Today is Trinity Sunday; our faith tells us there is but one God. In the one God, there are three persons-Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are very distinct -the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father and The Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Each of these persons is truly God and still there is but one God. We cannot understand it, we would not believe it if God had not told us.
What is more important? To know about God or to know God? I recently saw an extraordinary movie, a movie you will likely never see. It had a very limited distribution and has very little talking. There is no background music, no plot and is three hours long. It is called, “The Great Silence.” It is about life in a Carthusian Monastery. The changes of the seasons and the rhythms of the monk’s liturgical hours set the mood. The solitude of the monks, their prayer and study make it a riveting, compelling film.
It is a slow-motion call to awareness of what really counts. It is in sharp contrast to so many other films that we see – unending violence, exploitation, greed and betrayal. We are not all called to be Monks. However, we can learn from their way of life. They tell us a central and simple truth about life. A truth that our overactive world often forgets and is an acknowledgment of our dependence on God.
We live in a world of war and violence. While we are in the midst of a global pandemic, our culture is not defined by celebrity status anymore. Instead, our new heroes have become nurses, grocery store workers, and truck drivers. It is a source of some hope to me that this is a time when people can sit in silence before the Tribune God. These difficult times have shown us that we all have a human ache for God.
Many drug addicts and alcoholics would say that they drink and drug to relieve stress or to relax, have fun and forget their problems. It enables them to fit in with the crowd. As they go through rehab, they slowly come to realize that there is something else. There is a Higher power, a great silence, an identity, a vision that will give them an anchor.
I remember speaking with a storyteller, Dan, who entertained at children’s parties. At a Halloween party, he turned off the lights and told a ghost story. His voice got quieter and quieter until the moment when the ghost grabs the poor victim. Then he raised his voice loudly and said something like “gotcha” and the kids screamed and jumped up. All except one little girl who sat in her seat smiling, holding something around her neck. He asked her if she liked the story, “Oh yes, she said, “but when you came to the scary part I didn’t jump. You see when the lights went out I know it was going to be about ghosts. So I held onto my crucifix.”
She showed him the gold crucifix around her neck, “you should get one too,” she said. “I don’t have one but I should,” Dan said, “You see, I am Jewish.” The little girl looked up at him and said, “So was Jesus.” In an article, he wrote on storytelling, Dan said, “I have often remembered that little girl’s good advice. When you know something scary is coming, you must find and hold onto your own source of reassurance and wisdom.
You must have a steady beacon to guide you along the way. The monks remind us of who that beacon is. Without which our souls shrivel and life becomes unmoored and we get lost.”
I do not think any of us are Monks; most of us are very busy people. We just do not have time to spend long hours in church contemplating the divine. Nevertheless, I ask you to recall the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus visits their house and Martha is busy being a good host. While Mary sits at the feet of Jesus so not to miss a Word He says.
Most of us see the kind of opposition between the activism of Martha and the contemplation of Mary. Jesus’s remark that Mary has chosen the better part is not to dismiss the business of Martha. It is meant to underscore balance, as if Jesus were saying to the Martha’s of the world, “Stop what you are doing and reclaim your center. We all need to be fed by God.” The monks would call it going into the great silence. It is connecting to the beacon, the anchor. Realizing that we all belong to something larger than ourselves.
It will not matter if you do not understand or know much about the mysteries of our faith. Like the blessed Trinity, the important thing is that you know God.