Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Penny and I sat in the dark cinema the other night, hoping people would settle down. They talked and laughed through the music, through the commercials and previews and, forebodingly, into the first seconds of the feature, "The Artist." We hoped the audience would settle down for the film, a silent one--and they did.

What is it about silence? Perhaps it is like a vacuum, and you know the saying: nature abhors a vacuum. And perhaps humans abhor silence. So, we pop in the ear buds and listen to music or the news as we exercise; we turn on the car radio and sing along; we wriggle in worship when there is one of those rare pauses.

We fill the silence, which is too bad. I like to be quiet. Perhaps it is because my Christian spirituality has been formed by the monastic tradition, which embraces silence and delights in it, because when there is silence, instead of my rushing in to fill it with words and sounds, or asking someone else to do the same, God will fill the silence for me with his presence.

His presence is sometimes a word-filled one--his words, not mine--or it may be a wordless presence, a feeling of deep peace or contentment or reasurrance. God knows what I need in the moment.

Early the other morning, as I was walking, I stopped thinking, stopped planning, even stopped praying. And I stilled my soul within me, as the psalmist puts it, and I let the silence of that new morning fill me up. As I drew the chilly air into my lungs, I imagined that I was breathing in the silence. And I did. With it came a deep and healing peace. And I was ready again for a world of words and sounds. And looking forward to the silence once more.