Modern Christians have found incredible spiritual benefit in expanding their partial fast beyond the physical appetite to abstaining from other trappings of modern life. Many of us have instant access to any kind of entertainment, information, or mental stimulation we desire, for little to no cost. When I read Jesus‘s words about “the cares of the world“ that choke out the word of God, I’m reminded of the glowing, chirping screen in my pocket… What ever might capture our imaginations and mental energy is fair game to give up for Lent: movies, TV, the news, social media, video games, sports, texting—you name it. Christ might ask us to lay one or more of these distractions aside for something better. (from The Good of Giving Up, by Fr. Aaron Damiani)
I can relate to this quote from Fr. Aaron, especially as I started my Lenten journey. I felt a special nudge from the Lord to enter more deeply into a spiritual practice that I have been resisting for a long time—the discipline of silence. I’m not afraid to be alone. That’s simply the spiritual discipline of solitude. But I’ve been afraid of solitude combined with the spiritual discipline of silence. That combination scares me. So instead of entering into silence, I find noisy distractions, listening to podcasts, reading heated debates about political controversies, watching TV dramas.
But this Lent the Lord Jesus has been whispering, “Press into the silence. I have some gifts for you apart from the noise and busyness both around you and inside your head. Let me turn the desert of silence into a garden of solitude.
In the process of pressing into the spiritual discipline of silence, I’ve also been reading a book by the Catholic writer Robert Cardinal Sarah titled The Power of Silence. The subtitled especially grabbed my attention: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. Imagine that—noise has become a cruel dictator. Listen to some of these wise and challenging words from Cardinal Sarah:
In modern society, silence has come into disrepute; this is the symptom of a serious, worrisome illness. The real questions of life are posed in silence… Noise gives a security, like a drug in which we have become dependent… But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine… The dictatorship of the image, which plunges our attention into a perpetual whirlpool, detests silence… Modern civilization does not know how to be quiet… Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer… Contemplative silence is a fragile little flame in the middle of a raging ocean… We cannot hear the Word if we have not been previously transformed by God’s silence… Without silence, God disappears in the noise… Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost.
As I reread these quotes from Cardinal Sarah I’m afraid I must stop typing. I’ve already said enough. It’s time to break free from the dictatorship of noise and words. Lord, let’s enjoy some silence together. So, signing off for now…
Father Matt Woodley
1. Pause and take a brief listening tour through your day. What are primary places and times in your where you have the opportunity for silence? Do you find yourself uncomfortable in these spaces?
2. Imagination can be a very powerful tool to be used by God, but can also be a great distraction keeping us from God. What would it look like for you to harness your imaginative energy towards God through what you listen to, or don’t listen to?
3. Sometimes silence and solitude require us intentionally removing ourselves from the company others. What are times you can participate in this life-giving separation this Lent?
Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a book by Fr. Aaron Damiani, the rector of our church plant, Immanuel Anglican in Chicago.
This post was originally published on March 1, 2018.