I find my fellow Seminary students to be highly skilled in the fine art of conversation. There is an awareness, consciously cultivated here, of the great value
of clear, thoughtful communication. It is a subject that, while quite ordinary in many respects, is also so profound that it cannot really be examined exhaustively! We have looked at the ceremonial aspects of giving and receiving in the Act of Consecration of Man: On the one hand, we offer our prayers, censing and substance; on the other hand, we receive blessings, an inpouring of spirit and the Word of the Gospel. By this oft-repeated ceremony experience—offering our attention and receiving sacred medicine in return—we grow in our everyday exchanges with one another. In the weeks we have been practicing like this together, our words have become kinder, our disagreements more readily talked through, and our listening abilities enhanced. It is a truly special experience to work on speaking with such care.
A wonderful mystery is contained in one of the names given to Christ in the New Testament—Logos, or the Word. Although it belongs to the domain of the great seers and sages to understand such a designation deeply, we can nonetheless appreciate that it has some connection, however obscure, to our own spoken word. Somehow, in the shaping of air to form verbal sounds, in the expression of our inner life in outward speech, through the intoning of words to another person, we are allowing a space to let in something of the divine Word. It is an exciting prospect to think that we can participate, every day, in Christ’s promise: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” This understanding lends a certain reverence even to our most mundane interactions, making it a fascinating enterprise to discuss the grocery shopping!
Another intriguing dimension to conversation is the fact that it lives on in the minds of those who have spoken to each other. A dialogue not only seems to
echo and reverberate in the soul after it has been spoken; it is as though it carries on and issues forth new words, albeit in an unspoken way. If a verbal exchange doesn’t go the way we want it to, and we are left with unpleasant feelings about it (and possibly about the other person too), can we change it by the way we continue to “speak” it in our minds? Does something of our nonverbal attitude toward the ongoing conversation reach the other person?
If so, is it related in any way to praying for them? These are questions with potentially revolutionary implications for us, and they might give us a glimpse of a future, wiser perspective on speech.
by Dave Bunckner
Picture: Olive in the garden