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People are What They Do with Silence

No matter how hard we may try, it is impossible to avoid silence altogether. Aside from the natural silences that come with sleep, sickness, satiation, sadness, or a winter snow, we may also encounter the impromptu silences of everyday life while first sitting up in bed, during a long day's drive, staring up at twilight, or fighting tired eyes getting heavy before bed. With all this silence interrupting our noise, perhaps there's more to it than what meets our ears.

Just think about it for a moment. What do you do when there’s silence? Does it make you nervous? Do you find ways to avoid it?

If those questions give you pause, then take time today to remember that prayer is a universal human vocation, which means that God calls everyone to it. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). What that means is that we must work harder to savor the silence that not only preserves our emotional and physical well-being, but also prioritizes the all-encompassing spiritual self, which is given as a loving gift from the Most Holy Trinity who is the source and summit of everything we are and do.

By protecting and preserving personal prayer in silence and cherishing communal prayer (which finds its highest form in the Divine Liturgy when we partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ), we will more naturally reorient our lives toward a kind of human kenosis (a transliterated Greek word that means ‘self-emptying’). In other words, when we use silence as prayer, we will be opened up to the mystical union with God that culminates after death.

"Prayer unfolds in time, but essentially it transcends time. That saintly people ‘lose a sense of time’ while praying is not merely the psychological result of an intense concentration: what really happens is a transfer into eternity. Prayer is made ‘through Christ’. Yet the time of Jesus is not simply one of earthly duration; he guides time to its fulfillment and entirely governs it. The time of prayer is in itself sacred by the mere fact that it belongs to ‘the age to come’. It tends no less towards the fullness to come and is directed toward the Day of the Lord" (Tomáš Špidlík, SJ, PRAYER: The Spirituality of the Christian East, Volume 2, p. 109).

Since secular society seems intent on forever distracting us by noise, it seems to stand that the true believer is defined by what he or she does with silence. So, before going to bed tonight, ask God to close your eyes so you can see Him and close your ears so you can hear Him. This more decisive path of silence will serve you on the path to union with God in eternity.

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The above is an icon of the Virgin Mary of Stillness. It can be purchased from St. George Monastery in Jerusalem by clicking here: Virgin Mary of Stillness Icon Printed (English) | Oceanitissa.

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