The Love Song of Silence – Br. Lucas Hall
In a fit of desperation, I asked God for a sign. A light, a feeling, a sound in the dead of one cold November night. I got nothing. But that nothing is the moment I have pointed to, for years, as the beginning of my conversion. Because, in retrospect, I don’t think I received nothing. I think I received silence.
Some might define silence as nothing. As a lack. And it does involve a lack. It requires quiet and restraint. But it also requires hope, listening, and receptivity. It requires the spark and love of life. In silence, God patiently, excitedly waits for us to cast ourselves into him, to rest in his bosom, to venture forth with a whisper or a shout and say, “I am weak,” or, “I need you,” or “I love you.” God’s silence is that merciful, rare permission to be vulnerable, to need, and to love, in all the earnest sincerity we must restrain ourselves from expressing over the course of a day or a lifetime.
But God does not simply want us to go to him. God wants to come to us. He wants us to open ourselves to him as he has opened himself to us. He wants our hope, our listening, our receptivity. He wants our silence. That is easy to say. It is hard to do. In noisy, frenetic lives, silence is an uncomfortable task. It is a dangerous rebellion against a culture whose armies encroach on all sides, war drums beating ever more loudly.
In this difficulty and risk, and in our own human frailty, we have need of an example and a guide. Today, we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary, the God-bearer. She, more than any other, is the saint of this Great Living Silence.
In Luke’s account of the Gospel, the writer repeatedly describes Mary as pondering the words and actions of God, and treasuring them in her heart. To ponder and to treasure…this is the posture of hope, listening, and receptivity. This is how God is silent with us, and the silence he desires for us to adopt. The mind and the heart are both engaged, active, and full of love and wonder at the Word of God. This is not disinterested, thoughtless, or careless. This is not lack. This is Silence with a capital “S,” full of meaning, vibrant with life and with love. This is the two-way interaction, the dance between lover and beloved, that marks true Christian knowledge of God and of oneself. And it is God’s chosen dwelling.
We speak of pregnant pauses. Mary’s Silence is a truer pregnant pause than any. It is in Silence that God sends his Word, in that fertile Silence that the Word is grown, formed, cultivated, nourished, and loved. It is from that Silence that the Word emerges, the joyous, expectant pregnancy coming to full blossom with God made flesh, the salvation of the world, Jesus Christ.
But Mary also speaks. Her voice rings out with that blessed canticle, the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary is no mere empty receptacle for God to use, not a means to an end; she is a lover and a co-laborer with God. She acts, and just as she has been receptive to God’s loving Word, she proclaims her own love song to the God whose Word, in her, has taken his turn at Silence. Silence begets Word, and Word begets Silence, in the eternal interchange of godly love.
We too, long to praise and love God. Our souls strain to magnify the Lord, our spirits creak and groan with desire to rejoice in our Savior. The Magnificat is our love song, too. But to sing properly, we must also have Silence. We must pause to breathe God in. Without this, our song falters; the words get caught in the throat, the lungs beg for respite. And when our song falters, the raspy braying of a thousand lonely demons is quick to take our place, a cruel mockery of the heavenly choir. We should not let them. We should continue singing our love song. And to keep singing, we must be Silent.
1. Luke 1:29, 2:19, 2:51, New Revised Standard Version
2. Sebastian Brock, The Luminous Eye, (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1992), 43-44.
3. Luke 1:46-47
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Dear Br. Lucas,
I am new experiencing silence, but is has been the very best that has happened to me.
Thank you very much for making us aware of what a blessed and creative eternal time silence can be.
God bless you and the Brothers.
Brother Lucas, what a wonderful reminder to be quiet. In any conversation I must listen if I am to learn anything. It is the same with my relationship with the Lord. But I am so often “busy” or distracted by things in the moment that seen to be worthy or deserved. And there in the wings is my creator just waiting for me in love and the Holy Spirit is whispering in my ear to turn it off and listen to God. It is like when I “forget” to wear my hearing aids, I do not stop what I am doing so I can listen to God. Thank you for the reminder to put on my hearing aids and to listen for the Lord each time I do. God bless you, Rick
Thank you for putting words to the transformative experience we may enter…if we are willing and open to allowing the process to do its work.
Silence is the context of the long, long wilderness journey through which we pass. The only road signs are those mirrors along the way, mirrors which reveal tp us who we are or what prompted us to behave in this way or that. Here is a mirror which reveals the heart of a particular relationship. There is a mirror which opens to us the truth of our loneliness or desire or deepest wound. Each revelation is a surprise to us, but not to the Divine who smiles gently as we weep or stand in discomfort or even amazement. It is that One who communicates a silent “I am still here.” and who offers comfort or affirmation and gestures to us to move on.
What I appreciate so much in your reflection is how you have captured what happens at the end of that unique journey: Mary’s joy! Mary’s thanksgivings! Mary’s willingness to bring forth not only her own awareness about who she is, but also this new life she now brings into the world. It is this that she nurtures, protects and let’s go, only to watch it being crucified and Risen again in new form.
Thank you, Brother Lucas! Thank you! Thank you for articulating this so beautifully, for locating it where you did and for linking it to Mary’s joy. What you have written is profound.
This is a wonderful description of me at the close of each day:
Needing God desperately. This need brings me silent before Him in eventual silence.
This is how God is silent with us, and the silence he desires for us to adopt. The mind and the heart are both engaged, active, and full of love and wonder at the Word of God. This is not disinterested, thoughtless, or careless. This is not lack. This is Silence with a capital “S,” full of meaning, vibrant with life and with love. This is the two-way interaction, the dance between lover and beloved, that marks true Christian knowledge of God and of oneself. And it is God’s chosen dwelling.
This is a wonderful reflection and it describes well the coming of the Spirit into the silence. Beautiful and wonderful in the midst of the noise of our era.
Beautiful, expectant and peaceful. Thank you for this reflection.
Thank you. This is where I am going wrong. I am so busy informing God when I am disappointed that I am not listening to understand what it is He wants me to know. Hopefully this is a turning point for me in my faith. Pray for me that I can move and grow in this new direction. Elizabeth Hardy+
Absolutely wonderful. In just such a way, meditation is not an end in itself (though it can provide a much-needed respite from noise and busyness); it is also expectation. Suspended, waiting expectation.
Wow, Br Lucas, that was amazing! Thank you.
Lucas, Thank you for your beautiful poetry on Silence! You moved me in a “quiet” way.