Divinatory readings are usually taken from the tea leaves; however, it is my teacup that messages my kind of soothsaying. Each morning I have my tea from this chalice, and am charmed by its talismanic powers. Admittedly, I spent a tidy sum for the cup several years ago and it is now a valued link in this business of my becoming a whole self – the kind of self I believe God intended I should be.

The cup is a strikingly glossy luminance of reds and browns laid upon a porcelain field of white. It features three men on horses galloping through a wood. As tea is often associated with the Orient, so the artist’s depiction is Orientally styled. I am captivated by the loveliness of the cup but even more by what I divine from the furious haste of the three riders who never leave the wood. I say, “Horsemen! From what are you escaping?” Or, “What explains your silent pursuit?” The sheltering wood itself experiences no shedding of leaves and the birds have hushed their singing. As the same scene presents itself each morning, I ponder on the fate of these horsemen who seem destined never to come to the end of their urgent journey. Perhaps there is no elsewhere awaiting their arrival.

What prompts these musings is that one morning as I reflected upon those three riders and their horses, I recalled something poet John Ciardi named “The idea of the still serenity of eternally arrested motion.” He was commenting upon John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” where similarly events became ensnared by the enchantment of that “still serenity of eternally arrested motion.” It was that theme of stopped time that seemed to surface each time I took my tea from that cup. It was as if an interior “presence” was inviting me to participate in that “still serenity of arrested motion” – this “presence” signaling I believe the inexhaustible faithfulness of God who always near wills that I should seek him.

I have found that in giving myself over to this “still serenity of arrested motion” – that is, letting go of what I can of this too much world that so aggressively seeks to co-opt my attention, I am enriched by a renewed appreciation of myself as a gifted and unique being. Was not silence philosopher Kierkegaard’s prescription for personal wholeness? I have it that he wrote, “Were I a physician and anyone asked me, what would you advise, I would reply: make silence! Bring men to silence.” He knew that the world of faith, of prayer, of the sacraments and of love was a silent one. Also the world of serious and satisfying experience. As I am Christian in my orientation, I think of this self as existing in the presence of God. No matter! What seems important is that every person might find in striving for the stopped time of a “still serenity of arrested motion” an opportunity to face that unique self and take pleasure in an interior exploration of being.

What is at stake is the need for each person to become an authentic self in the presence of God! Life is a stunted thing when it loses connection with silence. The noisiness of this too much world intrudes upon that inner dialogue God wills to have with us. Cultivating silence enables mindfulness of those inner whisperings arising out of the depths of being. To engage in this interior dialogue is to take seriously the mystery of what it means to have life on this perhaps the only personal space in the universe. It means to give attention to that “elsewhere” that is continually hailing us from afar. To give ourselves over to that “still serenity of arrested motion” may just strengthen us for the varying passages of our lives. And to be prized above all else is that possibly, quite possibly, we might come to treasure this hidden person of the heart, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:4).

The Rev. Merle G. Steva is minister of visitation emeritus of First Parish Church in Saco. He can be contacted at:

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