Silence and solitude

Silence is God's first language.   (John of the Cross) 

 

 

Chapter six of the Carmelite Rule asks us to work in silence. Carmelite Kees Waaijman explains that silence is far more than the absence of audible noise:


Silence is not just about time or place but about the character of work and communication. To work in silence is to turn off the applause machine. It is to trust in the horizon of the future, beyond one's own time - and indicate that horizon to others. It is to work with intentionality without needing evident, creditable results. We work in the present, not for the present. When we do this, creativity is transformed into hope -- specifically hope for those who are hopeless, shattered by their own present experience with no way out. To be a prophet is not to predict the future but to be a messenger of the future to which God calls us, a messenger of truth, hope and justice. A prophet calls God's people to a transformation that will allow conscious life to evolve towards God's future. Silence is essential to this prophetic witness.


The creative balancing of solitude and community is part of the history of monasticism, and the history of our order. Silence and solitude are critical in making a place to find God.


In solitude we learn to surrender to the work of God, to know God's presence in a deep and intimate way, and to rest in that presence. In touching God's presence, we also discover our deep solidarity with all our brothers and sisters around the world.


In times of solitude a person is brought by God to deep self-knowledge, a necessary part of the life of prayer. Only by knowing ourselves can we bring the person we authentically are to the encounter with God?


Times of solitude also challenge us to allow the ego to be stripped of all that is false, and to empty the self. When a person lacks any source of external affirmation, as she does in solitude, she comes to know the truth of her being and what she is living for.


We take one "hermit day" a month when we enter into deeper silence.  These days are spent with greater focus on prayer and spiritual reading. At other times we maintain a quiet atmosphere in the house and work silently when this is possible.