Three Years: An Addendum to The Pilgrim Essays

It is a bit more than a month away from the calendar anniversary of my reception into the Orthodox Church by chrismation. The liturgical anniversary this year will fall very close to the calendar date. As I have done each year since, I want the influence of more time and experience to work its energies on the perspective with which I view the precise same events. Any such changes, however imperceptible, do not of course change the facts of the past, but sometimes, by grace, they do elicit new understandings. I have in the past spoken of a new awareness of providence, of the healing of the rift of head and heart and its accomplishment in the askesis of a particular way of living, and with that, of promise. It seems to me, though I am no prophet, that these themes will remain with me through the end of this life. I don’t know that I will understand them more adequately as time goes on, but I do hope to live them more deeply.

There may well be another theme to add to these, one which has been exhibited, perhaps providentially, though not intentionally, through the lack of activity on this blog. It is the activity of silence and the value of such an activity to one’s soul. The Rule of St Benedict devotes all of chapter 6 to silence; the ninth rung of the ladder of humility in chapter 7 is that of silence; and in chapter 42 the monks are directed not to speak after the observence of the last office of the day, Compline. That silence is an activity and not a passive state can be understood from just a brief moment’s reflection: imagine refraining from saying anything to anyone for an entire day, then imagine refraining from daydreaming for an entire hour, then imagine doing nothing but holding your attention, without any distracting thoughts, on the presence of God for a single full minute. It takes a very great energy to be silent.

I have read–I am sure I cannot speak with authority from my experience–that the achievement of true silence of lips, mind and heart is itself a purer form of activity than the restraint of speech and thoughts and distractions. But we know from those that have gone before us that aside from God’s gracious gift, we first must purge ourselves through restraint (via the askeses of Christ’s way of life) before we can experience the more pure activities of true silence. As I say, for me, this is all secondhand knowledge.

Yet, this first sort of silence, the askeses of restraint, is not without grace and mercy. One very mundane gift is that the restraint of thoughts, words and distractions one exerts is productive. It seems perhaps strange to say this, since words and speech are so influential and, well, useful. We use words and speech to express and to meet needs, to motivate choices and actions. But there is I think a unique and sometimes inversely proportional influence that silence (even the silence of restraint) brings to bear on one’s soul and the events and actions it engenders and endures. But just by stating this, I have hit the limit of a mystery I cannot understand. A fecund mystery, I think. But nonetheless to me presently opaque.

I have experimented (mostly unintentionally, though not without reflection) with forms of silence in the past year or two, and more so in recent days. I nuked one of my blogs (obviously not this one), and deactivated, for a week, another online social media account. To the degree that I have adequate discernment to judge, the results were swift and very positive. More such steps will need to be taken in the future. Steps which will involve this blog. I have a series of posts on Christian Philosophy I would still like to complete, but I don’t know if I will make the effort to do so. The topic still motivates, but I wonder whether that is enough justification. Mostly all I’ve been doing of late on this blog has been updating (usually only changing the posting date) of previous posts reflective of various saints’ days and feast days. Given the unintentional hiatus for original posts, given an increasing absence from online activities generally, and given my present experiences with silence, it seems a propitious time to draw this blog to a close.

Having said that, I’m not sure what I yet want to do with the content here. This has been a wonderful outlet to think through many of the theological and philosophical issues which have captured my attention since November of 2002. But there is less of that wrestling in the past three years, and more of a desire for quiet reflection. I know my ultimate decision will be to erase the blog and all its content. I just don’t know yet whether that will be tomorrow or some other later day.

Thank you to all who’ve commented here, who’ve emailed me relative to various posts you’ve read and enjoyed (or opposed). May the Lord send his mercy upon us all.

10 thoughts on “Three Years: An Addendum to The Pilgrim Essays

  1. “I know my ultimate decision will be to erase the blog and all its content.”

    No, don’t. Please. At least don’t delete the content about your spiritual journey. Leave it as a signpost of sorts for those who will follow you. Your blog has been an immense source of support for me. I have not visited this site as frequently of late due to the slow change of content, but how providential that I made it by today.

  2. There is a time for every purpose under heaven. I’ve concluded that blogging is more about “us” than “them” and when it is time, we need to have the guts to move on. I hope you will keep my email addy and touch base once in a while. I’m glad your blog was around so I could “meet” you. May it be blessed, whatever “it” is.

  3. Thank you for your blog. Thank you for your honesty, for rememberance of St. Benedict, and for many things besides from a lurker… and extremely infrequent commenter. Shared a similar purpose on my own, but like you increasingly thinking about a similar end. Go with God my friend!

  4. Whayever you decide, I have gained a grest deal of insight and encouragemant from your posts…. it is interesting, that those of us who have “found what we’re looking for” in the Orthodox Church, also find a great deal more in the way of questions, but perhaps these questions are better off kept quiet and replaced with a silent repentance.

  5. With great respect from one who is still, all too frequently, loud as sounding brass, I will only say that I have greatly enjoyed your blog over the last year or so since I discovered it. Your thoughts and opinions, your sense of humor, and the unstated humility that lies behind someone who is able to say “This is what I think, and I could very well be wrong”–which is astounding, and missing from a lot of the Orthodox blogosphere. I have always appreciated your nuanced, careful, considered opinions (even those with which I did not completely agree). I am honored to have been able to read about your journey, as well. May the Lord bless your feet upon the path, and direct your steps always. This blog has been a blessing to me, and the Lord reward you richly.

  6. Clifton,

    Christ is Risen!

    I “met” you for the first time on Mike Liccione’s blog in some debate of that time several years ago. I started blogging around that time as well.

    I have gone through various periods with respect to my blog.

    At the beginning of my blogging I wanted to post a lot about my thoughts but I have always struggled with being self conscious, perhaps “abnormally” so. As I began the venture of blogging, I ran into a roadblock in the form of the words of our Lord about “being judged for every idle word I may speak”. I had a genuine fear that what I was writing had the potential to cause immense harm to someone.

    It was at this time that I began posting the Saint or Feast of the day and “hiding” behind them. My rationale was, “It doesn’t matter what I say but THEY matter”, or something to that effect.

    I have often over the last several years chosen to go silent and only post on the Saints. In fact, I have almost nuked my blog many times over the last several months and I think the reasons are perhaps very similar to your own. I was also intrigued when I noticed some time back how you yourself had chosen to begin almost exclusively posting on the Saints and Feasts and I understood in some small way why you came to this point. I also understand why you gave up the pursuit of your studies as the pursuit lost the meaning for you of its original intent.

    I would venture to guess that the Church was effecting changes in you as it does in all of us who make our meager attempts to live Her Life.

    Upon my return to the Church, I had so many ideas and ideals but so much has changed in me(thank God).

    I don’t want to go on with my own reflection as I could say a lot more. I did want to wish you warm regards and my friendship in Christ.

    Best to you,


  7. I have visited your blog off and on for several months and appreciate, and think understand some of your feeling. I came into Orthodoxy via Chrismation last Pentecost Sunday as a former member of a restoration movement church. During this past year I’ve been pretty surprised by the number of people from that movement who are now Orthodox. I too hope you will leave your journey essays available regardless of what you input in the future. They have great value not as a “recruitment tool”, but as a peaceful point of affirmation of the goodness and sensibility of those who are on that journey or those who have completed it.

    Regardless, thanks for you stepping out there.

  8. Those who went before me, finding the trail from 19th century Whiggish congregationalism to Orthodoxy are like the stones of the western wall. I say western, because we are and because we gaze across the nave even still towards the east.

    It is not so bad being the western wall, though we may never be as holy, we can gaze and wonder and most importantly apprehend.

    Thank you for having this blog here for one such as me to find and learn from.

  9. Clifton:
    Five or six years ago, I stumbled on your blog. How wonderful it was to find someone who was going through a similar struggle to find the true faith! It has now been four years since I was chrismated. Many thanks.

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