“For language to have meaning, there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him. For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence.”                   Thomas Merton

The conversation about our prayer book continues. A liturgical revision will take place, and we are debating how and what that will entail. However, in conversations happening in other parts of the Convention Center and The Episcopal Church, there is a more inclusive reimagining that is surfacing. This is a revision and renewal, not of our prayer book alone, but in our life of prayer as Episcopalians and followers of Christ.

Discussions about revising the prayer book bring out strong feelings and opinions. If we are going to argue, it is good to argue about our prayers. It is hopeful that we are a church that cares about prayer, and at this General Convention, prayer has taken center stage. With changes in language, additions to the prayer book, and revivals, it seems the Episcopal Church is being called by the Holy Spirit into a renewal of its life of prayer. 

Many people in the Episcopal Church pray and believe in prayer. There is no way a church can last for long without a life of prayer. Prayer is the way we draw near to Christ and Christ draws near to us. Without prayer, we are no church at all because it means we have turned away from God. 

Luckily, the Episcopal Church includes people specifically devoted to the life of prayer. This life of prayer holds the church together and possesses the way forward for a nation and world in conflict and chaos. We need these brothers and sisters called specifically to the life of prayer, and some of them have been present at our General Convention—monastics in their traditional and new expressions. 

Of course, one need not be a monk or nun to live a life of prayer, but it can help. During this General Convention, brothers and sisters in Orders and Communities and outside them gathered to talk about what the vocation of a life of prayer looks like today. While many traditional forms of monastic communities are made up of older members, there are new vocations throughout the church, and communities are opening themselves up to a new generation of monks and nuns in the Episcopal Church. For example, the Society of St John the Evangelist has a website for those considering a call to monastic life: catchthelife.org. They describe vocation as “something that illuminates your heart, mind, soul and whole being.” When we talk about prayer book revision, it must come from a desire for this kind of illumination of our whole being. Rather than get too caught up in the words, let us also listen to the church’s longing for this true and full life of prayer. The SSJE brothers continue, “for those who are called, the monastic life is the most passionate vocation of life: a life of intentionality, total dedication, and complete immersion.” We need those who are called to this life of total and complete devotion as it can inspire the entire church. 

The Episcopal Church, in some way, needs to revise and renew its life of prayer. One way to do this is to think about how we are supporting our monastic brothers and sisters and those who consider a call to this life. For more information about our Episcopal communities or to get in contact with someone who can help you learn more, visit the CAROA (Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas) or NAECC (National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities) websites and reach out with questions about your own call, no matter what stage, to the monastic life or with how to support someone who may be discerning this call. caroa.net and/or naecc.net 

 

To continue this conversation started at General Convention like the facebook page: Traditional and New: Religious Communities in The Episcopal Church.

Posted by Eileen O'Brien