Dear Friends in college . . . and beyond,
“Where shall the word be found, where shall the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” These words of T. S. Eliot came to mind as I began to think about the season of Advent, which begins this year on Sunday, November 29th .
Pope Benedict XVI, writing for World Communications Day in 2012, said it is often in silence that the most “authentic” communication occurs:
Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.
By remaining silent, we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. If God speaks to us, even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God.
The Church in its Christmas liturgy uses this beautiful line from the Book of Wisdom to describe the magnificent moment of the Incarnation:
When a profound stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful Word, O Lord, bounded from heaven’s royal throne.
And so the question I would have in mind for you is simply this: is there silence in your life? Are there places you can go where no noise distracts you? Are there times of peace and quiet in your life?
Silence can be frightening. Could it be that it reveals an emptiness in our lives that is scary? This is the emptiness that can be filled only by love, a hole in our heart that is restless until it is filled by God. And yet we very often are busy about filling it up with all sorts of distractions and substitutes. I know that when I go to Founder’s Hollow and sit on the swing up on Mount Tabor, sometimes it takes me 15 or 20 minutes to quiet my soul. So much is running through my mind. Yet, the Lord tells us “Be still and know that I am God.”
One of my favorite spiritual writers, Caryll Houselander, in a book entitled The Reed of God, writes of the modern-day problem of emptiness:
Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition.
Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people’s lives are. Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives.
So here’s an Advent challenge for you: create times and places of silence in your life.
We look forward to seeing you at Midnight Mass. Also, we hope to welcome you to our College-Age retreat at Meribah on January 3, 4, 5, 2016.
On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,