“In silence God ceases to be an object and becomes an experience.” ~ Thomas Merton
One of my favorites songs is The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. It is eerie, mysterious, and soul-penetrating all at the same time. It speaks to me every time I hear it. I think one of the main reasons why it speaks to me is because it reminds me of how much silence itself can speak to a person.
Merton talks about the power of silence in today’s quote when he states that it is “in silence God ceases to be an object and becomes an experience.” This is something I can write about, it is something that we can discuss, but it is something that cannot really be understood unless you have experienced a prolonged period of silence while praying.
I have made several retreats in the past that were silent retreats. The only talking was at common prayer times and at the celebration of Mass. Otherwise, silence was the rule. When it begins, it can be a bit disorienting. After all, we spend our days in noise and activity. To slow ourselves down and become silent is not the norm.
After the period of disorientation, may people can feel disturbed. Things come to mind that we often bury deep within. The silence provides the opportunity for those memories to surface. And then, the most disturbing thing can happen: the silence begins to speak. When you are sitting in silence and you begin to hear the voice of God, it can really get your attention.
When we are immersed in our noisy world, God often is nothing more than an object: God, do this for me. God, do that for me. God, here is what I need. God is the object at which we direct our prayers which are often nothing more than demands. That is not what prayer should be. Prayer should not be demand. Prayer should be conversation.
Hence, when we immerse ourselves in silence, God ceases to be an object and, in conversation with us, becomes a deep experience that can change our lives.
I know that not all of you can go away for a week or two to make a silent retreat so as to give God the opportunity to converse with you. That is not really necessary. You can create quiet times in your day to sit in silence and listen to God speak. Whenever we quiet ourselves and sit in silence, God has a chance to break through the noise of the world and speak to our hearts.
FAITH ACTION: Be purposeful about this. Create a time in your daily routine to sit in silence with God. It is likely nothing will happen at first. Don’t give up, though. Keep at it. Give God a chance to speak.