Let all mortal flesh keep silent, standing there in fear and trembling, let all things of earth vanish from our thoughts; for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Christ our God, is about to be sacrificed and to be given as food to the faithful. Before Him choirs of Angels go, clothed with power and dominion, with faces veiled, chanting the hymn, Alleluia. __ St. James Liturgy, 4th Century.
What is the value of silence? It is nothing, it is emptiness, it communicates nothing and yet by abiding in it we gain all, we find fullness and learn everything we must know; God Alone. It is the desire of the Church that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be observed and participated in with a certain type of spiritual quiet. The instruction for the Missal requires that a period of silence be observed after the hearing of the Gospel and also after the reception of the Eucharist. It allows us to quiet our spirits and meditate on the moment. We do not obtain this stillness in a conversation with our friends or in the waving and holding of hands in Mass. Nor do we find it by smiling at all our friends that we spot in church. It is found in interior solitude. The exterior stillness is only a help and a symbol to aid the soul who wishes to enter that moment. The St. James Liturgy, the oldest existing liturgy known to us, knew the value of the silence of which I speak, as you can quickly see from the excerpt above.
Silence is the ultimate reverence. It is the humility and homage that Christ should demand of us. And if He doesn’t, we should demand it of ourselves. It is an expression of true dignity, respect and worship. How dare I make a sound lest I miss His whispers within my soul? “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language He best hears is silent love.” (St. John of the Cross)
As a dog shows his love by lying silently at the feet of his master, so too should a soul lay in quiet expectation for the slightest movement that His Lord might make: for whatever the Lord demands, that we should faithfully, willfully and lovingly fulfill. It is how we come to a complete reliance on God while ridding our minds of any consideration of self. “The most generous choices, especially the persevering, are the fruit of profound and prolonged union with God in prayerful silence.” (Pope John Paul II)
Silence informs our prayers. We cannot possibly pray as we ought if we do not allow God to speak to us and our prayers become merely a list of personal requests and demands. “God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen. And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart, and God listens. And this listening and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be….” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
We live in a noisy and busy world where we find it difficult to find time to be alone with God and feel continuously oppressed by the demands of our lives. Somehow, we need to make room for the benefit of both our minds and our souls. “Let us allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by St. Joseph’s silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
May we all find at least an hour during our week, especially during Mass, where our souls might have an opportunity to plumb its depths to that stillness, that quiet spot within our souls, where God abides, God speaks and we silently listen.