Last week I asked you to enter the advent season fully aware of your surroundings and appreciate the great silence that is around you; appreciate it for what it is, an avenue to hear the voice of God Who is Himself dwelling in the silence of eternity.
This consciousness of the earth very naturally draws us into the next quarter of our meditation; the heart. The Scriptures given to us today provide many clues as to how we can encounter Christ in the silence of our hearts. But for that, we have to become fearless and persistent in our walk with the prophet into the desert. “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.”
It will not be easy because even in the quiet of our lives there is too much noise and the noise can make solitude and silence painful and something to be feared. “The uneasiness does not come from silence itself but from what it reveals. A retreatant comes to a monastery (charterhouse) in order to encounter God, and he begins by encountering an unexpected person; himself. The surprise is not particularly pleasant. (SARAH, p.209)”
The desert is exactly what we all know it is; lonely, cold, treacherous, unrelenting, self-revealing. The desert is not navel gazing, it is a mirror into the true state of our souls. “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
You see, when you are alone and quiet you can confront the evil you have done and make things ‘straight’. Your soul can be allowed to realize it’s true worth in relation to God. Here you can encounter the Queen of Virtues: Humility. We are, all of us His creatures, given a brief time on this earth in contrast to eternity by a God Who is infinite. “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”
That is why there are essential parts of the Mass in which silence is necessary, so the soul can rightly encounter God through His Word Made Flesh. In these silent moments, the soul can encounter the Mystery that reveals the Love from Which all things are made.
The action of the Mass is laid out for us in the Scriptures today: “(Here) Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. I will listen for what God, the LORD, has to say; surely, he will speak of peace to his people and to his faithful.”
The silence at Mass as with all the sacraments is an attempt to teach you not to be fearful of solitude and loneliness but to embrace it as the path to real prayer. “Provide people with places where they can go to be quiet –relax minds and hearts in the presence of God. (SARAH, p.32)”
You may fight many distractions and even greater temptations there, but you can control them and allow yourself to be relaxed around them. Remembering always that Christ has already won victory over sin. Satan will try to deceive you in this, but do not be deceived.
The rosary is a wonderful tool to begin. Center all your attention on Jesus; see Him through the eyes of Mary, that quiet one who became our example and guide.
It is the steady and persistent exercise of becoming silent and then becoming comfortable sustaining that silence for a while, that is key to sanity in this world. Thomas Merton once wrote, “There is not much use talking to men about God and love if they are not able to listen. The ears with which one hears the Gospel are hidden in man’s heart, and these ears do not hear anything unless they are favored with a certain interior solitude and silence” (Thoughts in Solitude, p.13).
Create the desert in your own heart then, and be not afraid to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ there. Allow yourself the time to hear a ‘voice of one crying out in the desert.’ As the Rule of Saint Benedict tells us in Chapter 42: “Become zealous for silence!”