Maggie Ross is the pseudonym of a professed solitary under vows to the Archbishop of Canterbury. After many years in Alaska, she is now based full-time in Oxford, England, where she researches and writes books, papers, and liturgies. She also preaches, leads retreats, and engages in pastoral care. She blogs at ravenwilderness.blogspot.com.
"Silence is context and end, beholding the means. . . . Silence and beholding coinhere, mutually informing one another. . . . To put this another way, ordinary seeing is analytical; it makes hierarchies, discriminates, grasps, and controls. Beholding is inclusive, organic, ungrasping, and self-emptying."
In this creative and enchanting work, Ross challenges us to recover the lost process of beholding and give it a central place in Christian theology and practice. She also wants us to appreciate silence as "a limitless interior space." Ross is convinced that all our ills come from the loss of silence and beholding; our descent into noise and our bungling of our stewardship of the world are two prime examples.
The author laments the loss of discretion, which is learned by example. In the tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, we see that this virtue is not just a skill, "it is more like an art, the creation of an atmosphere where new connections can be made." Discretion is also found in our commitment to our own core silence.
Ross is not the first to write about the lackluster quality of worship in so many churches. What can be done to turn things around? "Liturgy acts on us the same way as a vast and beautiful landscape, such as Glacier Bay: we are awakened; our pain is taken from us and our lives transfigured." In other words, worship can be reinvigorated by reverence for God, for community, and for the world.
In other essays, Ross writes about the need for Christians to become fully aware of our divinity; to practice adoration as an outgrowth of silence, to realize that heaven can wait, and to acknowledge the way of tears as prayer itself.