Brothers and Sisters,
For your Lenten practice for 2010, I recommend to you to just sit in silence for a few moments. Start with two minutes and build up to twenty by the end of Lent. There is very little silence in America today — even in Mass on Sunday. If you are uneasy with silence, you are uneasy with yourself and with God. So take these six weeks of Lent to learn the discipline of silence; that is,of contemplative prayer. How to quiet your mind and open your heart. It is the basic form of prayer of all of the religions of the world.
Many years ago I was vacationing with a friend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina It was late at night. A few deer were our only companions on the mountain top. It was pitch black. We couldn’t even see each other. The stars were out all over the heavens in a spectacular display. We were gazing toward the heavens and my friend and I were silent for the longest while. And the silence was penetrating. No cars, no planes, no sirens, no dogs barking, no boomboxes blasting, no words shared between us.
I still remember that moment. It was my introduction to the awesome / all enveloping / soul-grabbing experience of silence. The whole moment inserted us into the mystical; the silence itself was enrapturing.
I have loved silence now for many years. When I was in treatment for my illness, I learned that spending an hour before the Blessed Sacrament each night in the center’s chapel allowed me some relief from my depression and self loathing. There was consolation in the silence. I heard God speak — words that were infused directly into my soul.
In fact, silence is the language God speaks. Or rather, God speaks in the silence. If we are to learn to hear God speaking to us, it is very necessary for us to learn to be comfortable with silence.
In the silence we will hear the voices that inhabit our mind and our soul — the harsh voices that may have been with us since childhood, and the soft, gentle voices of our friends, including the soft gentle Voice of God. Elijah revealed the gift of the silence of God thousands of years ago:
“Elijah came to a cave where he looked for shelter. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks — but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake — but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire — but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” I Kings 19:9,11-13.
So, the mystery of silence is where the Lord is. When we enter silence we enter as if upon a vast ocean. We enter upon the vast communication system of the universe; we think we hear the music of the spheres, as I was sure we did on that night long ago on the mountain top. But we also entered upon the silence of mystery. The mystery of God’s presence almost necessarily involves silence. Silence is the language of mystery.
Take the time this Lent to let God grab you — in the ocean of silence.
If you can’t find a quiet place, escape to the bathroom, or roll up your car window and turn up the radio and enter for a few moments your little “poustinia” your own little quiet place. And encounter your God and encounter your True Self.
They call this Centering Prayer.
For the rest of this article which appeared in my reflection / letter Arise in 1998 click here.
For information about the origins and practice of Centering Prayer click here.
For your an audio / visual meditation “Let all mortal flesh keep silence click here.
Or with lyrics click here.
priest / writer