on 6 October 2011
This delightful book dropped into my lap as a present at Christmas 2010 (although the cover had a tree image instead of the current image. There seem to have been several cover designs for this book). As is my wont with books I cherished it turning it over to read the blurb on the back cover. 'The most important journey in life is the journey inwards, to the depths of our own being. It is a journey we are all invited to make. It takes us beyond words and images into silence' These were the first few sentences greeting me. And there I had been looking at an image and reading the words. I stopped for a moment, closed my eyes and rested in the silence holding the book in my hand.
The book revealed its hidden treasure. It summarised and reinforced all the words I had read from those spiritual writers such as St Augustine, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, John Main, Anthony de Mello to name but a few who have interpreted the message of Christianity. St Augustine's writings are particularly prominent as Benignus O'Rourke is an Augustinian Friar at Clare Priory in Suffolk (a retreat centre). And of course this book reinforces the source - the words of Christ in the Gospels and particularly the Gospel of John. So simply and so sweetly the author has condensed the message of the Way of Silent Prayer that Christ invited us to undertake by withdrawing to a quiet place, shutting the door and listening to God. This invitation to just 'be' with God and listening to the silence is what this book is asking of us.
In 64 chapters Father Ben reveals to the reader the benefits of regular silent prayer to discover the depths of our being and resting in God. By regularly sitting in the Presence of God, making no demands of the divine nor of ourselves we begin to uncover the hidden treasure within. It might be covered in dust and weeds might have grown up around the treasure but by acceptance of our findings and careful removal we come to the gems within and we can then begin to polish our inmost treasure. The 64 Chapters describe the journey beautifully. Yes, there are ups and downs as with any journey but throughout there is a feeling that there is always support and love along the way and that there is honey and a wellspring just waiting to be tapped.
The book is divided into seven parts. Part One describes and reveals what our lost treasure is and why we need to discover it. Part Two - 'Be Still and Know' guides us as to how we might start this journey to the lost treasure and what we might find as we proceed. Here we learn how we might calm the chaos in our busy minds. Part Three - We shall rest and we shall see - is about abandoning our busyness and resting and waiting patiently - sometimes we seek too earnestly when we need to just rest allowing God in. We stop trying to achieve anything and rest letting God carry us. We become observers of what is happening on the outside.
Part Four - Discovering our True Selves - Slowly our perception of life begins to clear and we discover the ground of our being that has always been there but we have not had the eyes to see it. This is a beautiful part and includes chapters on seeing with new eyes, discovering the Teacher within, discovering the eye of the heart, and brings clarity and resonance to the Gospel stories of the true vine and the living waters within. We learn of compassion and healing of buried wounds and how we come to know ourselves much better and by doing so - wheat and chaff - we die to the old self. This is a key section of the book - perhaps the core.
Part Five - God Heals Our Brokeness - this part is about becoming whole again and discovering our inner beauty that was always there. Part Six - The Fruits of Silence - here we discover the gifts of regular practice of silent prayer which are so worth the discipline. Part Seven - Our Return Journey - potential deep inner peace, an ear more attuned to listening to God, praising the ground of our being and a sharing of what we have found with others. There is a beautiful little story from Herman Hesse's 'The Glass Bead Game' about a young man taking a music exam with music Master in Chapter 58 which illustrates our relationship with God as a partner. And Chapter 64 resonates with my rambler's heart as it talks of us singing praise as we walk along life's path.
Absolutely beautiful and with stories of real people finding something of the peace that silence brings. So simply put and so deep. There are many sentences I could take out of this book, stick on the wall and reflect on in lectio divina. However, this is a book first and foremost about contemplative prayer - resting in silence in the presence of God asking for nothing or 'nada' as St John of the Cross would say and expecting nothing but by so doing finding deep, deep fulfilment and a basis of infinite love to share with others. What a journey we are invited to share. And all it takes is to sit in silence for a short period every day for the rest of our lives. So, so simple.
Recommended reading. (Since reading this book I have listened to some of the talks by Father Ben on the Clare Priory website and they help to reinforce what he has written in his book. Amen).
on 21 October 2013
If you are a beginner at this "praying" lark, then this is a wonderful companion to take on your journey. If you are an old hand, a struggler, stuck, or growing tepid, then this is a wonderful prayer companion for you, too.
Benignus O'Rourke, an Augustinian, is a wise, compassionate and readable guide for anyone wanting to come closer to God. He has opened his heart to his readers, and speaks truly. What he said really resonated with me, and I suspect with
many, many others. The chapters are short, very readable.
Buy it for yourself, or for a friend. It will be a book to keep by you forever.