What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love. –St John of the Cross, OCD
God speaks many languages, but we hear Him best in silence. Perhaps that is why we have a draw to solitude at one time or another. This is a grace which comes first from God. But, if we enter solitude with God only when we are drawn, then we make it conditional on when it is convenient for us. If we love God, we will look for ways to enter silence with Him, even if only for brief periods.
Sometimes, we fill our lives with noise so that we do not have to think about wounds we might be suffering. Other times, we do so because we know deep down that we engage in things that are displeasing to God, but we are not ready to give them up. Among the many famous quotes attributed to St. Augustine, one of them was, “Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” After Jesus cast demons out of two men and into some swine which then drowned themselves, the people of the town pleaded with Jesus to leave (Mt 8:28-34). They did not want to change. Likewise, we avoid Jesus when we do not quiet ourselves.
Talking is also natural to us, as is our desire to share with others what we are thinking. We sometimes take this approach with God, spending more time talking to Him than listening to what He has to say. We may believe we are praying, when we are actually talking to God.
God is there, waiting for us to enter into silence so we can hear His voice above all others. It is in this silence to which he calls us, even if only for brief periods through the day. It is not a matter of being in silence to collect our thoughts as even this is a form of noise.
Consider a child who nestles in the warm embrace of a parent and sits contentedly for a period of time. No words are exchanged, but a bond forms and strengthens. Any loving parent knows what a gift this is and doesn’t want the moment to end. God is pleased when we sit quietly in His embrace, content to give ourselves to Him, asking for nothing in return. In this silence, we still hear His voice, but in the depth of our hearts. This is nothing extraordinary, but the ordinary way He communicates with us.
Look for small opportunities to be in silence. Work for a time in silence if you are accustomed to having some kind of noise. Ask God for His assistance, as well as that of your guardian angel. Start with just 30 minutes. Also, if you are having a meal alone – at work, or at home – take some time to have “lunch with God.”
A useful resource to understand the various forms of noise and how they affect the spiritual life was this great talk by Fr. Basil Nortz, ORC: On Holy Silence
Silence is a necessary condition for growth in the interior life. The spiritual doctors of the Church offer practical advice on how to observe 12 forms of silence in order to dispose ourselves for a deeper union in prayer with Jesus and to receive the subtle guidance of the holy angels.
Here also, is the trailer for a movie which was popular some years ago called, “Into Great Silence.” There is something about the solitude here that is appealing to us even though most of us could not live in silence to this extreme. If you hover your cursor in the lower left there is a gear. Click that and choose an HD version for optimal clarity.