We live in a wilderness, a wilderness of noise. Noise is not just about sound. It has to do with the constant barrage of stimulation to our senses, emotions and even our intellect, (read information overload.) The problem with all this noise is that it is an obstacle to our own inner order and peace, and more importantly, to a living communion with God and with others.
It is interesting to note how often people observe that the sounds God has put in creation, wind rustling in the trees, birds chirping, the lapping of waves at the ocean, are a balm to the soul. This stands in stark contrast to the agitation and disturbance created by the sounds of the modern world driven by mechanical energy and a volume, a pitch that does violence to one’s nerves, stressing them beyond what they are meant to endure. Silence is almost completely exiled from our modern culture. Yet it is exceedingly important for us. It is essential to our physical and spiritual well-being.
Silence is so important to us in fact, that it may be one of the main reasons God has structured us to sleep a third of our days. We know that when we can’t sleep, when our bodies and minds are deprived of the stillness good sleep brings, we become sick. Anyone who struggles with insomnia knows the anxiety and frustration that comes from lack of sleep.
“If I could just sleep, I would feel better,” is an all too common cry. For those saints who were able to pray the night away and not be ill-affected, it was because they entered a deep contemplative silence that so rejuvenated soul and spirit, the body was refreshed and strengthened by it also.
In the liturgy, given to us by God through Moses on Mount Sinai, and Jesus at the Last Supper, there are spaces for silence. That tells us that silence is part of a Divine Rhythm, part of the rhythm of life in Heaven. It tells us silence is a good thing, a medium for God’s communication of Himself to us. The lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in particular, bear striking witness to the inseparability of silence from great holiness.
If we want to be healthy, we must cultivate spaces of silence in our lives. Not the isolating silence so many live in, but a silence that nurtures peace within and communion without.
Practicing the prayer of presence, of being, in silence, with the Lord, even for five minutes a day, can begin to transform one’s life. Simply ask the Lord to take you into himself for five minutes, to be still and know that he is God. And then make it a habit.
It may seem like passivity to focus on silence when the world is clamoring for answers to its many grave problems. Yet, “if The Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.” The walls of Jericho would never have come tumbling down, nor would the people have persisted in the right action, if there had not been leaders among them who knew the silence of prayer and heard the Lord’s rather odd directions.
Today it has become an almost urgent necessity, to ask Our Lord and Our Lady to lead each of us to the kind of silence we speak of. The release of a true contemplative spirit among us, one in which the Lord lives and moves within us, may, in the end, be the key to the salvation of our modern world.
Sister Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT, is a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and serves at Domus Trinitatis, Willey.