' Silent Worship', in the fully-formed character in which the Quakers practise it, is not possible in a ' Church as we understand the word to-day, but only within the narrower limits of a more intimate ' Brotherhood of the Spirit'. May God grant that such a brotherhood may one day arise among us, not as a sect or a Church alongside our other Churches, but as a circle of self-dedicated enthusiasts, who have rediscovered the ancient heritage of the early Church—the Spirit and its sevenfold gifts!
But if the Quaker Silence is excluded, still less is any imitation of the Sacramental Silence in the form of the Catholic Mass possible in our Protestant services. All that tends in this direction is bound to go astray. The Communion Service does, it is true, celebrate Christ's Passion, that event which in all world history is the numinous event par exccllcnce, the entry of the divine in fullest and loftiest presence upon the human scene. But the Communion Service is emphatically not a Mass, and the Mass has grown to be a distortion of its true form. The Communion Service is, in the original int ention of its first celebration or institution, not a piece of public ceremonial at all, far less a drama to be performed by one or at most a few participants in the presence of spectators, but a tender mystery, restricted to a fellowship of brothers, pertaining to a special time and hour, and needing particular preparation—in short, something that should lie precious and rare. For Protestants it is to be kept entirely apart from the regular and congregational Divine Service, and should be reserved for particular feasts, for celebration at evening or in the night stillness. It ought to be withdrawn altogether from the use and wont of every day and become the most intimate privilege which Christian worship lias to offer.
But though these two means are excluded, it u yet possible to find anothf r way to introduce Silent Worship into our ordinary Sunday ser.iies, and so to give these a consecration which is as yet lacking to them. We can make the service culminate and find its climax in a short period of silence, which shall be at once the silence of sacrament and the silence of waiting, and which may become, at least for the more practical, also a realization of union. Wo may devise an opportunity of silent dedication which will avoid the ceremonial apparatus and mythology of the doctrino of ' Transubstantiatiou', and yet in its simplicity and pure spirituality may be more deeply sacramental than the Mass, for which many are again beginning to crave. We have only to follow the indications afforded by the example of the ' Silent Worship' of the Quakers.
Where lies the essence of the sacramental? It is in fact—in the expression of the English High Churchmen—the ' real presence ', the real presence of the transcendent and holy in its very nature in adoration and fellowship, so as to be laid hold of and enjoyed in present possession. No form of devotion which does not offur or achieve this mystery for the worshipper can be perfect or can give lasting contentment to a religious mind. And it is just because our usual Divl'.e Services fall short in this that we see to-day again—quite comprehensibly—such a ferment and stirring of all sorts of uneasy 'High Church', ' Ritualistic', and ' Sacramental ' movements.
But -we may well be asked has it any meaning to ask for ' the presence of the divine ' ? Does not that Sacramental idea at once cancel itself when thought out? Is not God 'omnipresent' and 'really present' always and everywhere?
Such a view is often put forward, and with a confident air of assurance which is in sharp conflict with the testimony of genuine religious experience ; so much ao, indeed, that one is tempted to venture a very blunt reply to it. Wo say, then, that this doctrine of the omnipresence of God—as though by a necessity of His being He must be iKjund to every time and to everv place, like a natural force pervading space—is a frigid invention of metaphysical speculation, entirely without religious import. Scripture knows nothing of it. Scripture knows no ' Omnipresence', neither the expression nor the meaning it expresses ; it knows only the God who is where He wills to be, and is not where He wills not to be, the ' deus mobilis', who is no mere universally extended being, but an august mystery, that comes and goes, approaches and withdraws, has its time and hour, and may be far or near in infinite degrees, ' closer than breathing' to us or miles remote from us. The hours of His ' visitation ' and His ' return' are rare and solemn occasions, different essentially not only from the ' profane' life of every day, but also from the calm confiding mood of the believer, whose trust is to live ever before the face of God. They are the topmost summits in the life of the Spirit. They are not only rare occasions, they must needs be so for our sakes, for no creature can bear often or for long the full nearness of God's majesty in its beatitude and in its awefulness. Yet there must still be such times, for they show the bright vision and completion of our sonship, they are a bliss in themselves and potent for redemption. They are the real sacrament, in comparison with which all high official ceremonials, Masses, and rituals the world over become the figurings of a child. And a Divine Service would be the truest which led up to such a mystery and the riches of grace that ensue upon the realization of it. And if it be asked whether a Divine Service is able to achieve this, let us answer that, though God indeed comes where and when lie chooses, yet He will choose to come when we sincerely call upon Him and prepare ourselves truly for His visitation.
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