The air was thick with humidity and the cawing of a murder of crows that lived just outside the building. Every ten seconds a honking horn accented the bustle of Kolkata (Calcutta). Turning my focus away from the barred glassless window, I looked to the monstrance. There was Christ, present to me. I was sitting in the chapel of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers main house. Having travelled halfway around the world into ceaseless sounds, smells, and crowds; I found in the midst of all that distant chaos I was able to travel into myself. I encountered the Lord in a new way through experiencing profound interior silence. It was in the silence of my heart I began to perceive God, and as the Lord revealed himself to me I came to see myself more clearly also.
I wish that the interior silence I found there had remained undisturbed as I described for the last 4 years, but it has not. The constant buzz of life has grown deafening, and I yearn for silence. I do not think I am alone in this, as many conversations I have with friends relay the same stories.
My life is in my pocket, on my phone a schedule of reminders sing their announcement of an upcoming appointment. I am on call to the world and am expected to return messages and inquiries promptly. Constant videos, articles and blog posts (not unlike this one) are vying for my eyes and my time. There is so much chatter, but so little communication, for communication requires listening. We talk, and express, and share, and read, and like, and follow, and yet we hardly listen. I've bought the lies. "I am so important that if I am not on call and do not respond, the world will come to a screeching halt," and "If I do not read all the posts that come across my feed I will be behind the curve and lose a competitive advantage." These are all lies, and we perpetuate their importance when we drop everything to respond to an unimportant text, or as we read a less than satisfying article baited with importance but lacking sustenance.
It seems that with every unintentional word we read and speak, we place another brick upon the tower of babel. Yet, oh the gentle breeze of influence that comes from a word spoken out of contemplation in humility. Are these not the words that can break us free, if only for a moment, from our "like, share, and repeat" world? I am so restless in the noise, I long to rest in the silence of Eternity! Beyond the veil of silence we encounter the eternal presence of God.
So I challenge myself, and I challenge you, to question when and how we consume the noise around us. I challenge us to not be mindless consumers of the passing drivel of a world clamoring for attention. I challenge us to proactively seek and enter silence. I challenge us to sit in prayer, and let our silence speak to the Lord, and listen for His answer.
This lack of silence in our lives is dangerous for ourselves and damaging to others, but do not simply take my words for the importance of silence, let us look to wise Christians who came before us!
St. Faustina speaks to us about the dangers of breaking silence:
"But, in order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one’s soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence, but an interior silence; that is to say, recollection in God. One can speak a great deal without breaking silence and, on the contrary, one can speak little and be constantly breaking silence. Oh, what irreparable damage is done by the breach of silence! We cause a lot of harm to our neighbor, but even more to our own selves" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska).
G.K. Chesterton explores the mystery of God that is hidden in silence:
"The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels [Jesus] towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth" (Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton).
St. Augustine looks toward the beholding of God that can only happen in the silence of Eternity:
"For we now believe what we do not see, that so by the merits of that same faith we then may merit to see what we believe, and may so hold fast to it that the Equality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the Unity of the Trinity, may no longer come to us under the garb of faith, nor be the subject of contentious talk, but may rather be what we may drink in purest and deepest contemplation amid the silence of Eternity" (De Catechizandis Rudibus, xxv. 47, Augustine of Hippo).
St. Gregory expresses the value of words shared after contemplation and silence:
"It is said of perfect men that on their return from contemplation: They shall pour forth the memory of Thy sweetness" (Hom. V. on Ezechial, St. Gregory).
As we journey into the silence of Eternity, I hope we may encounter the mirth of God. May the joy and levity of Heaven bring us from restless broken silence into rest, and when we return, may we truly have something worth speaking.