How well regulated we are: the moment there is silence (like first thing when we wake up in the morning) we are programmed to switch on noise – and so the day continues. Eugene’s meditations lead him to write:
Silence… , being a most suitable means of perfection, we will esteem it at all times, but it will be most strictly observed from night prayer etc.
Retreat notes, October 1831, EO XV n. 163
If we want to have a relationship with God we have to have some times of silence, so that we can hear each other. Silence does not only mean a lack of noise – it refers to an interior silence, a mental disengagement, a switching off of distractions so as to focus on the presence of God.
One of my finest teachers of this was a High School Principal in Soweto whose busy schedule only gave her 30 minutes twice a day to be away from work and family commitments. This was her “quiet time” – in a noisy minibus taxi with loud music blaring and even louder conversations around her. In the midst of this noise she was able to switch off and in her interior silence become aware of the presence of God and pray. What a teacher she was!
Eugene refers to what we called “the grand silence” of the onetime monastic-style communities from night prayer until morning.
For you and me, when is our time of “grand silence?”