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Tom Scotus

Silence is the Language of God

Zechariah (Copyright Saint Gabriels Newsroom)Our Lady is the most important person in the Bible, after our Lord. Yet, she says very little. When she experiences the awesome mystery of the first Christmas, she says nothing that is recorded in the gospel narratives. “She treasured all these things in her heart and pondered them” (Luke 2:19). Yet, the experience helped define her identity, her destiny and, ultimately, the destiny of the world. Mary’s quiet holiness has been example for Christians for over 2,000 years. She exemplifies the truth that, “The less you say, the louder you speak.”

Once, on a plane trip to a Native reserve in Northern Ontario, I sat beside the former moderator of the United Church. “Hi,” he said. Other than that, he was silent. Yet, I felt he communicated much to me. He spoke through his solemn and dignified presence.

I just got back from a fishing trip. On the lake, there were soothing sounds all around us. The only “noise” was from our outboard motor and our less-than-holy conversation. Music is the sound of nature. Yet, usually I’m so focused on catching fish or talking about insignificant matters that I can’t hear that quiet and beautiful music.

At a certain point during the Mass, the priest raises the consecrated host for the congregation to see. Then there is a silent pause that always deeply affects me. For me, that moment of silence is the most dramatic moment of the liturgy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good sermon, a good conversation, and good writing. Words can be wonderful, but even when used most effectively they still fall short. I find I cannot, through conversation or even my best writing, convey exactly how I feel.

“Silence is the language of God. Everything else is a poor translation” (Rumi). True. Yet, God says a lot in the Bible. Words have power. They create. They destroy. They hurt and they heal. Those who would be holy must use words sparingly, from a loving heart.

I have a problem keeping my big yap shut. If I could take back about 90 percent of the words I have spoken during my life, I certainly would. “Just, shut up!” I often tell myself. We add nothing to our knowledge or wisdom by talking. We must listen and reflect in order to grow. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).