the desert mystics is raw and clear. Lying on my sybarritic holiday lounger the wisdom, the humour, the spiritual truth, the demands of true prayer and the call to examine my own life honestly and thoroughly brought tears to my eyes many times. Doubtless I am at the moment too easily moved to weeping for many reasons but reading the book and re-reading parts of it today challenges me very clearly once more to know that spirituality is not about "well-being". I don't try to practise some vague discipline of prayer in order to feel better but to discover more of God. Discovering God is not "nice", it isn't a warm fuzzy ... it may end up questioning everything.
Perhaps I just have to accept that I am one on William James' sick souls
Anyway here is an extraordinary passage on language from Silence and Honey Cakes, from the chapter on "fleeing":
"One implication of this is a possible new definition of at least part of what's involved in being a person of faith today (or in any age, really): being a believer is manifest in how we talk, in what we think of language. What is we could recognize people of faith by how they spoke? By an absence of cliché, or of dehamanizing mockery or glib consolations? And what if conversion meant not just taking on a new vocabulary and new ideas but a new style of talking? The "world" is a place where it is barely possible to speak without making things more difficult and destructive, the commonwealth of God is a place where speech is retored, in praise, in patience, in attentive speaking (which is bound up with attentive listening). This is not about any kind of despairing silence, being silent because there is nothing to say or know or because you're always going to be misunderstood. It is more of an expectant quiet, the quiet before the dawn, when we don't want to say anything too quickly for fear of spoiling what's uncovered for us as the light comes."