Confession time: I never really liked the Simon & Garfunkel song The Sound of Silence. Let me clarify that statement – the lyrics struck me as profound, but the style of the song never sat well with me, especially as I was musically nourished by early 80’s pop and 80’s hair bands, which gave way to 90’s grunge bands, which gave way to lots of other harder rocking stuff than S&G. 🙂
But this particular rendition of the song by Disturbed hits all the right notes for me.
Several years ago, at my Catholic school, Fr. Alex Flores celebrated Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Instead of English, the majority of the Mass was in Latin. Instead of facing the congregation, Fr. Alex faced the altar for most of the celebration. Instead of the usual litany of standing, sitting, and kneeling, there was a preponderance of kneeling. And instead of singing hymns and Mass parts in English or Spanish, there were long moments of silence.
Some of the comments Fr. Alex made that day about silence struck me, and they still continue to resonate with me to this day. He made it a point to mention quite clearly that there would be a good deal of silence during the celebration of Holy Mass that morning, more so than we’re generally used to during Mass. He talked about how the silence might feel oppressive – too large and too long a space to be alone with our thoughts and ourselves, even as we sat together with no COVID safety protocols keeping us 6′ apart at that time. And he spoke about how silence is needed in our lives, especially as we find it hard to carve out moments of stillness and silence and solitude in the busyness of our daily schedule.
So the song, and my recollection of that graced moment, bring me here, to pen some of my own thoughts on silence and stillness and solitude.
While we can see and hear and experience God through other people and through creation (I love having a sacramental faith!), I firmly believe that moments of solitude, stillness, and silence are conducive to growing in our faith. I’m reminded of Jeremiah, discerning the presence of God in the still, small, gentle breeze. I’m reminded of Mary Magdalene, recognizing the presence of the Risen Savior in one small word: “Mary.” I’m reminded of nights rocking my son to sleep, doing nothing but focusing on this tiny life entrusted to my care, and having my whole universe focused on that moment, that presence, with nothing else mattering as my attention was engaged in the single, solitary form of my infant son. I’m reminded of Jesus going away from the crowds and his apprentices to be alone and pray.
We need moments where we are alone with our thoughts and alone with our God (yes, even for the extroverts in the audience!). We crave moments of intimacy with our loved ones – we need that same intimacy with ourselves and with our Creator. We need to find that Sabbath rest in the matrix of our lives, and part of that re-creation on the Sabbath is to re-connect, to re-member ourselves within the great, loving embrace of our Savior. And that’s hard to do when our attention is focused on screens. Hard to do when our attention is focused on work 24/7. That’s hard to do when our time and energy are so wrapped up in the ebb and flow of the good things in our lives that we are unable or unwilling to focus on the best part of our lives – our relationship with the One who gave us life.
This isn’t to say that people and things and work and play are bad, or evil, or sinful in and of themselves. But all the busyness of our lives makes it harder to focus on the God who sustains that life. Making time to be still, and silent, and alone – that gives us the space to open ourselves up to the Presence and Power of the God who abides within our hearts, within our lives, and around and among us.
As we enter into Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum, and set our sights on the glory of an Easter celebration of new life, I pray that we make the time to find ourselves and our God in silence.
Blessings & Peace,