Bridgend Quakers - Crynwyr Penybont ar Ogwr
Receiving the Light
If you keep on waiting, even for a bus, it feels if it will never
come. But just relax and lo! It appears and you have to
scramble on. But it is easier to relax if you are better prepared.
If I get up early enough to wander round the garden, delight in
the flowers I pick, read some Quaker Faith & Practice and still
drive slowly to meeting, my attitude is calmer, more welcoming,
more open, more loving.
I know this, yet still so often fail to do it.
St John of the Cross, one of Christendom’s greatest mystics,
has advice for when the light just will not come. ‘What we must
do in the dark night,’ he writes,‘is leave the soul free and
unencumbered, at rest from knowledge and from thought. We
must not trouble as to what to think or what to meditate –
be content, rather, to wait on God peacefully, attentively,
without anxiety. Not straining to experience or to perceive him.
Such efforts only disquiet the tranquillity granted to the soul in
Rosemary Hartill and Vera Dolton [dialogue], Faith into
Action: All Journeys have a Beginning, The Friend,
3 August 2007
Discernment is a bit like wisdom: we sense what it means, but
we get a bit stumped if we have to explain it or describe it. It
means sorting out right from wrong. It is a process rather than a
result, but we use it to represent a variety of different processes:
or at least what we do in groups this size, and larger; what we
do in smaller groups (like our own meetings) and what we do
individually, in private….
It means listening to God. That’s a problem for many of us as
we have not found God speaks to us. But we do still have to
listen to discern. The voice – whether of God, of the Spirit, of the
leadings of the centred group or the deeply grounded person –
will come. That is our experience, and it’s inevitable that we
have different ways of experiencing it and describing that
We have different ways of testing these experiences. There is a
good description in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Spirit
passage [the fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control], and
Friends, along with many other Christians, have used versions
of this over many centuries. In other faiths and traditions too,
there are similar accounts of the way in which people have
heard and tested
Christine Davis and Douglas Rennie [dialogue] (2007),
Introduction on Discerning the Way,
The blackbird may have evolved in a certain way and just be the
result of evolution, but on a wet day, when there are grey skies,
and when the raucous sea-gulls have finally fallen silent and the
drills have paused in the continuous digging up of the road and
the traffic slides by more smoothly than usual, the song of a
blackbird can open depths of meaning, can reveal other aspects
of being alive. But we keep these things secret, or write them
in poems which most people ignore, because we do not have a
shared vocabulary in which to explore ‘other aspects of being
alive’, of the soul, of the Spirit….
There is something within each of us that if nurtured may grow;
something that shines and lights up the way. There is a voice
that needs to be heard….But often it seems that we are afraid
of the voice that is our own. It is as though we have to talk with
the perfect intonations of the collective language, since
otherwise [we will be pointed out] as different and we may not
be accepted….We do not always recognise our own voice….
Of course there needs to be a shared language, but this does
not mean that all the words need to be immediately recognised.
What are required are the trust to speak and the confidence to
listen. There needs to be a willingness to share the same space
and to seek meaning together.
Harvey Gillman (2007), Consider the Blackbird –
Reflections on Spirituality and Language, London: