Spiritual Exercises: An Eloquent Silence (1/2)

Silence: Language of Patience

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. [Psalm 62:5-8].

Being silent is much more than not speaking. To supplicate from the depth of our soul, we cannot rely solely on words.

The sanctity of our thoughts depends not on ornate language or rhetorical expressions, but on wordless emotions that sincerely seek the Divine. Our spiritual silence often communicates our feelings more effectively than words.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. [Matthew 6:7-8].

To grow spiritually, we may need to quarantine ourselves from the world — or quarantine the world from us.

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. [Ecclesiastes 5:2].

Impulsive Intellect

Silence helps us respond wisely to external stimuli. In stillness, we are able to scrutinize our thoughts before reacting. Often, our behavior can reply better than our words.

Words formed by quick-twitch reasoning and impetuous thoughts can casually escape through our lips to litter, stain and discomfort our consciousness and the consciousness of those around us.

God is our true Friend, who always gives us the counsel and comfort we need. Our danger lies in resisting Him; so it is essential that we acquire the habit of hearkening to His voice, or keeping silence within, and listening so as to lose nothing of what He says to us. [Francois Fenelon, Spiritual Letters of Archbishop Fénelon. Letters to Men, p. 179].

Our loud, pompous and empty talk lingers in our mind, distorting our thoughts and debilitating our piety.

Common people hold their tongues and only keep silent physically, while those who have certain knowledge of God keep control of both their tongue and heart, and so experience self-supervision in silence. As for the lovers of God, they keep their love and yearning within themselves and so represent the silence of faithfulness. [Fethullah Gülen, Emerald Hills of the Heart].

Intrusions into Our Thoughts

When our daily discourse is moderated by technologically generated impulses, when our intellect is steered by illusions and pride, when our desires are rooted in lust and greed, we cannot bring tranquility to our stressed soul.

No amount of technological progress will cure the hatred that eats away the vitals of materialistic society like a spiritual cancer… 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 message of 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… man cannot assent to a spiritual message as long as his mind and heart are enslaved by automatism. [Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, p. xii].

Many of our finest resolutions, commitments and vows succumb to the forceful intrusions of media persuasion, commercial marketers and our opinionated attempts to win worldly admiration.

Inner stillness produces serenity and promotes contemplation. Without spiritual silence, we have no private moments for reflection and no clear insight into our soul.

Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God. [Thomas Keating].

Worship and Silence

Silence enhances deep worship. In stillness, our calmed spirit can explore inner dimensions with greater clarity. Our thoughts reach new levels of self-awareness hidden beneath worldly clamor.

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence. [Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers, p. 19].

Our silence adorns worship with adoration and reverence. It barters words for patience.

Our patience is tinged with awe and veneration for we wait with hope and love. Our heart longs for this eloquent silence that opens us to the Divine Presence.

The literal translation of the words “pray always” is “come to rest.” The Greek word for rest is hesychia and hesychasm is the term which refers to the spirituality of the desert. A hesychast is a man or woman who seeks solitude and silence as the ways to unceasing  prayer.  The prayer of the hesychasts is a prayer of rest.  The rest, however, has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. [Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, p. 69-70].

Eloquent silence is emptiness that fills us with the remembrance of God. It is God-consciousness that inspires stillness and permeates our thoughts with piety.

May the praise of God ever be on our lips, and may our tongue find eloquence only in glorifying our Lord.

Now, verily, it is We who have created man, and We know what his innermost self whispers within him: for We are closer to him than his neck-vein. [And so,] whenever the two demands [of his nature] come face to face, contending from the right and from the left, not even a word can he utter but there is a watcher with him, ever-present. [Quran 50:16-18].

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  • Spiritual Exercises: An Eloquent Silence (2/2)
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