In an age where information is cheap, attention becomes expensive. Every device, app, company, platform, and person is competing for the eyes of the public. They want to ensure that their message gets through or their product is seen. To that end, we are constantly moved toward an increasingly connected world. Social media, entertainment, and shopping are all bulldozing us towards an inescapable world of noise. How do we find silence in a world like that? When do we have time for prayer or meditation? And is it worth it?
On The Inner Life recently, Josh Raymond talked about how the noise that we let into our lives can often cut into the silence we need to maintain peace of mind and listen to what the Lord wants of us.
He likened the significance of silence to what happens when you drop a pan in the kitchen. During the day while there are people cooking and talking in the kitchen, a dropped pan doesn’t sound very loud in the grand scheme of things. But if you were to be downstairs late at night while everybody else is asleep and you were to accidentally drop a pan, the resulting noise is as loud as a gunshot. It cuts through the silence.
But why is silence so important to us? Josh points us to 1 Kings and the story of Elijah waiting for the Lord atop the mountain. “Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.” (1 Kings, 19:11-12) There, in the “silent sound”, Elijah found the Lord.
Josh welcomed Father Joseph Illo on the show to talk about the importance of silence. The first question he asked Father Joseph was, “First of all, why is that silence important for our interior life and for our spiritual growth? Why do we need to make an effort to carve out that time for silence?”
Father responded by clarifying that silence does not always mean a literal lack of any noise whatsoever. Sometimes, refraining from engaging in the thoughtless verbalisms of the outside world and speaking instead in measured meditation is the silence that we need. Sometimes, all the Lord needs to reach somebody is a tempered spirit.
But there is an argument to be made for legitimate, literal silence in the presence of the Lord. It is said that silence is the language of the Lord. We cannot clearly hear what he is saying to us if we are so preoccupied with the white noise of the world, even if it’s our own voice. That is why we sit in silence at Adoration, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. That is why the priest after the homily or Communion will sometimes sit quietly for a minute or two. We are being offered opportunities to open our hearts to what God has to say. But sometimes our pride will fight against the silence, refusing to hear what He has to offer.
We have an impulse to constantly be consuming media like music or television. By fighting against that impulse, we can open our hearts to God’s will. That can come in the form of sights, sounds, intuitions, and encounters with other people. Learn to embrace the silence and thereby embrace the divine.
Listen to the full conversation below:
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