This page contains various texts suggestions with notes.
1. St John’s Gospel:
In principio erat verbum (In the beginning was the Word)
This the motto of St Mary’s College (the School of Divinity in the University of St Andrews). It is the first verse of the Gospel of St John and it is commonly read at Christmas. The word is Jesus Christ.
2. The Elijah Cycle
This runs from 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2: 15
The passage I have focused on comes in 1 Kings 19: 9 – 14. The immediately preceding verses are also given here:
1 Kings 19:1-14 3 Then Elijah was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts;
Important allusions in the text:
- Elijah is twice called by his name. This name means YAH is my God: the first syllable, Elijah = god, and the final syllable of Elijah is the YH YHWH is the name by which God made himself known to o Moses at the burning bush (see below). This name is still considered by the Jews to be too sacred to utter and is replaced by another (eg Adonai, the Lord, Jahovah) when reading aloud.
- Calling Elijah by this name with its roots in YHWH contrasts with the recent fight of Elijah against the false Gods.
- Mountains: place of God’s self-revelation in the bible.
- The storms etc recall the false god Ba’al who is the god of storm and whose prophets Elijah killed. (link http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=1Kings+18)
- Specific echoes of Moses and the burning bush (link http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Exodus+3; )
- Moses receiving the tablets of the law (link: 31); http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Exodus+31)
- Moses standing by the cleft of the rock as God goes by (Link http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Exodus+33)
3. The Book of Wisdom
This verse is found in the liturgy at Christmas where it is taken to refer to the birth of Christ:
When all was in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course
Thine Almighty Word, oh God, leapt down from his royal throne
I think it connects well with the ‘still small voice’ or the ‘sound of sheer silence’ of our passage.
4. The Prophet Isaiah. 40: 9
This passage is found in the Liturgy around Advent and Christmas where it is referred to the coming of Christ. I have inserted it here because at the end of the episode we are looking at God sends Elijah out again to resume his prophetic ministry. I chose to put this proclamation associated with the coming of the Messiah, whose herald Elijah is said to be instead of the words in Kings as this ties in the incarnational aspect with which I am facing the episode:
Go up to a high mountain
Joyful messenger to Zion!
Shout with a loud voice
Joyful messenger to Jerusalem!
Shout without fear,
Say to the towns of Judah
“Here is your God!”
John of the Cross.
1. Sayings of Light and Love
100 The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, ad this word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul.
132 What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language He hears best is silent love.
2. Spiritual Canticle, from Stanzas 14 & 15
My Beloved, the mountains,
and lonely wooded valleys,
and resounding rivers,
the whistling of love-stirring breezes,
the tranquil night
at the time of the rising dawn,
the supper that refreshes, and deepens love.
From the commentary:
- [Then he concludes, saying,] “and I heard the voice of a gentle wind.” This voice of the gentle wind refers to the whistling of love-stirring breezes, which the soul says is her Beloved.
The commentary continues:
the tranquil night
In this spiritual sleep in the bosom of the Beloved, the soul possesses and relishes all the tranquility, rest, and quietude of the peaceful night; and she receives in God, together with this peace, a fathomless and obscure divine knowledge. As a result she says that her Beloved is a tranquil night to her.
In that nocturnal tranquility and silence and in knowledge of the divine light the soul becomes aware of Wisdom’s wonderful harmony and sequence in the variety of her creatures and works. Each of them is endowed with a certain likeness of God and in its own way gives voice to what God is in it. So creatures will be for the soul a harmonious symphony of sublime music surpassing all concerts and melodies of the world. She calls this music “silent” because it is tranquil and quiet knowledge, without the sound of voices. And thus there is in it the sweetness of music and the quietude of silence. Accordingly, she says that her Beloved is silent music because in him she knows and enjoys this symphony of spiritual music.
Not only is he silent music, but he is also Sounding solitude,
This is almost identical with silent music, for even though that music is silent to the natural senses and faculties, it is sounding solitude for the spiritual faculties. When these spiritual faculties are alone and empty of all natural forms and apprehensions, they can receive in a most sonorous way the spiritual sound of the excellence of God, in himself and in his creatures. We said [earlier in the commentary]that St. John speaks of this spiritual vision in the Apocalypse, that is: the voice of many harpists playing on their harps [Rv. 14:2]. This vision was spiritual and had nothing to do with material harps. It involved a knowledge of the praises that the blessed, each in an individual degree of glory, give continually to God. This praise is like music, for as each one possesses God’s gifts differently, each one sings God’s praises differently, and all of them together form a symphony of love, as of music.
In this same way the soul perceives in that tranquil wisdom that all creatures, higher and lower ones alike, according to what each in itself has received from God, raise their voice in testimony to what God is. She beholds that each in its own way, bearing God within itself according to its capacity, magnifies God. And thus all these voices form one voice of music praising the grandeur, wisdom, and wonderful knowledge of God. This is the meaning of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Wisdom when he said: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis (The Spirit of the Lord filled the whole earth, and this world, which contains all things, has knowledge of the voice) [Wis. 1:7]. This voice is the sounding solitude the soul knows here; that is, the testimony to God that, in themselves, all things give. Since the soul does not receive this sonorous music without solitude and estrangement from all exterior things, she calls it “silent music” and “sounding solitude,” which she says is her Beloved.
7 Oh, then, soul, most beautiful among all creatures, so anxious to know the dwelling place of your Beloved so you may go in search of him and be united with him, now we are telling you that you yourself are his dwelling and his secret inner room and hiding place. There is reason for you to be elated and joyful in seeing that all your good and hope is so close as to be within you, or better, that you cannot be without him. Behold, exclaims the Bridegroom, the kingdom of God is within you [Lk. 17:21]. And his servant, the apostle St. Paul, declares: You are the temple of God [2 Cor. 6:16].