If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. “We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born” (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission,
6 October 2006). In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.
Message for World Communications Day,
May 20, 2012
Reflection – Yesterday we looked at how God’s deepest revelation of Himself came to us, not in words, but in silence. Today we look at how our deepest coming to God is as well a silent, not a spoken one.
This has always been the movement in prayer, throughout all the strands and traditions of Christianity. I suspect it is so in other religions, too.
In lectio divina (for example) the movement is from the lectio, to the ruminatio, to the meditatio, to the contemplatio. In other words, from reading and pondering and thinking about a passage to the silent contemplation of the received truth. The latter stages of oratio and actio—prayer and action—are simply what the Pope mentions above, that out of silent contemplation springs urgency of mission, movement outwards towards God in loving surrender and neighbor in loving service.
My own experience of silence in prayer, such as it is (I make no claims to mystical depth, and I sure ain’t no Carthusian monk) is that a certain leap of faith is required in it. It’s not like this time of contemplatio in prayer is uniformly and assuredly filled with all sort of deep sentiments and soul-shaking revelations. It can be pretty empty, sometimes. Pretty dry, often. Pretty boring, even.
And so to stick with it takes a certain amount of self-discipline, for sure, but even more a certain degree of faith. What is really happening to us when we pray occurs at such a depth of our soul and inmost heart that both our conscious mind and our emotions are left in the dust, so to speak.
They are kind of like small children present while adults are having a serious adult conversation. They get bored, they get fractious, they want to go out and play and run around. God and the human soul are the ‘adults’ having an encounter that is truly beyond words; our minds, emotions, and bodies are restless toddlers.
So faith and self-discipline are needed here. And giving your mind something to do, like a mother might give her toddler a toy or game to distract it so she can talk to her Visitor. So… the rosary! Or… the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”). While the mind engages in some simple repetitive prayer, the heart, the soul can expand to meet its God.
Adult conversation. And out of that adult conversation, the capacity for truly mature adult engagement with the world: loving without counting the cost and bearing the joyful burden of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, according to what God has given us to do.