A Moment of Silence

Yesterday evening the A465 emptied, the rain ceased and there was a moment of pure, luminous silence. It is not often that exterior silence meets the interior silence monastic life teaches us to cultivate, but when it does something wonderful happens. Every nerve, every sense becomes alert. The white line of the horizon over the Black Mountains quivers; the sweet warm breath of the Herefords over the way fills the air; the psalter in my hand is soft to the touch, comfortable, familiar — and all because, for a moment, the mind is freed from its need to process sound. We sometimes forget the importance of physical silence; but just as the rests in a line of music help to shape its form, or the white space on a page makes eloquent the text, so moments of silence are essential for us. Complete physical silence, however, cannot be endured for very long. The pounding of the blood in the ears begins to take over. We become uneasy, self-conscious, may even hallucinate.

That is one of the reasons why, if someone tells me they can never find a quiet time in which to pray, I always reply with a robust, ‘How lucky you are!’ Some background noise is usually good for us, a necessary distraction from an overwhelming preoccupation with self. The effort we put into trying to quieten our environment would be much better spent trying to instill some order into our wayward thoughts, into cultivating an interior silence that is not dependent on what is going on around us. A quiet heart, a quiet mind: these are not to be sneered at but welcomed. They provide a chink for the Holy Spirit to get through.

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12 thoughts on “A Moment of Silence”

  1. Thank you
    So precious to find thst inner quiet no matter the chaos , clatter and clamour around us.
    Still striving for this at times. Long for this inner peace for myself and others .

  2. There was a beautiful moment like that yesterday evening at the end of our Taize service. Our final chant died away, and a moment later, the traffic in the main road outside ebbed to nothing. A long, collective moment of stillness, then a pigeon started to coo on the church roof. It seemed to make that moment of suspension and silence even deeper. Pigeons have an important ministry…

  3. Thank you Sister Catherine for this beautiful rendition of what a fraction of silent time can be and what to use it for. God bless you.

  4. How interesting and heartening. I love the idea that by cultivating a ‘quiet heart’ we can rest in the Holy Spirit wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Thank you Sr Catherine.

  5. I’m still struggling to get to that inner peace.. whenever I try I end up daydreaming or in the land of nod. Or give in to the “must just do”…. oh dear…
    Thank you for the challenge/call

  6. And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.
    Iain Thomas

  7. Luminous silence…

    Such a wonderful phrase that does indeed describe the all too fleeting moments when we can percieve just a little clearer than usual. Something that if you try too hard seems to slip away from you and can not be replicated with any certainty. I know when silence/stillness descends it can be a tremendous boost to prayer. Although perversely I have to work at this – create the circumstances and put time aside and hope the silence and my receptivity to it coincide – might just allow that chink to open up. Worth the “effort” and wait.

  8. I practise centering prayer which is a form of silent prayer. I don’t pray because I am especially religious but because it is the only method I have found together with my medication that helps heal my mind. I explored all the religions and at the end of my exploring, I ended up at my original point of departure the Catholic faith. But I learned a lot from the tour.

  9. During the Eclipse — when it became noticeably darker and cooler — there was a wonderful quiet in my garden. Birds and assorted bugs just stopped — it was good.

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