"You can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and dimension all its own. It talks to me sometimes. . . . It has a strange, beautiful texture. It doesn’t always talk. Sometimes—sometimes it cries, and you can hear the pain of the world in it.”
—Danny Saunders in The Chosen by Chaim Potok
As I think about the " Telling the Truth ", conference, there is one thing that keeps tumbling to the forefront of my thoughts, and that is...Silence. It's kind of weird that out of a conference on the church, art and worship in the intersection of faith...that silence speaks the loudest. Silence is this precious commodity that humanity hasn't been able to exploit to market or sell. The reality is it's becoming extinct was we try and drown it out from every corner of this human experience. Even many churches have lost reverence for this sacred space. It is like a hole in dam, we need to plug it with anything for fear of what might come out of it. Even worse it can be seen as leaving your car idling, where it's seen as a waste of energy.
Even Clement of Alexandria called silence a converse with God. To identify prayer with petition, or even with thanksgiving, confession, praise is to stay in the shallow end of the pool. We do not get into the deep end of the pool until we learn that prayer is much more than our own words.
Our inner ears need to hear something other than our own tongues. Creating stillness within, in silence might allow the ears of our soul to hear something of a divine whisper. Most of the time my mind is this clothes dryer locked in the spin mode. I need to try and slow or stop this torrent of thoughts that ever floods my mind and keeps me from encountering what's beyond, that being a place wherein speaking can defer to listening, wherein prayer can become not something I do but something that I receive as I wait upon God in hope and faith. It becomes all Grace. I have done nothing to manipulate this communion...it has been all Him in silence.
I think Jamie said this on the weekend from C.S Lewis, " the real labour is in remembering to attend."
"Luminous meditation on God is the goal of silence." These are the words of Isaac of Nineveh, who believed that our prayers should issue in stillness. The compassionate monk recognized that, in this life, such stillness will never become, except in a very few, absolute. This is why he counseled his fellow monks that, if they could not prevent their minds from wandering during silent prayer, they could at least see to it that their thoughts strayed in helpful directions. Isaac nonetheless exhorted his audience to look for a dark and silent closet within because he knew that such a place exists, and that God is waiting to meet us there.
Neuroscientists have established that, when one sense is impaired, another may step into help, and that, in particular, peoples sense of hearing often becomes exceptional when they can not see, especially when they have been blind from an early age. There is in this a lesson about our religious lives. For if there are physical senses, there are also spiritual senses; and just as hearing grows when sight diminishes, so too do our spiritual senses become more acute when our physical senses retreat.
The luminous dusk, the unspent, dark cloud of God's glory, ( the hearing of silence ), lies beyond the door that is buried, in the words of Teresa of Avila, " in the extreme interior, in some deep place within." Although only God's grace can open the door, we can do our best to stand before the doorway.
So silence spoke profoundly to me this weekend, it awoke me from my slumber...it made me think of how much I need this as a rhythm in my daily life. It is a profound act of abandonment, by declining to look at or to listen or to think about the things around me. Yes, uncomfortable, scary...but I need this place in my life. This darkness and stillness become my collaborator, helping to drag my attention away from this world of divertissment to the numinous world that holds the neglected foundation of divine light.
“Tallis says that the greatest music ever written is the silence between the Crucifixus and the Resurrexus est in Bach’s “Mass in B Minor.” I would add that some of the greatest writing mankind has produced comes in the caesura; the pause between words.”