Silence & Union with God

Silence is worth learning, as it is the doorway to growing in union with God. Since God is the origin and source of all that exists, a relationship with him is fundamental to realizing your potential as an individual. Developing this relationship is the meaning of life. How does it happen? A story of two men can shed some light on the subject.

One man went out to the woods and yelled for God. He found no response and concluded that God was not there or did not talk with him. Another man went out to the woods and listened. Soon, he found communion with God his Creator.

Silence is often misunderstood and under-appreciated. Learning to live in silence can seem like a worthless task. But silence is key to developing a relationship with God. It can also help you to get to know yourself better. Take a chance and give space to silence in your life.

Growing in a practice of silence helps you to have peace in your life, get to know yourself and ultimately increase your union with God. It is important to understand what silence is, how it is related to peace of soul, and to prepare to meet yourself.

1. Exterior and interior silence

Exterior silence is easily described. It consists of eliminating noise. One does not speak, nor make loud noises while going about one’s business. Maybe this time is spent in prayer; maybe it is spent doing simple tasks, such as work or study. In any case, it is easy to perceive. You can “hear” external silence, or rather, you cannot hear it at all.

Interior silence is something different, and spiritual masters will agree that it is more important for achieving union with God. Interior silence means living with silence on the inside, in one’s own interior. External silence can be of great help to live interior silence, but it is not everything. Interior silence can be tough and require a conscious effort.

Interior silence means gaining control over the imagination and interior noise. Closing your eyes and remembering a song from Led Zeppelin is not a great example of interior silence. Interior silence opens up the soul to communication with God. Pope Francis commented in a homily: “truth is humble. Truth is silent.” Living interior silence means encountering the truth. Truth resides within, and it is a silent quest to find it. “Do not wander far and wide but return into yourself.” (St. Augustine) This return into yourself is done in silence. So many people live only on the outside and are surprised by what is happening to them on the inside. Silence opens the doors to our own heart. What happens often is that people prefer to keep these doors locked and prefer noise to silence.

2. Peace and serenity of soul

For those who choose silence, peace and serenity are waiting. Peace and serenity of soul are elusive. Many would equate peace with happiness. Serenity of soul is best explained by an image. Often, I have been able to contemplate a lake early in the morning. The surface is smooth as glass, as the winds have apparently not awakened yet. It is an idyllic scene, inviting contemplation and peace. This serves as a good image to picture serenity of soul.

At first glance, peace and serenity of soul are not equally attractive to everybody. Some think that an accelerated life is more to their liking. Eventually though, it seems that most people do want peace and serenity. Even the excess of activity can be traced to an uneasiness that comes from a lack of peace. Rather than face their interior life, they try to shut it up with noise on the outside.

Silence plays a big part in accomplishing peace and serenity of soul. It helps the soul relax and enter into a state that is receptive to the peace that God wishes to give. Silence is not the goal, but a prerequisite for peace.

Rest is a great benefit of peace and serenity of soul. So many people are tired to the point of exhaustion. Learning to rest is something that can help overcome this sensation of absolute tiredness. Peace and serenity of soul is part of the solution. Rest is not an enemy of productivity, but rather an important ingredient.

Silence helps the body to relax. Peace and serenity of the soul are the by-products, that help to make sure the body can recover from the day’s physical and emotional stress.

3. Profound encounter with yourself

“Wherever you go, there you are.” (Clint Black) The words of this country song by Clint Black have always made me think. We are our own eternal companions. We can never escape ourselves. A lot of us spend a lot of time trying. Every variation of a drug can be used to try to escape from ourselves. They never work fully or as hoped.

You can’t run from yourself, so stop trying. A person has to be brave to live moments of silence. In the absence of noise, you start to hear yourself think. You start to think more deeply and you start to confront yourself and your own way of thinking and doing things. Precisely because of this, silence can be frightening, and silence can be freeing.

Getting used to silence helps you to meet yourself more deeply. You may find things you don’t like, but you will also find things you love. What are your hidden talents? What can you learn? How can you be better? These are all questions that are born from silence. You may miss these questions if you do not dedicate time to silence every day. Spend time today and every day in silence. Getting to know yourself is a worthy endeavor.

All of this serves the purpose of developing your union with God. You have to be self-aware to go deeper in your relationship with God. 

Questions for reflection

  1. How do you feel about exterior silence?
  2. Do you try to live interior silence?
  3. Do you know yourself deeply? Do you think silence could help?

By

Fr. Nicholas Sheehy is a priest of the Legionaries of Christ. He has pastoral experience both in the United States and abroad, especially in El Salvador and Germany. He has worked especially with adolescents and young people. He is currently serving on the formation team of the Legion of Christ seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut.

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