Listening for the Light

(after worshipping last Sunday at Willistown Friends Meeting, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania)

A big stone house on a country road,
Keeping silence since 1798,
Filled with Friends on First Day morning.

Some took places on pews
Where their great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers
Once sat in the heavy summer air
Letting the rasping of cicadas in the trees outside
And the insistent voices of toddlers
And the shushing of embarrassed parents
Lightly vibrate through and past them
As they waited upon the Lord.

With inner eyes they sought the Light
Primordially imparted in them by the luminous Source –
Refracted in clearness
As their inner sediments settled and re-formed.

“I love to feel where words come from,” said Papunehang, an Indian chief,
After listening to a prayer
Spontaneously uttered by John Woolman, a colonial Quaker,
In the woods of Pennsylvania.
The only language they shared was that of the heart.

In the Meeting,
Words remained where they came from,
Giving space and time for quietude’s gestation
Till the Spirit moved them –
Fluttering from heart to tongue –
Each syllable framed by shimmering silence –
Savored by inwardly-opened ears
Listening for the Light.




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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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