1.The current state of affairs — Pressing the Silent Mode button

2. Silence in the Monastery

3. The Monastic Paradox and the Restless Hearts

4. Moving from external to internal silence.A striving to find and know “thy-self” and not run away from ourselves by escaping into the noisy world.

5. The movement into the deeper realm of life enables us to touch that which is truly profound, the subject matter of who we are, why we are here, what is joy and happiness and where we are going.It is to touch the Divine life, a meeting place with God.Only with silence can we have this profound encounter

6. Advent & Christmas- Silent night and becoming shepherds who are attuned to the calm voice of the angels and the announcement of the Birth of the King and God Child

7. The Eucharist- A Sublime, hidden, “Silent presence.”True communion under the hidden silence of bread and wine

In a world of bustling cities, traffic, smartphone, social media, the internet and many other modern distractions, there seems to be a proliferation of audible noises and an absence of external silence.  Even more scarce perhaps, is the internal silence or inner peace that people are missing.  There is a great poverty of this inner silence that people are seeking.  We have the silent mode option on our electronic devices but we need one for our life in general, and it is time to use it in our everyday life. No longer an optional button, it is a life necessity. 

A monastery seems like a relic from the Medieval Ages but its relevance for modern society cannot be more significant.  Here one can find solace and silence.  Not just to escape from the noises of life but to discover what true living is like, what life is all about and its deeper meaning.   It may be a shock for most people but monks and religious do not profess a vow of silence, although silence is an integral part of monasticism.  We have time for silence, like the Grand Silence starting at Compline or night prayers, and places reserved for silence, like the Abbey Church, cloistered garden, reading room and the monk's cell or room.

“The Monastic Paradox”- For a person entering the monastery, there is the notion or appearance of running from the world, giving up on life, seeking isolation and separation and to be left alone.  It is true, but only superficially.   Detaching from that which is the "spirit of the world," that which is carnal and destroy the true person and degrades their dignity and image as a child of God.  In reality, the opposite is desired: discovering one's true self, finding what true living is (not simply a busybody going from one activity to the next, akin to a robot constantly in motion but has no emotion or feeling), and finding one's meaning and purpose in life.  This is all possible only when can grasp that which is the source of our life, our joy, and purpose: God himself.  Without God, we do not exist. Without him, nothing makes sense.  That's the true living and the true beauty and joy that all human persons long for and desire. St. Augustine brilliantly summons this human longing by saying "You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

There are two dimensions to silence, a negative and positive side.  Most understand it as simply an absence of acoustic sounds, which misses the deeper meaning.  Silence is not simply the negation of sound, a concept that appears cold, lonely and frightening harsh; its positive aspect and true beauty lie in the ability to facilitate the finding of solace and peace that is from within, undisturbed by external disturbances and worldly activities.  Our noisy world is a manifestation of the noise and anxieties from within.  There is no peace outside if there is no peace from within.  

External silence is a necessary first step that can lead to internal silence, where we are forced into an uncomfortable position of confronting our own self, our own brokenness and that of society.   We are forced to confront the deepest question of our being and existence, to examine our anxieties, tensions, and unresolved desires.  We can no longer distract ourselves with material possessions because no material objects can penetrate our inner being, nor can they satisfy our deepest longings.  We cannot achieve this if we are preoccupied with external noises. 

The fruit of internal silence is spiritual “well-being,” peace and wholeness.  In the journeying for peace, we find our "humanness," our personhood that can only achieve its completion and fulfillment in communion with God.  Just as a man makes a woman whole and vice versa, only God can make a human person whole.  "Christ reveals to Man who Man is" (St. John Paul II) and also elevates him to the glorious dignity of the Holy Trinity, a participation in God, a "deification" of man in Christ according to the Orthodox tradition and the attainment of “eternal-being.”

St. Benedict’s writes in the Holy Rule to “listen with the ears of the heart.”  Silence allows us to be attentive and sensitive to nature, our body and our inner self.  It cultivates our inner spiritual being and allows us to listen to God, who speaks softly, humbly, mercifully and is “hidden.”  Elijah did not experience the God in the strong wind, earthquake or fire; he heard God's call in the calm quiet voice (1 King 19: 11-12).  If we seek to hear and know God, a pure Spirit, we need to listen for the calm voice in a place of silence.

Silence cultivates a communion, a spiritual communion with God, which then allows for the proper ordering of our inner house, restoring order, peace and harmony from within.  This, in turn, strengthens our communion with others through the restoration of relationships with people around us.  Strengthened from within, we can then carry out life’s work and prayer more fully.  So what starts with silence and solitude ends with the encounter with God, spiritual wholeness, and ourselves.

Every human being, whether an extrovert or introvert, longs for and seek intimacy, to be in relationships.  This is our very nature because we are "relational being," made to love God first and then to love one another.  Not everyone may be "social" and enjoins being in public, but everyone is innately created to be in communion.  Relationality is a fundamental trait of love. We, made in the image and likeness of God, who IS love, are created to love (although we often fall short of this).

During Advent as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, we must cultivate this great silence in our lives if we are to find that heavenly, inner peace from the Child of Bethlehem.  Often, good-hearted people are distracted with external noises, from shopping malls to gifts to parties that by the time Christmas rolls around and all is said and done, they have not really celebrated Christmas, at the deepest level of their heart and soul.  Why is the feasting over the day after Christmas when the Child is just born on the 25th?  Are we Inn Keepers preoccupied with the world and lose sight of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus or are we the good shepherds who hear the angel’s annunciation of the Birth of our God in the silence of the night?  Our God is a hidden and humble Person who speaks with a soft and still voice.

This brings to the coming of God every day in our lives in the Eucharist, the true, fullest and Holiest Communion.  It is a sublime and hidden coming, one under the silent cover of bread and wine.   Are we attuned to this presence, which is so soft that only in the silence of our soul can we God’s presence?  Once it is discovered, however, we have  found true peace, the perfect state of communion and intimacy that far surpasses anything the world can offer.  In this communion, we find God and we find ourselves.  And silence is a necessary step toward this spiritual  well-being, joy and peace.