From the refuge of silence (1)

One of the great books that the Lord has given me the grace to encounter is surely the one by Cardinal Robert Sarah The Power of Silence: against the dictatorship of noise. The following reflections are my internal spiritual journey that the Holy Spirit is leading me through thanks to this fabulous book.

In the introduction of this book we find the following quote: “Similarly, in Le Silence comme introduction à la métaphysique [Silence as an introduction to metaphysics], the philosopher Joseph Rassam asserted that ‘silence is within us the wordless language of the finite being that, by its own weight, seeks and carries our movement toward the infinite Being…’” True, silence is a wordless language. However, it is a language full of words that are unspoken. A silent facial expression can say million of words without uttering one.

From this quote I am learning that silence is the journey that takes us to God. It is through silence that we learn who God is or rather starting letting the Holy Spirit unpacking our lack of knowledge of who God is. The Prophet Hosea makes me realize this important truth when he says: Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her (Hosea 2:14). Silence is alluring indeed and if we fall into its arms it can open us to God’s tender talk! The most beautiful thing that can happen to us is when we let ourselves be seduced by the Lord’s affectionate talk to us till the moment when he makes us enter in His inner chamber (Judg 16:9).

Moreover, the book The power of silence: against the dictatorship of noise, teaches me that “although speech characterizes man, silence is what defines him, because speech acquires sense only in terms of this silence.” In silence we can get to know who we are because God’s Spirit speaks to us from the inner depths of our hearts. Thus, in silence God speaks to us, to our heart.

When speaking about the silence of St Joseph Pope Francis teaches us in general audience address of Wednesday, 15 December 2021: The Gospels do not contain a single word uttered by Joseph of Nazareth: nothing, he never spoke. This does not mean that he was taciturn, no: there is a deeper reason. With his silence, Joseph confirms what Saint Augustine writes: “To the extent that the Word  —  the Word made man —  grows in us,  words diminish”. To the extent that Jesus, — the spiritual life — grows, words diminish. What we can describe as “parroting”, speaking like parrots, continually, diminishes a little. John the Baptist himself, who is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’” (Mt 3:3), says in relation to the Word, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). This means that he must speak and I must be silent, and with his silence, Joseph invites us to leave room for the Presence of the Word made flesh, for Jesus. Joseph’s silence is not mutism; it is a silence full of listening, an  industrious  silence, a silence that brings out his great interiority. “The Father spoke a word, and it was his Son”, comments Saint John of the Cross,  — “and it always speaks in eternal silence, and in silence it must be heard by the soul”.

Let us pray to St Joseph to help us live our silence industriously:

Saint Joseph, man of silence,

you who in the Gospel did not utter a single word,

teach us to fast from vain words,

to rediscover the value of words that edify, encourage, console and support.

Be close to those who suffer from words that hurt,

like slander and backbiting,

and help us always to match words with deeds. Amen.

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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