I came down the mountain in Montserrat in sheer silence and throughout my pilgrimage this summer I learned to recognize that sacred silence as gift. Elijah stood on the mountain before the Lord and waited for him to pass by in the 1 Kings reading today. He experienced a wind so strong that it split the mountains and broke the rocks. Then an earthquake, followed by a fire, came. God was not yet speaking to Elijah. At the silence, God had his attention. Wrapping himself in his mantle, Elijah went and stood at the entrance of the cave where God addressed him: What are you doing here? What has he doing there indeed and what did he long to see?
Perhaps it is the psalmist in Psalm 27 that has the answer: My heart says, “Come, seek God’s face!” Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! I discovered this psalm after my sister died and it brought me such peace. It still does every time I read it. The first part of the Gospel acclamation today too is beautiful: Shine on the world like bright stars! I want to do that, to shine on the world like a bright star, and I invite you to join me.
Waiting for the Lord can be hard. I am sure Elijah felt scared when the strong wind rattled his world and when the earthquake shook the ground beneath him, and the fire roared around him. I have been there, especially in this past year–of needing to wait for God, to be strong, and to let my heart take courage. I have friends waiting for the Lord now, waiting for test results, waiting for surgery, waiting for the funeral to bury a loved one, waiting, and waiting until the sheer silence envelopes them.
What are we doing here in that eeriness? Why are we still here? Why have we not run off the mountain or better yet, jumped off the cliff and called it quits? What the heck keeps us vigilant in our seeking God? Really, are we insane? Why wait? Why not walk away–run in the opposite direction? Why keep standing under this standard of Christ who seems to have abandoned us and shaken us to the core?
The entrance antiphon knows why: The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he save me because he delighted in me. We wrap ourselves in our mantles but Christ’s cloak is already over us. The fear that could consume us at earth-shattering news is crushed by God. The hurricanes that blow through our lives, breaking the foundations of our false beliefs, are tamed by a benevolent Creator. God has this in ways that we will never comprehend. We try with our finite minds to figure out what on earth God is doing but we cannot comprehend the Incomprehensible. What in Heaven’s name is going on? It is not of this world and we may never understand this side of Glory. We must simply trust as we stand on the precipice watching the unraveling, hearing the roaring, fearing the worst, that a Sacred Silence will appear and all will be well.
I am still here, God. I have been through the wind, earthquake and fire. I still seek your face. I am waiting for you, trying to be strong and courageous. My mantle is on, under your cloak. I am still here. For you, in the silence, I will wait, and I will be ready to shine at your bidding. You are my protector and you delight in my waiting through it all.
Do you wait for the sheer silence or do you run?
Why are you still here, despite the wind, quake and fire?
God of the Sheer Sacred Silence,
Let me shine for simple delight in you
Let me wait with a heart of courage
for you to finally wrap me in the protection
of your glorious mantle.