Editor’s note: Former DCSC volunteer, Kathleen Strycula, offers a reflection on ‘silence’ for day 14 of the Advent season.
I turn off the car radio, pause the music, and close the long queue of podcasts I have lined up for listening. Silence envelops the car as I make my morning drive into work.
By turns calming, reinvigorating, uncomfortable, or just plain boring, silence is a spiritual practice I have been reading about lately. I have been determined to cultivate it more often. And have kept putting off.
And yet, past experiences of silence have been powerful experiences. I once went on a silent retreat for a couple days at a scenic convent, and I left feeling like I could hear myself think, like I could better hear and see how God was speaking to me through my day.
I think of Zechariah’s nine months of silence. That’s a long silent retreat! Can you imagine it happening today? Silence can be made by the culture to seem weak, wavering, or uncertain. When he couldn’t speak, Zechariah’s relatives—though perhaps well-meaning—tried to speak over his silence. “Surely he would want his name to be John.” But the silence gave Zechariah and his words a conviction where before there was doubt: “His name is John.”
In a world where we are so often defined by noise and opinions and what we say, being silent is an act of hope. We can speak only what we know, but we are silent to hear and receive what we do not know. Silence is an act of attention and adoration, a drawing close to the Word Who Was first spoken out of the silence at the beginning of creation. The Word Whose coming broke the silence of salvific anticipation and turned it into Magnificats and praise-filled Canticles:
In the tender compassion of our God,
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.
My car radio has been off for a couple days now, and I am enjoying my commutes as quiet periods of reflection and prayer. Will you welcome the silence with me this Advent season?