Practicing Holy Silence In The Upper Room


“He was silent & gave no answer.” The description of Jesus as he stood before the judgement of the Temple Priests during his final week before crucifixion has remained transfixed within my thoughts. Why? With accusations that would surly lead to great suffering & catastrophic loss, how can Jesus just stand there & remain silent without even a whispered defence to his righteousness.

This past week has witnessed a great loss itself as many stood in shock of seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral in an inferno blaze as it became a ruin of history & iconic symbolism. It wasn’t long before Facebook posts began flooding my feed with memories; some of them being personal pictorials of life long dreams being fulfilled through visiting France with Notre Dame in the backdrop of true love, & some just the nostalgic historical symbolism of the cathedral & the remorse of its destruction.

As I contemplated this loss of the famous cathedral myself, the words of Jesus seemed to speak deep from within me, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” As created beings I think we sometimes forget that the sacred meanings we attach to places & people are most often temporal & subject to the changes that come in life. The holiness that resides in those relationships become the seeds that grow deeper stories of redemption, so that when destruction comes we do not experience the eternal grief of loss but the power of encountering creative renewal & even the beauty of overwhelming resurrection against all the world’s expectations.

Sacred spaces are the constructs of a temple people’s resiliency in place & time. We do not loose such spaces to fire, brimstone, flood, or disaster; but redeem, reconstitute, & resurrect them!!

So how do we practice silence with Jesus as we hear the accusations of the world’s impending methodology’s of destruction?

Today is Good Friday & the day we often associate with the remembrance of Jesus being crucified upon the cross. Reflecting on that day so long ago, I picture the few disciples who later would climb the ladder & remove the nails from their Lord’s hands & feet before slowly lowering him & laying his lifeless body upon some ragged robes strewn on the ground to keep him from the wet dirt beneath. With a few woman around weeping quietly, I imagine the small group working with rather few words, silent while contemplating the flood of emotions that was overwhelming their hearts.

After burying Jesus & rolling the stone over the entrance to his tomb, these followers of Jesus retreated to the upper room they had secured in the city. Remaining there they comforted one another, broke bread & shared wine, told stories of the life experiences & lessons they learned from Jesus, & prayed while waiting for the revelation of what was to come.

The practice of silence does not always mean to be absent of thought, voice, or substance; it is to be in the state of contemplative wonder to the sacredness of our shared past & the calling of our missional future.

I think we can learn much as we reflect on the early followers of Jesus in this upper room & their practice of holy silence. As a personal & communal ritual, silence teaches us the embrace of comforting those in need can extend us into the works of social justice. We might find ourselves leaving the upper room from time to time as we entwine our lives with others in our neighbourhood, helping immigrants find belonging & daily needs, healing old & new social wounds created by the world’s prejudice & marginalization, & rebuilding the sacred expressions that connect us with the divine.

Silence catalyzes us into a life of hospitality & communion as we find the inclusion of others around our homes & supper tables, sharing in the gifts of diversity & the flavours of commonality. Together we remember the grace Jesus shows each one of us & share the stories of how he reminds us of what it means to be human, to love God with all our hearts, & to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Meditative silence floods our souls with the overwhelming gift of communing with God in prayer, being perceptive to our attendance with his very presence. We are not to be the one’s who workout his kingdom according to our will but, practicing a spirit of un-striving attentiveness to his calling & the witnessing of his Kingdom drawing near.

Too often I think we rush into the joys of Resurrection Sunday before really contemplating the power of Good Friday. Let us feel the Spirit’s presence flood our upper rooms today, overflow & multiply our sacred sanctuary’s into daily life, & light ablaze a fire to our practices of holy silence!

There will always be a cross somewhere in the midst of the Christian solution to evil, a cross of the pain involved in not returning blow for blow; a cross of the natural , human bitterness felt in the experiencing hated & returning love in its place, of receiving evil & doing good; a cross reflected in the near impossibility of counting oneself blessed in the midst of persecution, or of hungering & thirsting for justice, or in being merciful & peacemakers in a world which understands neither. Between us & fulfillment, between us & everlasting justice, between us & salvation of this suffering world, there will always stand a paradox of the cross, a cross not for others, but for us.
— Vincent Donovan in 'Christianity Rediscovered'