Silence Is More Than Not Speaking

Stephen McElligott

They say silence is golden, and so it is but what is it? Silence is not speaking. Silence is when you spend sometime in a nice aesthetic location such as the quiet pond I photographed here some years back. The swaying of the trees as they are caressed by the movement of the wind, itself whistling a song of its own as it runs its invisible fingers through the gaps of their branches. The humming of the evening bee as it makes its way back to the hive following a hard days work at its favourite flower garden.

For many of us this is what silence is and you’d be right. Jesus himself went off to a quiet place because believe it or not it’s helpful for prayerful meditation. However, there is another type of silence and more important than the former. It is the silence derived from the quietening of the passions of soul. Of what use is the silence of the pond when deep in our hearts a turbulent noise that makes all of heaven want to stop its ears for want to protect their heavenly eardrums from its sinful clamour arouses within us?

There is a noise within our soul and it is the noise of the world. The fathers refer to it as the noisy city about which we roam while we pray because we prefer its noise to silence. Indeed, we are in the quiet desert but in our hearts and minds we roam the great noisy city of Babylon entertaining all of its short pleasurable trifles. A turbulent soul may find for itself a quiet place but of what use is it to them if they are full of distractions and sinful thoughts such as hatred and envy?

Such sinners like us only think we are praying in silence when indeed we are living in mere delusion. That said, it is the physical silence that helps the latter and vice versa. It is rare the silence of soul precedes that of the silence due to physical surroundings, but nevertheless when both are in harmony the soul is at true peace in Christ. Just as the bee and the flower work together to create the honey, so too does acquiring the virtues paired with a silent location quieten the soul.

With this silence of soul, even when you are not in a quiet place you are silent. With this higher kind of silence, every place that beforehand use to be irritable to you such as a busy city, is now a quiet place. When the noise of the world no longer agitates you, that’s an indication you have found true silence. Oh that irritating way your friend ate his crisps and licked his fingers would drive you nuts, but not anymore for the grace of Christ resides within you now and your passions have been conquered by the Holy Spirit. His noisy irritable ways now form part of the silence and only serve to embellish it further.

You no longer see your enemy in any man but an angel and a better person than yourself. His arrows of insults are like a balm to your soul and only serve to add to the silence you’ve acquired through no merit of your own. Oh, and who to thank but Christ himself for such a grace? Now is the time to sell your old self and take that treasure of silence and bury it in your heart and keep watch over it lest it be stolen from you through your own stupidity.

Silence is golden. . . A golden treasure not easily found. The silence you think you have is not silence, it’s fake treasure. Pick it up, examine it and you will see it’s counterfeit. Silence your hatred, your self love and your egoism. Empty your soul from the noise of sin that deafens you to the song of the Holy Spirit and then you’ll experience silence. Just a glimpse of it will turn your hair white as snow for that is how close to God you’ll be when you find it.

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