Being Silent

Being Silent

BLOG #14 February 2, 2021

Over the past 3 weeks we have considered the Christian contemplative posture of silence. In prior weeks we considered simplicity and solitude. Next week we will consider stillness with spaciousness to follow. Before we move on from our overview of Christian contemplative silence, however, I would like to take this week to do two things. First an exercise. This is important because that of which we are speaking is often beyond words and must be experienced to be fully appreciated and lived into. And secondly, a brief list of helpful predispositions that make us conducive to inner silence. Remember that these are mere overviews that we will be unpacking, in great detail, over the months to come.

Being Silent (an exercise)

It is important that we remember that contemplative silence is a liminal space of awareness and listening from which we are being drawn by God into the spaciousness of God who is love, into the midst of the One who truly is, the Great I AM, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a way of being not doing. Silence is the prelude to inner stillness1 by which we find ourselves surrendered to God’s will in such a way that the path for union with God is made straight both inwardly and outwardly, that we may become kenotic vessels through whom God’s love flows into all creation. Therefore, we quickly realize that this is not something we learn and then do as much as something we are awakened to and become. The following meditation is a way that I have found helpful, by God’s grace, to move toward this way of being. Simply read the Scripture or quote slowly and then stop for 60 seconds. Then follow the instructions provided or just respond to what you have read. Journal your responses.

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. NRS

Revelation 8:1

Use your sanctified imagination and ask yourself, “What does ‘silence in heaven’ sound like?”

Journal your response.

“It is the inner chatter that keeps us enslaved.”

Martin Laird, A Sunlit Absence, p. 72

Stop, right now, and monitor your inner chatter. What are you saying to yourself? What are you thinking? Pay attention to all that is going on inside you. Do this for 30 seconds. Now think of the name of Jesus. If your mind wanders, or is distracted your inner chatter in any way, go back to the name of Jesus, until you are centered only on Jesus alone. Do this for 1-2 minutes. What happens to your inner chatter?

Journal your response.

“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God, silent with our craving and with our tongue, for the language God best hears is the silent language of love”

Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, Sayings of Light and Love, p. 95

Journal your response.

“It is necessary that we find the silence of God not only in ourselves but also in one another.”

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, pg.86

Silence is not passivity, as we listen to silence as we are positioned to listen for and to hear God, who is active in us. At other times we simply become aware of God who is listening to us. Other times we simply allow ourselves to listen for God’s voice in the silence.

Journal your response.

“Allow the silence to speak of God”

Karl Rahner, The Mystical Way in Everyday Life, p.10

Journal your response.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. NRS Psalm 62:5

Journal your response.

“God is present, and His thought is alive and awake in the fullness and depth and breadth of all the silences of the world.” Thomas Merton, On Christian Contemplation, pg. 41

Journal your response.

“Silence is beautiful, And contemplative silence-–the silence to which we lovingly attend in the name of the sacred mystery we call God---is the most beautiful silence of all”

Carl McColman, Answering the Contemplative Call, pg. 91

Journal your response.

Helpful Inner Dispostions Conducive to Inner Silence

The inner silence of which we have been speaking is impossible apart from the grace of God. It is something we can cultivate but not something we produce or create. Like a plant we can cultivate, but it is God who makes it grow. Our contemplative (with God) position is to become open to God’s guidance, which becomes clearer and clearer as we place ourselves at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be simply open, non-defensive, non-judgmental, and in the moment, as God draws us into divine silence. God draws us into silence so we can better hear God speak in the sheer silence. Our part is to be predisposed and listening, that we may surrender to God’s divine draw. Along the way God also reveals ways for us to be open and ready to being drawn into the silence. In the months to come we will discuss many spiritual disciplines and Holy habits designed to bring us to this open, ready, and listening way of being. Gerald May, calls this silence “the power of the slowing” in his book, “The Wisdom of Wilderness.” He refers to it as “wanting to gently enter gentleness” (pg. 16). And then later, on pg. 19, he says…

“I feel it within me, inside my very muscles, yet it seems to come from somewhere outside me. It is not me, yet it is rising from the deepest part of me. It is powerful, as if a great gentle hand has taken my arms and legs and simply stilled them, and a sweet irresistible voice is speaking in my belly, ‘Be still now.’ It’s not a real voice, not actual hearing, but the message is clear; no rush, no need to do anything, just be.”

Notice Mays language of feeling and depth; power and gentleness, irresistible, a call to stillness, silent but instructive and most important, “just be.” Blessed to hear God’s gentle voice in sheer silence. The goal is not for us to determine how we will hear God; that is up to God. That being said, we must become quiet to the best of our ability and by faith that God will include our efforts and then transcend them that we may listen for and hear God’s gentle voice. This usually comes by first spending time in a sacred place, a place of outer quiet, sitting still, patiently waiting for God to speak and to guide us.2

Five helpful predispositions for inner silence…

1. At Rest: with no need to impose ourselves upon the silence.

2. Waiting: Allowing God to move rather than pressing.

3. Beholding: Becoming vulnerable, letting go of any control by being fully open to whatever we

may hear; ready to allow what we hear to change us in some manner.

4. Not-knowing: Without any imposition from our own pool of knowledge that tells us what we think we know of God. A position of being willing and open to learn and experience new things.

5. Trusting: Trusting that God knows us better than we know ourselves and trusting that God will reveal what needs to be revealed.

1 We will begin to consider stillness next week.

2 We will spend much time unpacking these in the months to come.

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