Silence precedes, undergirds, and grounds everything. Unless we learn how to live there, go there, and abide in this different phenomenon, everything—words, events, relationships, identities—becomes rather superficial, without depth or context. We are left to search for meaning in a life of events and situations which need to increasingly contain ever higher stimulation, more excitement, and more color, to add vital signs to our inherently bored and boring existence. This need for stimulation is the character of America and most Western countries. We are in danger of becoming just a shell with less and less inside, and less contact with the depth and reality of things—where all the lasting vitality is found. This is what Jesus calls “a spring inside us—welling up unto eternal life” (John 4:14). God is always found at the depths of things, even the depths of our sin and brokenness. And in the depths, it is always silent.
As a culture, it seems we are deeply afraid of silence, as I said yesterday. The running from silence is undoubtedly running from God, from our soul, from our selves, from the truth, and from freedom. One of the beginnings of freedom is to stop thinking and “just look” (contemplata in Latin), or just be. That’s when God can meet you exactly where you are, in this embodied spirit that you are. Give yourself permission to get out of your head, to let go of your sacred explanations and theological certitudes that too often make personal listening, waiting, seeking, and praying a non need! My single biggest disappointment in serving as a priest for 44 years is the lack of spiritual curiosity among the vast majority of Catholics (I can only pick on them!) They too often settle for glib answers that make silent awe and pregnant questioning unnecessary—which is the very birth of the authentic religious spirit.
In silence and solitude, we can finally get our selves (our feelings, our needs, our compulsions, our reactions) out of the way and return to “the face we had before we were born,” as the Zen masters put it. Who am I before I was a priest or a teacher or a male or an American or whatever I am? And before that? And before that? That free and deeply desirous position of nothingness, nakedness, and emptiness is where God can most powerfully meet us and teach us. My two favorite saints, Francis of Assisi and Thérèse of Lisieux, both made this their certain and constant starting place—which is why they are so believable.
Adapted from Adapted from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction, disc 3 (Published by Franciscan Media.);
and �Finding God in The Depths of Silence,� Sojourners,
(Reprinted with permission from Sojourners, 800-714-7474,
Gateway to Silence: