Silence – not words – leads us aright. “I have never repented of silence,” said St. Arsenius. I know I have often mourned words that passed my lips. Often, in silence, I remember words I wish I could take back. I’ve said many things that I know, when I am silent, were not reflections of Jesus, but sprang from my need to best someone verbally or overwhelm them with my intellect. Spiritual silence reminds me that I need to be still and learn from the One who placed ego aside – even though it led to a cross. In the holy silence we come to know the living Word, as the gospel writer of John calls Jesus. This life and light of humankind still shines in the darkness. In the silence we come to the Living Word of God directly – the Word that writer of Hebrews tell us “… is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Silence takes us to a place in our souls where we stand naked in spirit before God – as guilty, then forgiven, and finally blameless. All our secrets are laid bare to God’s eyes and our own. God then gives us the power to see ourselves as we truly are. In the silence I often have to face the fact that I am not nearly so nice a guy as I usually think I am. I see when I’ve been mean spirited or apathetic. I remember the times I shot nasty looks at people who jumped in front of me at the grocery store checkout.
Silence doesn’t leave me there, though. In holy silence God begins giving me the power to live my faith. In silence I see God’s work in me being slowly realized. Any time any of us come into God’s presence we leave ready to live out the gospel with as much light as we have been given. If we take time – and not just a quick hit of silence – to be still.