A Speechless Language

“We fill our lives with noise, from television to radio to stereo and compact disc. Our culture says noise is necessary. We prefer noise because it dulls our innate loneliness. We are uncomfortable with silence. Yet only by cultivating silence daily do we begin to accept its many gifts.”
-John Dear, S.J.
Living Peace

It seems as if December is a continuous mad dash for Christmas. Everyone is rushing about trying to find the right gifts. And there are cards to be sent, trees to be gotten, houses to be decorated…all on top of the normal onslaught of responsibilities at home and work. Ho, ho, ho quickly becomes dread, dread, dread.

Mercifully, we don’t need to run and catch God; we need to stop running and be caught by God. The One who has always been is always only Present. We are the ones too busy to be present to God’s presence. The frenzied pace of life today easily leaves us feeling disorientated and unbalanced. The crush of time and competition has nearly squeezed contemplation out of existence. Without regular periods of stillness and contemplation, we are doomed.

In the sea of dysfunction and destruction that engulfs so much of modern life, there is an island where hope abounds, a sacred space that nurtures the soul. That island has a name: prayer. Intimacy with God grows freely on this island.

We must guard against the onslaught of distractions our culture hurls at us each day. We need to incorporate structured time for spiritual reading and reflection. So much of life distracts us from Life. We live in a whirlwind of noise. Our homes and cars have elaborate entertainment centers. Cell phones allow us to talk while driving or walking in the woods. Cable and satellite TV serves up news, sports and movies 24 hours a day. Computers link us to the internet and chat rooms and web sites featuring triple X porn stars. And of course, crass commercialism is always screaming something at us, insisting we need what we don’t need.

Finding silence is harder than finding a needle in a haystack. Our culture is so riddled with turmoil and confusion it’s easy to seek refuge in the noise of mindless entertainment, channel surfing through endless hours of tedious programs. We need to welcome the chance to be alone with God; but the barren silence scares us, and we quickly miss the security blanket of noise.

We need time alone in order to be present to God. We need a desert experience. In the barrenness of the desert, whether literal or figurative, we can experience the fullness of life. The desert is a place of silence where we find the quiet to hear. We need to create time for stillness, carving places in our daily schedules for contemplation, meditation or prayer. We need to be less concerned with doing so many things, and instead develop our innate capacity for simply being – being fully present to the integrity and capacity of each moment.

Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, said: “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.” Silence gives us space for receptivity; it allows us to hear the speechless language of God and to respond with our hearts. Only in silence can you hear the vast, boundless depths of the Spirit speaking more and more clearly about the unlimited love and mercy of God.

Be still. Be quiet. Be. Which might be hard in December.

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1 Response to “A Speechless Language”


  1. 1 aliceny December 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Thank you for this reminder, Gerry. My circuits are so overloaded, I cannot think straight.


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