In the Silence
Lo, in the silent night
A child to God is born
And all is brought again
That ere was lost or lorn.
Could but thy soul, O man,
become a silent night!
God would be born in thee
And set all things aright.
Whoever wrote the 15th century verse copied here knew a truth about the sacredness of silence, of stillness. We cannot birth anything new, we cannot be transformed, we cannot grow toward the Light when we allow ourselves to be influenced or dictated by times of frenzy, anxiety, discord, and chaos. If ever we needed quiet and light, it is this present time. If ever we needed our souls to mimic “a silent night,” it is now. Outside this small space of time here on a blog page, the world roars in disarray. Even if we aren’t watching the news, we are picking up our phones and reading the headline stories or getting entangled in the fear and angst of social media. Our lives feel out of control in a world of pandemic and finger-pointing. Without silence, we risk becoming addicted to the noise that shouts that the word for the day is fear; the word for the day is anger; the word for the day is defiance. We hear so much noise we risk becoming the noise ourselves, and then there is no place for the Light to be born. Our ears cannot hear the messengers.
Over the past year, I’ve become very aware of my own reactions to the noise. I even took a social media “time out.” While I have learned that the noise is not something I can ignore (because some of it has truths we need to hear), it is something I want to set aside, or at least put boundaries around, each day in this journey of growth. Silence is essential for discerning how we respond to the noise. If we seek to model ancient guides, we remember that Jesus Christ sought silence eight times in the short gospel of Mark before returning to the clamor of his life and that Elijah had to escape to a mountain to hear the still small voice of God that guided him back into the foray. Each faith tradition has its own models for stillness and silence because we all need to be grounded in something other than ourselves. If we want to assist in the birthing that God/Being/Spirit has for each of us in order “to set things right,” then silence and stillness are our offerings.
Each time I come to this page, I light a candle. It flickers beside me and is one of those candles that crackles, and so it becomes my signal for silence. No words are necessary. Nothing needs to be produced. I just sit with the light, watching the flame stretch, then shrink, then sway like a dancer, its smoke ascending skyward like prayers. The candle evokes a sense of mystery and reverence and prepares me to go into the sanctuary of my heart, my Holy of Holies, where God is present. Only then am I able to meet the noise again, but with a sense of calmness and clarity I otherwise would not have. The noise needn’t win.
Advent and the winter seasons are a time of rest, and also a time of preparation. The noise must, at some point and in some way, be addressed. The darkness must give way to the Light, and we are the ones called to speak and to carry the candles forward. But how we do so depends on the time we spend in silence, listening to that still small voice that also directs and empowers and reassures us.
Perhaps when you come to this page, you, too, might light a candle in this season of darkness, marking your intention to shut out the noise, just for a bit, and to trust that the silence is preparing your soul, as well, to birth something new. Blessings to you.