The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 21, 2023 - 4:32:55

Silence, Recollection, and the Season of Hectic Activity

Michael Healy, Dec 21, 2011

Be still, and know that I am God.--Ps. 46:10

But Yahweh is in His holy temple, let the whole earth be silent before Him. –Hab. 2:2

The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven. –Apoc. 8:1

Silence before the Lord Yahweh! –Zeph. 1:7

When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens from the royal throne, leaped your all-powerful Word. –Wis. 18:14-15

            We are often reminded during the holiday season to keep Christ in Christmas.  This, of course, is a noble aim.  However, it can never be achieved via billboards, advertisements, and public announcements, which themselves just contribute to the clutter and confusion of our daily lives.  Only if we individually build an altar in our hearts, as the saints recommend, can we bring our Lord into our lives, families, and relationships during these holy days.

            This requires that we periodically retreat from the busy-ness of the day into the world of prayer and adoration.  It is there that we find our true status, true selves, true happiness.  As Mother Teresa said: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”  Love expressed in service, which is prominent in our lives during the Christmas season in relation to family, friends, the needy, etc., will cause frustration and burn-out if not grounded in prayer and silence.  Thus it is even more important during this time to maintain a daily prayer schedule—at least morning, noon, evening, night—plus the Mass, a periodic holy hour in front of the blessed sacrament, etc.  These are the sources and wellsprings for keeping Christ in Christmas.  The challenge we face is to remain in our depth and master the moment from the depth rather than let the passing impressions of the day dominate us or carry us away.  Again, to quote Mother Teresa: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence….  We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

            The problem with popular representations of keeping Christ in Christmas is that to get any attention they have “outshout” the competition: TV, radio, movies, ads, music videos, twitter, e-mail, facebook, I-pods, gameboys, shopping trips, etc., etc.  But to outshout all this is not the way to convey the astounding truth of the birth of the God-man to the virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem in order to offer himself as a whole burnt-offering for our reconciliation to the Father.  As Kierkegaard writes: “The present state of the world is diseased.  If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: Create silence!  Bring men to silence.  The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today.  And even if it were blazoned forth with all the panoply of noise, then it would no longer be the Word of God.  Therefore, create silence.”

            One subtle danger is that we may become addicted to a fast-paced, frenetic lifestyle with the idea that it means we are living a “full life.”  From this perspective, taking time out for recollection, prayer, and silence appears boring, uninteresting, and a waste of time!  Then the “solution” seems to be to throw oneself even more intensely into activities and distractions—again, a special danger at a time like Christmas.  Yet in the end this is merely draining of our inner strength, our ability to cope, our reserves of peace. 

            In response to this danger—or temptation—we have to remind ourselves of where our true peace lies, where our true depth is grounded: with our Creator and Redeemer.  Again, Kierkegaard shows us the way with words we should take to heart during the great feast of Christ’s birth:  “What refreshment do we get from all the busy bustle in comparison with the delicious quickening of that lonely wellspring which exists in every man, that wellspring in which the Deity dwells in the profound stillness where everything is silent.”

            Have a blessed Christmas!