Some say that there have been forms of religious life which have adopted a sad and barren silence, perhaps thinking of Quakers but based on evidence from late medieval monasticism.
The original Quaker silent worship currently followed among European Friends is so called because it lacks a liturgy and official preaching by one person. However, it does allow and indeed encourage short vocal expressions from any one, since all are part of the universal priesthood. So Quaker ministers would number about 200,000 in silent worship alone, but in addition they give all of their lives to service and are thereby ministers of God from first to last.
Herein lies the error of those who think that silence equals inaction. The Friends of Christ have a quiet encounter with the Spirit during that weekly hour, recharge themselves spiritually, and rededicate themselves to their choice to be workers for peace and justice. They become true Friends of humanity.
As for the sadness in the silence, that may be a perception for those who affirm it, but not for Friends who best meet the Lord during that silent worship. After such a meeting it is impossible to be sad. Joy is experienced internally during the session and is expressed externally at the end of the hour when each gives his hand to his neighbour. It is impossible not to smile at having tasted together a sense of community, friendship and deep spirituality.
How many so-called Christians rashly express severe judgments of persons and religious groups different from themselves, whose principles and practices they don't know! Even if they did know them, they should avoid judgment. Before rejecting it with disdain, those who do not understand the value of silence for people seeking God should be quiet and learn about it. Then if humility and the desire to learn win out, silent worship should be tried at least once. Then one may say to oneself rather than to others: this suits me or it doesn't; it is congenial to my religious life or it isn't, and in any case I respect it just as I would like respected the form of worship which I have chosen.
Verbania, 5 IX 1991
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