Silence and prayer

The best expression of deep thought and profound emotion will often be lasting silence. The silence for example that came to Saint Thomas Aquinas toward the end of his life as a scholar after he had seen the One he had all his life written about and in Him true wisdom.

silence and prayerFor the Angelic Doctor, the popular adage Silence is a fence to wisdom became true. Who has not observed young fiancés or old couples, sitting side by side or hand in hand, keeping silent before the unison of their common love. When great things happen in our lives, we are at loss for words. In such unique moments of joy, sadness, piety or surprise, silence alone expresses the inexpressible. Silence in such circumstances is a blessing, a balm, a sign of the presence of grace, the voice of our soul. The American poet Henry David Thoreau catches some of the profundity of silence when he says: "Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment." He who cannot keep silent, is often shallow and seldom wise. A society that does not foster silence and often cruelly destroys it, fosters only the loud and busy desperation so many need to escape the silent cries of their weary souls.

We need silence to be able to touch souls

However, silence means even more. Without silence, we cannot hear the One Voice That Counts, we cannot hear the words spoken out of the depth of eternity, we cannot perceive God's gentle movement in our lives. The Prophet Elias did not find God in the storm or in the strong wind, but in the silent flow of a light Zephyr did he recognize Him, veil his head and adore. Mother Theresa says: "We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.... We need silence to be able to touch souls."

The Church has always known this, because she kept silent before the Wonderful since the beginning of her existence. What can you say seeing the Infant King in the crèche? What are your words witnessing the Lord changing water in wine? What is your comment when you meet Him on His way to Calvary? Can you speak a word under the Cross of the Saviour? Do you have a ready phrase at the empty tomb? What else than His name can one utter at the apparitions after the Resurrection? All is silence, wonder, adoration. Saint Joseph doesn’t speak a word, the Blessed Mother, mystical icon for Holy Mother Church, keeps silent in the presence of the Mysteries of His Birth, Death and Resurrection. It is this silence, though, that speaks; speaks of deepest love, total dedication, fullness of grace and of the glory of eternal bliss to come.

True prayer will only come from silence, as silent adoration for us is the highestform of prayer, the only human praise likened to the heavenly music of the angelic choirs. For this reason, the Church invites to silence during the celebrations of Her Sacraments, and silence is kept when God descends on earth. Those who seek God do so in the silence of their hearts, helped perhaps by the walls of a cloister, by the silent hours of the evening or night, by the silence at the tabernacle in a church, by a silent moment in their house or a pause at work. Without silence, we will not pray profoundly, and without silence, we rather hear the noises of the world than the harmonies of heaven.

"Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods." In these few words, Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to have perceived from far the beginning of that glorious way of silence that many have forgotten: Let us be silent, that we may hear in our soul the gentle call of the One God who is Truth and Live and Love! Let us be silent to hear His words of wisdom in His Churches doctrine! Let us be silent to perceive His presence in the Mysteries we celebrate! Let us be silent in gratitude before the merciful abundance of His gifts! Let us be silent to adore in awe what we will never fully understand but in humble, mute prostration of the mind! Let silence reign again, so God can speak!