Do we give enough attention to the silence…the silence that hovers around our hearts…the silence that goes deep, deeper than words…the silence that is the silence of God? Silence speaks, does it not? The silence of God is the Word of God.
Today’s first reading at Mass is from the first book of Kings and it is one that I love. Elijah is at Horeb, the mountain of God. He is in a cave, a shelter…then, the Lord God tells him to go and “stand on the mountain of the Lord for the Lord will be passing by” (1Kings 19:12). We can already assume that Elijah hears the voice of the Lord speaking…that is, he has come to ‘know’ that voice when it is speaking to him. So the story continues: Elijah is standing outside the cave and waiting for the Lord to pass by. There is a strong wind, but God is not in the wind. After the wind comes an earthquake but God is not in the earthquake. Notice all this drama – each scene is poignant with excitement…first, wind and then an earthquake. Next comes fire but God is not in the fire. What will come next? We all might be shaking a little with fear! Surprisingly, what comes next is a “tiny whispering sound”. And Elijah knows that this is the Presence of God. Do we listen enough…deep enough to the “tiny whispering sound”? Other translations give us other still other expressions of how God speaks or passes before our hearts: in the New Revised Standard: ‘a sound of sheer silence’; in the Hebrew bible, Tanakh, ‘a soft murmuring sound’.
Br. Christophe, as he begins his journal in the summer of 1993, faces a blank sheet and he is aware that what he will write will ask of him an opening…an on-going opening of his heart so that he can hear the pulsating heart of Christ, and his words of life. Christophe writes: “You present the page to me. How can I utter you?” (Born From the Gaze of God, p.5). I find this so moving and fresh: the longing to hear, to listen, to receive what the Lord wants to utter in this present moment. Christophe continues: “To write just what has to be said To obey the unknown words today not to close my heart to consent to the opening that obliges me” (p.5).To receive the ‘tiny whispering sound’ means that our heart is open, not closed…that we must consent to the opening if we are to utter the word of God…to utter his life and presence in our lives. Then, Christophe pens these words: “I am the servant-scribe. I shall obey the law of your mouth. I shall write your silence. Without translating. If anyone has ears, let him hear” (p.5). Servant-scribe…writing the silence of God…what a beautiful way to describe an essential part of the monastic journey! This is the level of listening, of presence, of attention, of a wide-open heart, that is asked of the monastic.
How shall I, how shall you write ‘the silence of God’? What could this mean in our daily lives? Each day a page, a page with nothing written upon it is presented to each of us. If we are a ‘mission on this earth’ as Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel says we are, then, we will write on this page a little more of our lived lives…of our walk…our gospel walk with Jesus.
And so, Christophe’s question lingers front and center: ‘How can I utter you’? If God reveals himself or speaks as ‘a whispering sound’, as ‘a sound of sheer silence’, as ‘a soft murmuring sound’ then we need an interior silence to hear, to receive this Word, which alone anchors our lives. The small still voice of the Spirit eludes us when our own voices are so loud and incessant…so quick to respond…I was thinking that our lectioin the morning is a very important moment, since it prepares us interiorly for this new day that is before us. This Word, so imbued with silence, anchors our lives, focuses them on the ‘one thing necessary’. It gives a fresh beginning to the day, a new readiness to receive the ‘not yet’ of God’s life touching our lives.
‘I will write your silence’, says Br. Christophe: the Silent Word that has become flesh. Will we be ready to write the Lord’s love, forgiveness, and compassion as we live our lives each day, this day?
Our Br. Christophe can help us: I shall say what comes to me from you and writes itself in me This writing detaches me from the world Who will teach me how to write on earth as it is in heaven? This morning, I only put this down