“In the silence of the heart, You speak…” – Audrey Assad
There isn’t a whole lot of room for silence in our world today. Saturated by a constant stream of information, images, and movies, inundated with a constant demand for availability and instant responses, it seems the noise never ceases. And we have become addicted to it, addicted to the constant distractions. People rarely even venture out for walks without plugging their ears with headphones.
With all this noise, we become more and more agitated. We allow worries to eat us up, and we never get a break from the buildup of stress. And peace? We have lost it long ago, along with our senses of direction, meaning, purpose, and identity. They have all become lost in the chaos.
“We sometimes let ourselves be overtaken by excessive noise – not so much physical noise as the ceaseless whirlwind of thoughts, imaginations, and words that we’ve heard or said – and all this feeds our worries, fears, frustrations, and obviously leaves the Holy Spirit little chance of making himself heard.” 1
But in the face of our culture’s desperation for noise, silence remains a deeply human need. It is in silence that we have a moment to remember the important things. We remember that we are not cogs in a machine, sleepwalkers living one week to the next in a blur. In silence, we recollect ourselves; we take a breath, and re-commit to living with meaning.
“Silence is the opposite of the dissipation of the soul in curiosity, gossip, and so forth. It is a capacity for returning almost spontaneously within ourselves, drawn by the presence of God within us.” 2
Silence, in fact, is the doorway to an encounter with Truth – naked and inescapable.
Perhaps for this reason, each real encounter with silence begins somewhat uncomfortably. Fingers begin to fidget, the mind grasps desperately for distractions, plans, and even worries to lose itself – anything but naked silence. It makes sense, of course. First of all, as we remain addicted to distractions, silence appears as a mere absence of activity, a void empty of entertainment. But secondly, the practice of silence is a spiritual discipline; it takes effort to cultivate. “If we spill out and drain our psychic energies by the endless multiplicities of images and sounds, many of them garish and deafening, we just cannot retain the inner stamina” 3 required for the calming of the soul, the return to silence.
That said – don’t be intimidated by silence. Don’t allow yourself to view silence as a rigid imposition, a boring emptiness upheld only by necessity in monastaries and convents.
Because the first thing to know is that silence isn’t dead space. It isn’t a mere absence of noise. “The silence is not an empty silence: it is peace, attentiveness to God’s presence and attentiveness to others, waiting in trust and hope in God.” 4 It’s having your eyes open to the deep glorious reality underlying the visible world.
For silence is, above all, “being still and knowing” the greatest miracle – God’s presence among us.
1. Philippe, Jacques, In the School of the Holy Spirit, trans. Helena Scott (New York, NY: Scepter Publishers) 2007, p. 39
2. Philippe, p. 39
3. Dubay, Thomas, Fire Within (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press), 1989, p.123
4. Philippe, p.38-39
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