Silence Prepares Us for the Coming of Christ
by Catherine Doherty
When peaceful silence lay over all, And night had run the half of her swift course, Down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; Into the heart of a doomed land. (Wisdom 18: 14-15)
It is not easy to be silent, but it is necessary if we are to begin our journey inward to meet the God who dwells within us. Jesus Christ said, "My Father and I and the Holy Spirit will come and dwell within you."
Silence can also become a cradle. Silence is the cradle of the Incarnation of God, for there was a great and awesome silence when God was born.
I make a cradle out of my heart for any one of you to rest in like a child. As Christ said, "Unless you become like little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." That's why my favorite prayer is: "Lord, give me the heart of a child and the awesome courage to live it out as an adult."
Silence is also an inn. There was a Good Samaritan who picked up the man besieged by robbers. Who of us is not besieged by robbers today? Who of us does not need an inn where all is rest and peace and silence? This is what silence does; it becomes the highest communication, the quickest way to peace, the cradle for a child, an inn for the weary and tired.
Silence produces all this if you and I fall in love with God. For it is out of that love, that fantastic union that only God could devise for us, that silence can become all those things.
What does the world need most of all? It needs to touch God. Through silence I realize that I can touch Jesus Christ everywhere. Silence is the key to many secrets of God. Why don't we ask him to give it to us?
Lovers, married people, close friends—all will say that there are moments in their lives when words fall away as if they were old rags-they've become useless. Love cannot deal with them. Love can only deal with silence. It's a silence pregnant with God, filled with love. Wherever there is loving communicative silence, there is God.
It is God who bids us enter into communication. The Father spoke the Word. The Word became incarnate, became a man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who walked among us. He is present among us now; Christ is in our midst. He is this Word that is really the essence of communication.
We go to Mass and receive Holy Communion-we communicate with God. He enters into us and he becomes part of us. This is done so silently. We receive a piece of bread: God. There is silence between two lovers—God and man. The mystery of God meets the mystery of man. This is where real communication begins, when I am in communion with God, with the Most Holy Trinity.
There is un-peace in our hearts, and in the world. Why is there violence everywhere? Because we are not silent. We have not lifted our hearts to God. We have not communicated with him. We have not taken inner counsel with one another. That is to say, that counsel that comes from the union of love.
How many of us are silent enough to listen to the other? When one is listening and another talking, people begin to understand each other; and then this can be reversed and the one listening can begin to talk. We don't listen because we have no inner silence of mind or soul.
The Word, Jesus Christ, comes when peaceful silence encompasses everything, when the night is half spent. I may refuse to enter into the night of inner quiet, of non-resistance to the divine. If I do refuse, my life is doomed to remain parched and lifeless.
What is this silence that constantly prepares for the coming of the Lord? Silence can be understood in many ways. Silence can be experienced as the absence of noise. Silence may also mean the absence of words that are needless. The absence of useless talk, the softening of a voice that is shrill and strident. The cultivation of silence belongs to the gentle style of life. A style permeated with what we are and what we do. Love can make us capable of silence.
Today people are hungry for friendship, for understanding, for someone to talk to, someone who really listens. But who of us ordinary mortals can really listen with the ear of the heart wide open, taking in every word that the other says? The weight of listening is heavy. That is why we need to pray for a "spiritual bulldozer" to make straight the ways of the Lord in our hearts, so that he might come unencumbered and do the listening in our hearts. So that he might understand, console, help those who come to us!
He will do it through us if we reduce our interior noise to a gentle silence that listens to him. He will do it if we stop the swirling dust of our mutterings, our non–listening to our brother. He will come especially when we allow this spiritual bulldozer to really make straight the paths of our hearts for him to walk on unencumbered, so that he can listen through us, talk through us, understand through us.
Sometimes we speak anxious and tense words interiorly to ourselves, words that drive us toward moralistic self-perfection. These powerful, unspoken words can be more harmful than spoken ones, for they halt the one Word that wants to fill my life.
To reduce our noise, to become silent, is to enter his silence, and his silence speaks. There is no renowned spiritual master, from the East or the West, who did not praise the silence that leaves room for presence to the Presence: God himself.
Catherine Doherty (1896-1985), born in Russia, was foundress of Madonna House and a prolific writer and teacher. Her passionate zeal impelled her to pass on her faith in God, and she is now being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.