By Bren Dubay
You think you would ask him all kinds of questions and discuss with him the many perplexing problems which plague our fear-haunted world. But you wouldn’t. For awhile you would just sit and look at him. Then, as though drawn by a magnet, you would come near him and kneel … You would be in that silent, wordless fellowship which love alone interprets.Clarence Jordan
Often, I sit with A Word from Clarence. This month, I lingered longer than usual. Silence came easy and stayed longer after I read his words.
Some say that silence is difficult for them. We live in a noisy world. Noise is all around us, both within and out. It is what we are used to; it is what we think we like. Silence is strange. Silence is uncomfortable.
To learn to be silent, one must come to understand that not speaking is not silence. I think silence is difficult when first tried because though we stop saying words with our mouths, we continue saying them with our minds. To be truly still and quiet, even in our own minds, takes time and it takes practice.
Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “All a person’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”
So, first, go off to a quiet room alone and sit. Next, listen. Listen for something other than your words that will surely be rattling around in your head. Then—and I think Clarence can help us here—know that you are with something bigger than yourself. You don’t have to give it a name as he does. Just know it is bigger than you. Perhaps, with time, a name will come. Your breathing will slow, and even your heartbeat. Maybe your ego will give way, allowing your mind words to fade. Do this every day. Build up to twenty minutes a day. True silence is something to be cultivated.
One of the benefits of living in community is the commitment of the entire group to cultivating silence together. There are set times for silence at Koinonia. It is a powerful time. It is a time of being alone together. The peace within and without can be palpable.
“It is in silence that the spiritual life grows,” says author Joan Chittister.
Silence is at the heart of every great spiritual tradition. More than 5,000 years old, it isn’t a recent invention.
And, as Clarence shared, it connects us to the Holy. It allows us to “be in that silent, wordless fellowship which love alone interprets.”
Silence changes us.