Where is God to be found? Perhaps the best place to look is at the heart of everyday life. It has been my privilege to meet a number of truly holy people. One of them was Bishop Anthony Bloom who was the Metropolitan of Russian Orthodox Christians in Europe. Anthony was a great teacher of prayer and he could pack Oxford churches with students who were keen to hear from someone who seemed to really have something valuable to say on the subject. In one of his books he tells of an old lady who came to ask for counsel: though she had prayed continuously for fourteen years she had never sensed the presence of God. How could she learn the secret? He gave her wise advice, and later she told him of her first experience. She had gone into her room, made herself comfortable and begun to knit. She felt relaxed and noticed with contentment what a nice shaped room she had, with its view of the garden, and the sound of her needles hitting the arm-rest of her chair. And then gradually she became aware that the silence was not simply the absence of sound, but filled with its own density. ’And’ she said, ‘it began to pervade me. The silence around me began to come and meet the silence in me…… All of a sudden I perceived that the silence was a presence. At the height of the silence there was Him’.
The fascination of that account lies in the woman’s simple recognition that her awareness of God came together with her deeper awareness of the familiar things around her. It must always be so. The Holy Spirit is the invisible third party who stands between me and the other, making us mutually aware.
The Holy Spirit is that power which opens eyes that are closed, hearts that are unaware and minds that shrink from too much reality. If one is open towards God, one is open also to the beauty of the world, the truth of ideas, and the pain of disappointment and deformity. If one is closed up against being hurt, or blind towards one’s fellow, one is inevitably shut off from God also.