There is a real need for us to learn to appreciate the value of silence. The widespread use of technology impinges on us, maybe more than we realise. There always seems to be some level of noise. Though we may not fully be aware of how much it is affecting us, it has an impact. Even subtle ‘white noise’ in the background has an effect. While it may seem innocuous enough, we often feel drained by it, and it seems as if we can’t hear ourselves think. Our senses can become overwhelmed. Noise contributes to us having difficulty sleeping, as our minds try to process everything with which we have been bombarded during the day. And then we wonder why our nerves are frayed and we are frazzled at the end of the day!
Silence is little respected today and yet it is essential for a healthy life and for prayer. Silence has so many benefits. It is like a blanket we wrap around ourselves to enable us to sink deeper into the true reality of life and into our being. When the very atmosphere possesses a profound peace and tranquillity, it lends itself to a gentler approach to living. It gives us a better capacity to listen both to others and to God. It helps to drain away stress and tension and can bring with it a sense of calmness. We all know that silence is very important for meditation – vital in fact; the word of God penetrates more deeply when we have both outward and inward silence.
In music, we need both notes and rests – sound and the silence unite to produce a harmonious blend. This is a perfect analogy for our lives. Speech is good, but we also need to give time to open up these spaces of quiet in order to bring about harmony in our lives.
Silence can be challenging. While it is beneficial, it can also be painful, because it provides a space for the things that we have buried to surface. If this happens, the silence can also provide a forum in which we can bring these issues to the Lord and ask Him to heal us. We often live disconnected from our inner selves because we may have suppressed things that we do not like about ourselves. We need to let these things surface, and allow them to be healed and integrated. As each memory is awakened, we simply try to hand it over to the Lord for healing, for we read, ‘Unload all your worries on to Him, for He is looking after you’ (1 Peter 5:7).
When we enter an undisturbed silence, we can be more attentive to the truth of who we are. It also provides an ambiance in which the Word of God can be received and cherished. While silence of itself is not prayer, it helps create an atmosphere conducive to prayer. To allow the Word of God to work on us, we need to let it penetrate our souls. We must allow our souls to become tranquil. Then, like drops of water sinking into a still pond, we let the ripples go forth, gently touching the deepest recesses of our hearts. Let the sound of these words of the Lord echo and re-echo within you and find a home there.
Silence in God's presence
brings the mystery and glory
of the next life
forward into this
joining the Eternal to the now in seamless Adoration.
Br. Dominic Byrne OFM
When we succeed in living in God’s time, open to the epiphany underlying every little happening and every commonplace gesture, we are in fact engaging in a truly contemplative exercise and making a declaration of freedom in the face of a world that suffers from a self-centred understanding of time which pushes people towards despair or mindless escapism. The contemplative is a witness to the truth that time is not money but relationship.
Giacomo Bini OFM