Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice.
After service at our parish, a friend and I read T.S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday. Though the entire poem is worth much time and thought, this particular stanza leapt at me. For those who walk among noise. Well, that’s me. That’s us.
One of the co-curricular requirements of my master’s degree was taking a weekend solitary retreat once a semester. One particular winter I remember sitting in a cabin watching rain turn to snow, asking God why it was so hard to hear his voice. Then I wondered how loudly I expected him to shout. It must be loud indeed to be heard over the television, on every night; the constant hum of the worries I fixated on, the people who demanded too much time, the noise of too much ease and not enough thought, the roar of everyday responsibilities. No one could be expected to be heard over such a cacophony.
I know that God has ways of getting our attention despite ourselves, but I want more than that; I want conversation. Lent and times of difficulty have this in common: They are both times for those who, as Eliot says, never seem to find the right time and place for the grace of God, to be left with little else. By taking away a little noise, by quieting our celebrations for a while, by silencing the demands of the flesh, by limiting our daily distractions, we create the space for the Word to resound.
I don’t mind telling you that those first two lines scare me. Where shall the word be found, where will the word Resound? not here, there is not enough silence. May it never be.