Following our entering through the ‘door of sanctuary’ with virtue, Abbot Christopher suggests we need to lay a floor of silence. The Abbot recommends a period of silence in the morning and another at night – effectively book ending our days with silence.
Catherine de Hueck.Doherty has this to say about silence and the ‘desert place’:
“If we are to witness to Christ in today’s marketplaces, where there are constant demands on our whole person, we need silence. If we are to be always available, not only physically, but by empathy, sympathy, friendship, understanding and boundless caritas, we need silence. To be able to give joyous, unflagging hospitality, not only of house and food, but of mind, heart, body and soul, we need silence.
“True silence is a suspension bridge that a soul in love with God builds to cross the dark, frightening gullies of its own mind, the strange chasms of temptation, the depthless precipices of its own fears that impede its way to God.
“True silence is the speech of lovers. For only love knows its beauty, completeness, and utter joy. True silence is a garden enclosed, where alone the soul can meet its God. It is a sealed fountain that he alone can unseal to slacken the soul’s infinite thirst for him.”
[from Poustinia by Catherine de Hueck.Doherty]
The need for silence and holding our tongue is prevalent through out the ancient scriptures, particuarly in the Psalms and Proverbs (and also the book of James).
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely O LORD.
We do not need to prove our existence with our many words, or prove ourselves to God with our mouths. We are free to be silent in his presence. As wonderful as it is to produce sound and meaning with our bodies, we are not defined by these actions.
When asked about how she prays Mother Theresa replied, “Mostly, I listen”.
The frustrated interviewer then asked “Well then what does God say?”
“Mostly he listens.” She replied.
Be still and know the LORD is God.
Peter Fitch comments on silence in his article : Toward a New Monasticism. This is something I am being constantly challenged on at the moment. Here’s an extract from his article – enjoy.
When I think of it now, I like to reflect on one additional aspect of a new monasticism: the cultivation of silence that in the end produces a powerful Word. Long before the Trappists, ancient Christians suspected that this was the truth.
Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred around 107 A.D., wrote this to the Ephesian church:
A man who has truly mastered the utterances of Jesus will also be able to apprehend His silence, and thus reach full spiritual maturity, so that his own words have the force of actions and his silences the significance of speech.
Apprehending the silence of Jesus speaks of a maturity of character and a security in relationship with him that allows consistent behaviour in all circumstances. It is found in the ebb and flow of all of life, but it represents a kind of quietness and peace in the soul that grows out of a long experience of trust. I think one part of it also grows as a fruit or result of simply spending time with God, not always talking, but being conscious of his presence and available
to his leadings.
wow. thanks Ronnie.
i love the bit you quoted; “A man who has truly mastered the utterances of Jesus will also be able to apprehend His silence, and thus reach full spiritual maturity, so that his own words have the force of actions and his silences the significance of speech.”
i’ve got alot to learn!