“Silence is not the exile of speech. It is the love of the One Word. (SARAH, p80.)”
I have been reading a book recently called, The Power of Silence, Against the Dictatorship of Noise, by the Prefect for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Robert Sarah. What I would like to do these next few weeks of Advent is reflect on some of the points brought up here with the hope that they might become a part of every person’s life who struggles heroically to become a saint.
There are four topics: Earth, Heart, Mary and God. I would like to conclude on Christmas Day with Silent Night: Silence in the Manger.
The Gospel this morning bids us to “be watchful! Be Alert…You do not know when the Lord of the House is coming.”
This is an introduction to Advent as a time of real waiting, not of idle waiting, but rather of an active waiting, a persistent watching. The act of waiting is essentially spiritual, but cannot be truly purposeful unless it becomes a waiting, without the use of our senses. Cleansing our hearts and minds of all distraction; leaving only a cave of holy darkness and silent bliss, is possible for those who try and work hard at it; persistent watching. The Logos of God or the Word made Flesh, Who is Jesus, makes it necessary for human beings to actively participate in the Divine Mystery which is purposeful and redeeming. God purposefully creates in order to fulfill His Divine Providence. Our redemption hinges not just on our desire to be holy like Him but on our willingness to surrender to that Providence, even though it may be unseen.
God does speak and yet the sound we hear is the voice of another, a servant who gives his/her time to speak for Him. God speaks silently, and, what do we hear? The blind man seeks sight, Jesus gives it to him but the very act of healing is itself beyond sensing. “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but You doing such deeds for those who wait for Him…” (Isaiah 15).
Our parish is no different than others, our community is no different. We are all ‘busy’ about many things, material things, and worldly things. What makes us different is that we take seriously our obligation to worship God on Sundays and Holy Days. No matter what happens, we are faithful.
I notice more often how difficult it is for people when they come into Church to become silent and prayerful. It is becoming more difficult to block out the noise of the world and enter that moment when God speaks in personal and communal ways. Many of you are caught up in the busyness; adults living two lives, their own and their children’s, drowning in the buzz of man-made priorities insisted upon with our twenty-four hour a day news cycle our 24/7 telecommunications and social media. It is getting harder for people to handle the pause of prayer, the listening of words, or the prolonged moments of truly sharing a feeling, a glance or a heartbeat.
Catholics are not immune from the ‘dictatorship of noise.’ We get caught up following the chaos that is becoming our world and forgetting the sacredness that silence makes available to all humanity as a means of not only personal sanity, but also uniting ourselves to God.
“Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness.” (Sarah, p.80,142)
The waiting and watching of advent presumes, I think, that you purposefully and persistently find time to be quiet and perhaps even be alone, though one is never alone with God. “When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently, it is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedoms which are their due, then the society in which they live become putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate.” ― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
So where do we begin, to begin again; to reestablish what is truly human and thus truly divine for the birth of Jesus proves that God and Man can become one in Him Who loves us so dearly.
Let’s begin with what is around us, the earth. The earth offers us so many opportunities to be quiet, to find silent approaches to sanity. For example, watching a leaf fall from a tree in your yard; or notice the placement of stars in the sky. When was the last time you just stopped and listened and recorded all the sounds that make up your day?
Look around you! You have a national park, you have a sanctuary. You have a small square in your own home!
John the Baptist found the desert and is calling you there this advent to look for that waiting space and be watchful, be aware with your ears, cutting off all your others senses and be in tune with the movement of the earth herself.
Enter the advent season fully aware of your surroundings and appreciate the great silence that is around us; appreciate it for what it is, an avenue to hear the voice of God Who is Himself dwelling in the silence of eternity.
I will leave you with the words of Cardinal Sarah, “Without silence, we are deprived of mystery, reduced to fear, sadness and solitude (isolation). It is time to rediscover silence!”