From the refuge of silence (2)

Another piece of wisdom coming from the book The Power of Silence: against the dictatorship of noise has to do with letting silence leading us to God, the fount and origin of our being, to root us in Him. This is how Cardinal Robert Sarah expresses this reflection:

Silence is difficult, but it makes man able to allow himself to be led by God. Silence is born of silence. Through God the silent one, we can gain access to silence. And man is unceasingly surprised by the light that bursts forth then. Silence is more important than any other human work. For it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and others so as to place ourselves humbly and generously at their service.

Silence helps us being led by God. It is this silence which makes you and me say to ourselves, in St John of the Cross’ words:

Descend lower, descend only

Into the world of perpetual solitude,

World not world, but that which is not world,

Internal darkness, deprivation

And destitution of all property,

Desiccation of the world of sense,

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

Inoperancy of the world of spirit;

This is the one way, and the other

Is the same . . .

The great T.S Eliot expresses this huge movement of the soul in the following words:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without

For love would be love for the wrong thing; yet there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

And all this waiting keeps emphasizing to us, in silence of course, the importance of silence. Here is the reflection of St Alphonsus Maria de’ Ligouri on the relevance of silence in our lives.

In the first place, silence is a great means of acquiring the spirit of prayer, and of disposing the soul to converse continually with God. We rarely find a spiritual soul that speaks much. All souls of prayer are lovers of silence that is called the guardian of innocence, the shield against temptations, and the fountain of prayer. For by silence devotion is preserved, and in silence good thoughts spring up in the soul. St. Bernard says: ‘Silence and the absence of noise in a certain manner force the soul to think of God and of eternal goods. (3) Hence, the saints fled to the mountains, to caves, and to deserts, in order to find this silence, and escape the tumults of the world, in which, as was said to Elias, God is not found. (3 Kings, xix. 11) Theodosius the monk observed silence for thirty-five years. St. John the Silent, who gave up his bishopric and became a monk, observed silence for forty-seven years before his death; and all the saints, even they who were not solitaries, have been lovers of silence. Oh, how great the blessings that silence brings to the soul! The prophet says that silence shall cultivate justice in the soul; (Isaias, xxxii. 17) for, on the one hand, it saves us from a multitude of sins by destroying the root of disputes, of detractions, of resentments, and of curiosity; and on the other, it makes us acquire many virtues. How well does the nun practise humility who when others speak listens with modesty and in silence! How well does she practise mortification by not yielding to her inclination or desire to tell a certain anecdote, or to use a witty expression suggested by the conversation! How well does she practise meekness by remaining silent when unjustly censured or offended! Hence the same holy prophet said: In silence and in hope shall be your strength. (Isaias xxx. 15) Your strength shall be in silence and in hope; for by silence we shun the occasions of sin, and by hope we obtain the divine aid to lead a holy life.

Silence teaches us to be loving towards others. In his book The 12 Steps to Holiness, the Doctor of the Church St Alphonsus tells us:

Silence is one of the principal means to attain the spirit of prayer and to fit oneself for uninterrupted intercourse with God. It is hard to find a truly pious person who talks much. But they who have the spirit of prayer love silence, which has deservedly been called a protectress of innocence, a shield against temptations and a fruitful source of prayer. Silence promotes recollection and awakens good thoughts in the heart. According to St. Bernard, it forces the soul, as it were, to think of God and heavenly things. For this reason the Saints of God were great lovers of Silence. In the prophecy of Isaias we read: “The work of justice shall be peace, and the service of justice quietness, and security forever.” (Is. 32:17). On the one hand, silence preserves us from many sins by removing the occasion of uncharitable talk, rancor and curiosity; on the other it aids us in the attainment of many virtues. For example: What an excellent opportunity we have for the practice of humility by modestly keeping silence while others speak! How well we may practice mortification by refraining from relating something we very much desire to tell! What a splendid chance to exercise meekness by not replying to unjust accusations and insults!

Lord, help me be silent to meet you and others in my innermost being to serve you in them. Amen.

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap