4’33” by John Cage-a Lenten Hymn
Kristeen Black of Oakland, CA, USA
More fully embody your oneness and equality in Jesus Christ. Oneness and equality in Christ are realized through the waters of baptism, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and sustained through the sacrament of Communion. Embrace the full meaning of these sacraments and be spiritually joined in Christ as never before….Oneness and equality in Christ do not mean uniformity. They mean Unity in Diversity and relating in Christ-like love to the circumstances of others as if they were one’s own. They also mean full opportunity for people to experience human worth and related rights, including expressing God-given giftedness in the church and society. -Doctrine and Covenants 165:3a, e
When I first heard the composer John Cage’s work 4’33”, I thought it was a joke. Four minutes and 33 seconds of silence as a musical composition seemed like something I would find in a Monty Python skit rather than a symphony hall. How can silence be music?
When I first listened to 4’33”, I was frustrated by the silence and found it hard to sit through. I didn’t know how to listen to silence. I wasn’t prepared for the negation of music as music. That certain satisfaction in anticipating the next chord or being able to recognize a repeated refrain was missing. I found I was lost when there were no notes or beat to move me forward. I didn’t know where it began or where it ended. It was confusing, and I was sure I didn’t like it.
In time, however, I came to appreciate 4’33.” I discovered that there is something profound about the negation of music and the experience of silence. The silence of 4’33” is full of the vast possibility of everything, and the vivid reality of nothing. I realize that the silence is always there, always available, always in the background. While it is so easily masked by all the noise we create, it is the framework of our reality-the space that holds everything else. We can’t really create silence; we can only stop deliberately making sounds. Silence is what remains.
I discovered that 4’33” is the perfect hymn for Lent-an apophatic prayer of spiritual silence; a time to pause and observe the ever-present stillness of God; a time to listen to what is always there, hiding behind all the noise we create.
I surrender into your love.
Set a timer for 20 minutes. (If that feels like too much at first, choose a time that will be comfortable for you as a starting place, committing to expand that time in future prayer.) Allow the rhythm of your breath to draw you deeper and deeper into silence. As you breathe, claim one sacred word (Christ, peace, grace, trust, etc.) emerging in you as an anchor to return you to the intention of your prayer when your thoughts begin to wander. Gently release the thoughts and images that come, making space for presence to the One who is with you here and now. Release, return, “be vulnerable to divine grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:10b).
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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