Careful readers of this blog will have noticed that I often write “G-d”, or “The Holy One”. I have adopted this custom from Judaism which has a wise caution against the casual invocation of the name of “The Eternal One”
To name something or someone is (in some fashion) an expression of a very limited human understanding.
When I see a cat I say “there is a cat”.
When I see a friend I say “hello Harry”.
I know these words, but they in no way express the meaning of “cat-ness” or “Harry-ness”.
Similarly I know the word “God”, but knowing that word does not mean that I have any deep inkling of God-ness.
That is why, in solidarity with my Jewish friends, I am sometimes wary of naming G-d.
It is important that my religious experience be rooted in awe and wonder, rather than in ** chumminess.
If the Creator is awesome (and I believe that s/he must be so), then I will pray to that Creator not as “my best friend”, but as to a Being who is entirely above and beyond me - viz: the Holy One.
Such is the awesomeness of G-d that to pray is to be reduced to silence. The psalm writers knew this some 3,000 years ago. See this for instance:
Psalm 62 1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
So it is that I have learned to appreciate G-d in silence, rather than in the often busy, and sometimes frenetic Church services.
1. I began to learn this in 1984 when I became the Rector at St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield, MA. My fabulous predecessor, the Revd Andrew Wissemann had instituted a daily regime of Morning Prayer (9:00 a.m), and Evening Prayer (5:00 p.m.) using the services of the Book of Common Prayer.
We continued this regime under my Rectorship. (1984-2000). In the silences of daily morning and evening prayer I sensed the presence of the Holy One.
2. In 1999 I spent a week at the Taize Community in Burgundy, FR. (Check with Google for more information about Taize). The worship there – three times a day – includes a ton of silence – experienced in the presence of some 3,000 other people.
It was in that in that shared silence (which at first I resisted) that I yet again had a palpable sense of the awesome presence of the awful G-d.
As the Psalmist wrote “For God alone my soul waits in silence”
(** Of course I understand that God in Jesus Christ calls me a friend. But good friends often have their most intimate times in shared silence).