St. Augustine warned that our words will always fall short of the incomprehensible mystery of God, but “we speak, lest we be silent.” Our speech is a gift that we offer to clarify our understanding and to call forth new horizons in faith.
Lectionary readings for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany urge humans to craft words to bear witness to the workings of God. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent . . . “ (Isaiah 62:1) writes the prophet; his speaking will transform the identity of a people who have experienced exile. No longer shall they be called “Forsaken” and their land be described as “Desolate”; rather the people will be called “My Delight is in Her” and the land “Married.” Through these spirit-inspired prophetic words, a new horizon of hope emerges.
The epistle reading reminds Corinthian believers of their past: “You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.” (1 Corinthians 12:2) Paul follows this assessment of the impotence of silent idols with this teaching:
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit bears witness to the promise of redemption through the instrument of human speech.
The Gospel reading recounts the wedding in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus’ offers his first “sign” (John 2:1-11). Mary offers a prelude to this mighty work when she says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” And through his spoken instruction, water becomes wine and the hosts of the wedding are given honor for their provision.
Strategic speaking is a critical skill and arises out of meditative quiet. During our week at the Abbey, we discovered anew the power of silence to provide space for new insight. Although the Benedictines of Conception Abbey are not a contemplative monastic order, they practice silence during a part of each meal and at a designated time each evening as the whole campus observes “The Great Silence.” I found myself eagerly embracing that time.
In this liturgical season when we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, it could be wise for us to observe the patterns of silence and retreat that made Jesus’ speaking so powerful. Filled with the Spirit, he calls a new reality into being—the Reign of God on earth. Remembering what he said, through the Spirit that indwells us, will allow our speaking to be transformative, also.
Molly T. Marshall
To learn more about Central as a formative, creative, and progressive
seminary, continue visiting our website.