Bishop Scott Anson Benhase
March 8, 2013eCrozier #168

Silence as Soul Food    

The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul gets what it needs with silence.

- Richard Rohr


Talk, talk, talk, talk, 'til you lose your patience

- Bruce Springsteen


There are times when silence is not called for. Silence when we see injustice; silence when we witness another person being abused; silence when a word of comfort or hope is needed. These are not occasions for silence. But there are so many other times when silence is exactly what we need. Silence gives us the chance to engage our brain before words come out of our mouths. It allows for the opportunity to listen to another person instead of interrupting them. Silence can thus keep us out of a whole lot of trouble.


This is particularly true in our prayer life. Because we are a people who love our Book of Common Prayer, we may mistakenly believe that all of our prayer life needs to be filled with words, and not just words, but the right words coming from the Book of Common Prayer. As much as I find indispensable the structure of our prayers in The Daily Office, I also know the need I have to just be quiet; to allow silence to engulf me. With all due respect to collard greens, silence is the best soul food for me.


The problem is: we are so accustomed to noise. The noise of the world becomes the norm. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping when I am on the road because it is often so quiet where I stay. I am used to living where there are shouting voices, car horns, and loud train whistles to rock me to sleep. I am used to the noise. It is my norm. Yet, it is in the silence where I am confronted with myself free of distraction and absent excuses. It is in the silence where God can get a word in edge wise. The noise of our lives distracts us. It allows us to avoid addressing the deeper issues of our lives that silence affords.


Some people do not welcome silence, in fact, they may well be afraid of it because of its capacity to confront. There are those who cannot fall asleep without the radio on or music playing. Others keep the television on in their homes even though they are not watching anything on it. It is a noisy, electronic companion. There was a CD released a few years back called Lonely No More. The CD, as I understand it, was intended for the user to play while being at home alone. The CD has tracks of the sound of a shower running, the sound of groceries being put away in kitchen cabinets, and the sound of a vacuum cleaner running.


If silence is not a regular part of your life, I encourage you make it a part of the rest of your Lenten discipline, sort of a test drive for the rest of your life. But please know you are playing with fire if you do. You may come to some epiphanies about yourself in the silence. In the silence, you may discover parts of your life that will call forth, even demand, repentance from you. Silence is exercise for the soul. We may not always like it, but it is crucial for the health of our soul.

  Scott's Signature

The Rt. Rev. Scott A. Benhase               


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