All around me the women were chattering. For once, I, who am an inveterate talker, was silent. The woman at my side was discussing her move from a distant town with the one next to her. From behind I heard a plaintive voice saying, "Yes, I've a very bad corn. Very painful it is too. I've tried all sorts of things to get rid of it." Over my left shoulder someone murmured, "So soothing."
Chatter! Chatter! I felt like putting my fingers in my ears to keep out the sound. Of all places—of all times—to chatter here! Inane, mundane conversation. Idle, unnecessary talk. Not malicious words, but how utterly superfluous, because the occasion was the ordinances.
My mind went back over the years to the time when a woman who could not speak English had served me. Silently, seriously, she had knelt down and washed my feet, then I had followed the same procedure in serving her. Each of us had been alone with our thoughts; alone in a vacuum of silence amid the hum of conversation.
That day, sound had receded into a distant background. Alone with my Lord I had sat, while He washed my feet, my hands, my head, my heart. In the uninterrupted stillness, my prayers had known fulfillment.
My being was at rest in the peace and beauty of the moment.
Firm, gentle hands had splashed the warm water over my tired skin. My Lord was there in that instant. Then soothingly, the hands had dried those rejuvenated feet, and my rejuvenated soul had leaped within me in a surge of praise and thanksgiving for the cleansing power of Christ.
Smilingly those quiet eyes had looked up into mine, and I could have cried with pure joy. Instead, I smiled back, hoping that this dear sister would sense my profound gratitude, and trusting that she too had caught the sheer wonder of this simple act.
As we stood up we kissed fondly, and went prepared to partake of the bread and the wine.
But that had been a long time ago. Now I was right here in the midst of the chatter. A voice started singing an old favorite hymn and quickly I joined in, endeavoring to be alone with the Saviour. Not for long! The lady serving me was addressing me. Was the water all right—and did I know . . .
I smiled fatuously, and kept right on singing quietly, hoping she would take the hint and join in the singing. Instead she carried on her one-way conversation. Then she stood up and kissed me brightly.
I felt like weeping as I went into the church. Had this sister received a blessing from my simple act? Surely not, for she had been talking all the while, either to me, or to the woman next to her. Had I received a blessing? Well, yes and no. It could have been so much more of a blessing had the words of Solomon been heeded. There is "a time to keep silence," "a time to speak."
Surely, celebrating the ordinances is the time to keep silence.