The Amazing Secrets of Silence
They tell us that “silence is golden”, yet it is far more revealing than gold or millions of spoken prayers or litanies.
We must never fear silence for it is truly the sanctuary of God, the very language of God and the language of the world to come. John the Baptist hurried into the silent wilderness, seeking to know his God, to know the self and to learn of his mission. Jesus taught that we have to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves (John 12:24-25).
For John the Baptist, solitude was not isolation; it was that silent waiting for a Somebody. Silence is a strong form of activity — not an inactivity, as many people think — and it is a much deeper awareness of the Body of Christ, a deeply spiritual communion with God and all his children, so deep a communion with only one heart beating in this Mystical Body, the Church of Christ.
Silence is such a great gift, for we are never so much ourselves as when we are alone with God. Silence is not just the absence of speech but also a surrender to a Presence: to listen, to love with or without words, for only love brings us closer to the invisible, inaccessible God.
For what good are the eyes if the heart is blind? Loving the light outside will certainly dim the light inside, for Jesus taught that the fullness of God lives within us: “In him, you too are being built into a house where God lives in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22; John 6: 56). The painter El Greco once reportedly said: “I will remain in this dark room and not come out into the sunlight for it will disturb the Light that shines within me.” Human reason is in the dark when faith and love have entered; silence will teach us that — just one of many secrets.
God offers us eternity
We offer the Lord our time, and he offers us eternity! Humility is the only safe way and condition to discover divinity, while the powers of intellect can never satisfy the instincts of the heart. We have really no idea how grace — which is certainly unmerited by sinful humans — plays a saving role in all the good we experience! And then we reach that point where everything we are or own belongs to God; and everything God is and owns belongs to us. “What do you have that was not given to you?” (1 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 2:8).
In the overcrowded hearts of humans there often is no place for the Lord — except on a cross! Consequently we are a guilt-filled people and often fear silence, even though all life, even music, needs the rhythm of silence as well as sound.
It is an astonishing fact that the greatest events in our salvation history took place in silence. From the eternal silence the Creator spoke the “Be”, and the material world came into being; the Archangel Gabriel and all Creation waiting in solemn silence for the “Fiat” of the young girl Mary; a divine person being born in poverty in the silence of the Bethlehem night; John waiting in the silent wilderness to proclaim the Promised One; Jesus shattering the silence of the synagogue by proclaiming that he is the One; at Cana, Mary pausing for the Spirit’s response before setting her son free for his mission; the silent agony in the Garden of Gethsemane followed by the lonely waiting hours on the cross; then the early morning resurrection and final ascension as Jesus returns to his Father.
The sanctuary of silence
Entering the sanctuary of silence will expose the shadows in my life and verify the truth that “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Luke 9: 24; Galatians 2: 20; Ephesians 4: 22). I will come to accept that distance between myself and God is no distance at all, because of his merciful forgiveness and his infinite love.
Silence awakens in me that knowledge of self which is greater than the pillars of scripture, worship and ritual. Praying becomes loving, loving becomes prayer. Silence becomes more precious than gold, for Paul teaches that, in holy silence, “the spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God; after all, the depths of Man can be known only by his own spirit, and not by any other person” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).
The interior silence is so essential in our busy lives, that peace of mind and heart, that capacity to listen, where God is the centre of our universe, that emptying of self to allow God to be, and live and love in us. Of course, the soul can know only in not-knowing, yet God opens a window on the infinite, and by his tender love draws the created soul obscurely into the mystery of his transcendence.
Silence indeed has so many secrets to share.
Published in the February 2023 issue of The Southern Cross magazine