Just Shut Up Already: A Reflection on Silence

silenceConfession time: Sometimes I wish people would just stop talking.

I secretly dream of having one day a year when no one on earth says a word. I am passionate about the issue of word pollution and how we can save our deteriorating mental environment. That being said, allow me (paradoxically) to offer some words on silence.

We are all familiar with Christ’s cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? In Matthew and Mark’s Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus, Christ says only this while dying on the cross. Three verses later, he breathes his last.

I believe that the time between this cry and his last breath created a sacred space. I can think of no other moment in scripture where silence speaks so profoundly. Of what that silence speaks (or doesn’t speak), to me, deserves our attention. What happened in that precious time? Were Christ’s last moments that of defeated resignation to abandonment? Was his question even answered?  If so, in what way? Was there a sense of peace and affirmation to his father’s will?

Rumi, a fifteenth century Sufi poet is frequently quoted as having said,

(Of note: He capitalized the ‘s’ in ‘Silence.’ Also of note, your ability to tweet this ironically.) What Rumi was saying, in other words, is enough words! Words have their function: to lead us into a sort of silence, where we encounter something of our essence. After Christ called out, he went to this space. What did He find there? A glimpse (or its auditory equivalent) of a deeper understanding of likeness and being as members of the Mystical Body? Perhaps something of our true nature, or an encounter with that which created us and of which we are created — Love.

silence on crossFollowing the words that Christ cried out during His passion, what a beautiful pattern was woven for us! Christ came face to face with that which was Him, and in that, showed to us the face of God and our potential for victory over death. We glimpse our true potential in the moment of his deepest pain. Agony and Joy were shown to be the same, all within the space of that Silence.

In life, we experience every shade of silence, and with it, varying levels of comfort. For example, when sending a text message, if there is too long of a pause, we might grow uncomfortable. Who hasn’t experienced ‘awkward’ or ‘deafening’ silences? We have moments where we just have ‘no words.’ In times of great tragedy, we often observe moments of silence. Curious that Silence draws us in at these moments. Sometimes a piece of music or art will move us wordlessly to this space. Something in those in-between times, is inviting us.  To where? It could be different for all of us. But I believe if we listen to this silence, whenever we find ourselves there, we will hear a Whisper. What was whispered to Christ in His final silence? What is whispered to us? Go there. Listen.

…and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (Kings 19: 12)

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