“I will be silent and hear what God will say in me…”~Meister Eckhart
Mostly, we live in a noisy world, a world gone wild with loudness. There are so many sounds and distractions that pull us in any given moment. Perhaps this is what happens to many people, but I have found that as I grow older I long for more silence. Silence…today’s word for Lent. Silence is often in short supply. This can be true even in church, a place where you might think some quiet might be helpful. But there are words and often too many. There is music which can serve to help sloug away the assault that can be the every day experience of most people. But silence? Not so much.
Some of my deepest experiences of the Sacred have been sitting in a room with people in silence. It has not happened that often so I can call it to memory quite easily. I am often envious of our Quaker brothers and sisters who, I’ve been told, know how to keep silence with one another. I have never actually worshiped in a Quaker meeting but I have often tried to image the sheer beauty of the silence of people sitting, being present to one another and the More. Yes, envious…that’s me.
The 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart must have known his share of silence. And these words speak to what he sees as one of the gifts of no sound, of being quiet, wordless, for a span of time. “I will be silent and hear what God will say in me.” What does the Holy want to say ‘in’ me? Not to me. Or even through me. But ‘in’ me.
Most days it would be difficult to hear even the Voice of God within with all the sounds that make up our daily living. Car motors. Radios. Television. Airplanes overhead. Traffic and all its accompanying sounds…blaring horns, screeching brakes,revving engines, speed. Voices elevated in anger or frustration. Voices trying to sell us things they are convinced we need. Wind. Storms. Thunder. Rain. And on and on. For those with ears to hear, there can be a continuous flow of sound. It keeps us company and can keep us from being present to ourselves and our very soul.
But even in this noisy world there are places that can cut through the sound and create a sanctuary of rest from it all. If we can get ourselves to most bodies of water and allow our eyes to focus on the shimmering water, we can begin to touch the silence. Sometimes even the frozen, glistening surface of a lake can do the same especially if it is illuminated by a bit of brilliant, winter sunshine. Staring out from a high point…a mountain or hill…can serve to provide perspective of how small we really are and how vast the Universe is in comparison. This usually brings about awe which always gives birth to silence. Holding a new born can do the trick as well as cradling any animal new to the world or watching a bird in flight. Beholding the first blossoms of spring, looking deep into the faces of flowers that have worked so hard to show up can bring about the silence of wonder…and mystery…and miracle.
It seems to me any one of these experiences, held in silence, might help us glimpse what God might be trying to say in any one of us. Words like ‘praise‘ come to mind. Or ‘gratitude‘. Or ‘humility‘. Or even ‘love‘. But right now, I don’t want to muddy up the silence with even the hint of words. Instead, I simply want to be quiet. Silent. And listen deeply, fully, wholly.