Silence is never merely the cessation of words…. Rather it is the pause that holds together— indeed, it makes sense of— all the words , both spoken and unspoken. Silence is the glue that connects our attitudes and our actions. Silence is the fullness, not emptiness; it is not absence, but the awareness of a presence.
The writer of the Book of Romans says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. “(Romans 8:26) These words of scripture have been heavily debated and interpreted in many ways. In the Charismatic movement, they are generally interpreted as a “prayer language” that is bestowed upon someone in an ecstatic state. In 1 Samuel 1:13 we have this example, “Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.” The link that is consistent is silence or the lack of words.
Theologian and scholar, John Chryssavgis, tells us that silence is so much more than a lack of words. It is indeed a joining of our spirit with the spirit of God. All of us want to find a way to God’s front door. We want to talk to him and hear from him. Sometimes the only way to do that is to embrace a “holy silence.”
The” holy silence” calls on us to pause. The purpose of the pause is to give us time to allow God’s words to surface in our crowded mind. Our minds and hearts are so jammed with the cares of life that God is never heard amid the cacophony of sounds and experiences that make up a single day. Somehow, we must find the glue of silence that binds our souls to our Creator. In doing so we begin to connect our attitudes to our actions.
As we connect our attitudes to our actions, we discover our true selves. Many of us spend a great deal of our life attempting to be what we think we ought to be instead of slowing down and silently listening to the message of God. When we do, he gives us things that are beyond words and vision that navigate our spiritual lives. We no longer need an abundance of words, because we possess an abundance of Spirit. That Spirit will enliven us with spiritual groanings that will be perceived by all that we encounter.
The concept of silence as fullness cuts against the grain of conventional thinking. Most of us would consider fullness as being active and involved in all ways with the church and the world. The Contemplative path takes us into a world of silence where we are not retreating but find a fuller way to be involved. Such a fullness allows our God to speak to us in ways that words fail. Through silent involvement we become fully aware of the presence of God in all things. We no longer limit God to a church, a class or a ritual that is prescribed by man. We find full awareness of him as we sit in the practice of a silence that is an invitation to his presence.
We should all carve out some time of silence and isolation so that we hear the voice of God and receive “words” from him.
Lord, Allow me the courage to come to you without words and receive the words that you have hidden in my heart when you created me. I acknowledge that you have created me in your image. I confess that I have sorely neglected to develop your image, because I have been so busy making my own image. Let me take a pause so that I might allow your image to take root in me.