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Without the practice of silence in daily prayer, we impede our own access to God’s Presence. Essayist Pico Iyer speaks about “working for silence” so as “to make it not an absence but a presence; not emptiness but repletion. Silence is something more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands. In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think; but what is truer to say is that in silence we can hear ourselves not think, and so sink below ourselves into a place far deeper than mere thought allows. In silence, we might better say, we can hear someone else think.”
We need quality quiet in order to deal effectively with our own disquiet. St. John of the Cross wisely instructs us: “The spiritual person should learn to remain in God’s presence with a loving attention and a tranquil intellect, even though he seems to himself to be idle. For little by little and very soon the divine calm and peace, with a wondrous, sublime knowledge of God, enveloped in divine love, will be infused into the person’s soul. Otherwise their soul will be disquieted and drawn out of its peaceful contentment to distaste and repugnance. And if, scruples about his inactivity arise, they should remember that pacification of soul (making it calm and peaceful, inactive and desireless) is no small accomplishment.”
St. Teresa of Ávila speaks of the “prayer of quiet.” Such prayerful silence enhances our ability and eagerness to listen to our Beloved. The more we direct our sight, our energy, and our attention to Jesus, the less preoccupied we become with ourselves and our own self-centered concerns. In this silence, the one in love remains perfectly content just to behold the Beloved, gazing upon him in a state of holy and tranquil abiding.
Silence speaks to silence. “The silence of the presence of God,” wrote Jesuit Fr. Alfred Delp, “is never indifference, but rather it is a sign of his gratuitousness and of his freedom because he does not allow himself to be encapsulated by our images or our conceptions.” In the words of a spiritual author: “My God, your silence replies better than the many fervors of my love for you.”
Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.
See some of the earlier pieces, including the first reflection on silence, here: