Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

A Sunlit Absence

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

A Sunlit Absence

Article excerpt

A Sunlit Absence BY MARTIN LAIRD, O. S. A. OXFORD, 2.O8 PAGES, $18.95

In Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird offered an introductory guide to the theology and practice of Christian contemplation. He returns to many of the same themes in A Sunlit Absence but focuses in particular on silence and awareness. He defines the latter as follows: "Awareness, consciousness, watchfulness is this vast inner space, radiating everywhere. It is not an object; rather, all objects . . . appear and disappear in this awareness, a 'sunlit absence,' to adapt Seamus Heaney." Or, to put it more succinctly, "Awareness is another name for Silence itself."

That capital letter is one of the curious aspects of Laird's writing. By Silence, Awareness, or the Center, he uses a standard marker for the divine - capitalization - to indicate something that is not precisely God himself. Perhaps this is imprecision, but it also reminds us of how difficult it is to describe the realm where we meet the God whose Being sustains our being.

Although his vocabulary may sometimes sound borrowed from pop spirituality (which he calls "champagne for the ego"), Laird remains thoroughly grounded in Scripture and tradition, drawing on the works of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and the Desert Fathers. …

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