Descent of the Holy Spirit


When the Whole Creation groans in travail . . .

During the earliest days of Christianity, when the followers of Jesus the Christ were under nearly constant persecution, the faithful were often unable to gather together to celebrate the mysteries of the Eucharist. Drawing on their inheritance from Jewish Temple and Synagogue, they continued to pray morning and evening, often simply in family groupings or in solitude.

As the worst of the Roman persecutions abated, and Christianity became a legal religion in the empire, regular gatherings in churches were allowed and even encouraged. Yet many souls—both men and women—felt called to a more deliberate and intense discipleship, and retreated to the mountains and deserts to follow Christ through their lives of prayer in silence, solitude, and simplicity. Eventually these hermits and anchorites became so numerous, they began to gather together to share their lives of prayer and service while living communally in monasteries. One of the oldest of these (in continuous existence since the early 4th Century) is the Monastery of St. Catherine, at the base of Mount Sinai in the Egyptian desert.

Throughout the long history of the Earth, humanity (indeed, all of God’s creation) has been threatened in various ways, times, and places by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, War, Pestilence. Our time is no different. The coronavirus, COVID-19, is simply the one we face in 2020. And just as our ancestors down through the ages have done, we will fight these threats with all our medical, technological, and political might.

And we will pray, just as they did—in our churches, synagogues, and temples (when we can), in our homes with our loved ones, in our solitudes (whether by choice, or by circumstance), remembering always the elderly, the homeless, and the dying, and those who care for them.

. . . we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with
sighs too deep for words.

Our prayers will take many forms: the familiar and beloved words of liturgy and hymns, or the simpler prayer of the heart, “Lord, have mercy.”. And perhaps we may find our prayers are “too deep for words” and we fall silent before the immensity of the perils of our time, but even more profoundly, we fall silent before the sure and certain hope that we and the entirety of creation are eternally held in the Heart of God.

. . . For I am sure that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the
love of God in Christ our Lord.
(Romans 8: 22, 26, 38)

During this time of pestilence, and the “physical distancing” it requires, perhaps some of you may wish to explore an ancient and simpler form of daily prayer, which you may find in my BREVIARY of HOLY SILENCE on the page SONGS of the SOUL. I will be posting other relevant material on this page in the near future.

With blessings and prayer for God’s creation and all who dwell therein.
The Rev. Susan Creighton
16 March 2020

4 Responses to “The Prayer of Holy Silence”

  • “. . . we do not know how to pray as we ought,
    but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with
    sighs too deep for words.” Thank you for this particular reminder!

    May God help us all. This is a wonderful post.

  • greta:

    hi, susan, i know you from over on pen’s blog. thank you for this link to the breviary of the holy silence. i’m one of those stay-at-home hermits who is always looking for extra resources. this one is a treasure. bless you for sharing!

  • Greta (via Pen’s blog!) Good to ‘meet’ you, and I’m glad you are finding my Breviary of Holy Silence helpful. More and more in these days of the global coronavirus I find myself thinking that there is such a desperate need for silence around the world. Perhaps that is our job–you and I and others like us–to “hold the silence” for those who are on the front lines, so to speak. I’m nearly ready to post my “Psalms and Canticles for the Soul’s Ascent” which you may find useful to use with the Breviary. It will be linked on the page “Prayer of Holy Silence”.

    Blessings to you, and prayers that you stay well. Susan+

  • greta:

    i love your thought to ‘hold the silence’ for all those who can’t stop or stay home or rest. we can only hope that our silence will bring some healing into the world. it has been central to my life for a very long time but never has it seemed so important as it does now. especially the silence following compline as we head into the darkest hours. so i am holding silence with you and all hermits gathered around the world. peace to you and prayers for health and safety.

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