A few years ago, during the BBC TV programme, ‘The Monastery’, based on Worth Abbey in Sussex, one of the monks was showing a group of school children around. Standing with them in the quiet chapel he stilled the children’s chatter: ‘Shush ! Can you hear that?’ he said. There was not a sound to be heard yet he continued: ‘Do you know what that is ? It’s called ‘silence’! He went on to explain to his young visitors what discoveries can be made when we open ourselves to the wonderful world of silence, with all its possibilities.
We live in a noisy world where it is nearly impossible to escape from the strident sound of traffic, aircraft, music, human voices.
C.S. Lewis, in his ‘Screwtape Letters’, describes the devil speaking to one of his junior devils saying: ‘Noise is the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end…….the melodies and silences of heaven will be shouted down…” (p 114).
To experience this precious and rare thing, ‘silence’, we need to find a quiet place where we can be on our own, without distractions and spend at least a moment trying to rediscover our true being through solitude, stillness, and silence.The real me is what I am before God.
As members of a noisy modern generation we always seem to be either speaking ourselves or listening to others talking,or hearing incessant news bulletins, loud music, and media people giving us their opinions on the so-called ‘issues’ of the day. Very little listening seems to be going on here! We need to take to heart to these wise words from Henri Nouwen’s book,’The Way of the Heart’:
‘The Word of God is born out of the eternal silence of God and it is to this Word out of silence that we want to be witnesses’ (He is referring to the dramatic opening words of the first letter of John in the New Testament chapter 1 verses 1-3)……’Words are meant to convey the mystery of the silence from which they come… Words need to be filled with the silence of God…Timely silence, then is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts.’ (p 39-40)
He quotes an old Chinese proverb:
‘Where can I find the man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.’
Mother Theresa wrote:
‘We are called ..at certain intervals to be alone with God….to dwell lovingly in his presence, silent, empty, expectant and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation……the trees and the flowers grow in silence. The stars, the moon and the sun move in silence.’
She then went on to speak of the deeper inner silence of the ears, of the eyes, of the tongue, of the mind, and of the heart, that hears the still small voice, that sees with the sight of faith the Creator God who is invisible, that tastes of the good things he gives, that thinks his thoughts after him, that feels and seeks to discover his presence.
Great discoveries await us here, if we are willing to explore.