Silence a Place of Meeting 

As I write this, I wonder if I’m being honest with myself. I’ve been so caught up in the demands of life that I’ve neglected the quiet presence of God in my soul. I know that God speaks in the silence, and that silence is the source of all beauty and harmony. But I find it hard to make room for silence in my busy schedule. How can I listen to God’s voice if I’m always distracted by noise and activity? Yet in my heart of hearts, I know it is the utterance of God’s silence that brings order and life to my very being. Let me explain.

God’s eternal utterance of silence is a paradoxical expression that captures the mystery and majesty of the divine. The prophet Elijah discovered this when he heard God in the sound of sheer silence on the mountain. Once he let go of the folly of the earthquake, fire and storm Elijah understood God was to be encountered in the silence. In silence he experienced something beyond words – the presence of the living God. Silence is the language of God, the medium through which God communicates His will and His love. Silence is also the response of the human soul to God, the way of listening and surrendering to His voice. It is the space where God and humanity meet, where the finite and the infinite touch. God’s utterance of silence is the invitation to enter into this sacred communion, to be still and know that He is God. 

Often, our discomfort with silence arises because we are accustomed to a noisy world filled with constant chatter. Silence is often overlooked or dismissed as emptiness. We are bombarded by information, opinions, and distractions—our minds constantly churning with thoughts, worries, and desires. Yet, it is precisely in the quietude of silence that we can encounter something deeper, something beyond our own limited understanding. Silence is not merely the absence of noise; it is a sacred space where we can listen—to ourselves, to others, and hear the will of God. It is in this stillness that we become attuned to the whispers of our own hearts, where hidden fears and longings rise to the surface. We confront our restlessness, our need for validation, our fear of insignificance. Silence allows us to listen, to hear God’s gentle whisper: you are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased. 

Paradoxically God’s silence is not his absence, but his presence. He is always there, waiting for us to come to him with an open heart. He wants to hug and kiss us tenderly like the father of the prodigal son. But why do we find it so hard to enter into the silence of prayer, the place where God awaits us? Why do we resist this simple act of surrender and trust? What are we afraid of losing or missing out on? What are we hoping to gain or achieve by our words and thoughts? Perhaps one of our Carmelite heroes can help us understand the importance of silence in our relationship with God.

St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic and poet, understood that the voice of God is so gentle that we run the risk of suffocating it with the noise within ourselves. John experienced this in his own spiritual journey in the apparent abandonment of God’s silence in our prayer. John realised that God speaks the eternal word beyond all words (Jesus the word made flesh). In this space we listen to the voice of love that calls our name. It is how we encounter the One who fills the emptiness we feel inside. It is the word spoken enabling us to join the song of praise that never ends. 

In his writings John used the metaphor of a heart wounded by love to express the intense longing and desire that the soul has for the divine. The wound of love, the apparent ‘absence/silence of God in prayer’ John began to understand was not a source of pain, but of joy and ecstasy. This apparent absence enabled John to experience a profound union with God that transcended words and senses. John did not see God’s silence as a sign of abandonment, but as a gift of intimacy. He taught that the soul must undergo a process of purification, detachment; a letting go of all worldly things. When all the bonds of the world are set free, the soul can experience the bliss and peace of knowing God’s love that surpasses all understanding. This love fills the soul with light and grace and lifts it to a higher state of consciousness. The soul becomes one with God and sees the beauty and harmony of creation. Sorry I am falling into the danger of writing a thesis on John. 

To end with I would like you to consider: welcoming silence as a gift and not as a challenge. To understand that silence is not emptiness, but fullness—a place where we can grow in our relationship with God. Just as Jesus withdrew to lonely places for solitude and stillness, we too must find moments of quietude. It is where we meet God in the most intimate way. Silence invites us to let go of our words, our thoughts and open ourselves to God’s action and presence in our lives. It doesn’t matter if we fall asleep or get distracted, God lives and works in us whether we are awake or asleep. What matters is our desire for God. Silence is not passive or boring, but dynamic and engaging. It is where God touches our hearts, and we are moved by His love and grace. Silence is a holy space where we can experience God’s transformation in us. So, let us embrace silence as a sacred space where our desire for transformation meets His presence.

Paul Jenkins O.Carm

Weekly Reflections

Steps on the Journey - weekly Reflections from Carmel
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