There is a strange noisiness to our culture. Most of us live very busy lives in which time itself is noisy. My phones (there always seem to be two) are primed to go off at any moment and the very details that surround us carry a kind of noise about them. It is rare that the world would offer us silence.
And yet, the Fathers teach us about Hesychia (silence) in which we encounter God and see ourselves for who we are. I am a noisy person. I am likely to be bothered by the quiet when it surrounds me, and reach for a knob to fill the empty space with the sound of something. And if there is no knob, then the sound of my own brain chattering away fills the space with everything but God.
I do not think I am unique in this.
There is a fullness that is an emptiness and there is an emptiness that is a fullness. It all depends on the character of what fills us. If it is life apart from God – then its very fullness leaves us empty. If it is a life live towards God then our emptiness becomes the bowl which He can fill with Himself. I need only look at the fullness within me to know where my heart has turned.
It is the paradox of our Christian life that we find ourselves in losing ourselves – that the fullness of life is only found as we empty ourselves towards the Other around us. This, too, is found in very small actions. It is rare for most of us that the profound act of martyrdom, of the complete self-emptying that comes in giving our life for God, occurs in a single moment. Mostly it comes in thousands of small moments – the daily and momentary martyrdom in which we empty some small part of ourselves on behalf of the other around us. I make space to hear the sound of your voice instead of the sound of my mind. I make space to pay attention to your needs and not my own. I make space to simply be with you, present and not absent. And in such spaces, such moments of emptiness, we find a fullness that does not destroy us but feeds us and fills us with a Life that cannot die.
To dwell in such emptiness is to know the Fullness. To dwell in such silence is to hear the voice of God.
as usual, just what I need to hear right now. don’t know how you do that.
No comment suffices. Thank you for this.
Father you say:
“Mostly it comes in thousands of small moments – the daily and momentary martyrdom in which we empty some small part of ourselves on behalf of the other around us. I make space to hear the sound of your voice instead of the sound of mind. I make space to pay attention to your needs and not my own. I make space to simply be with you, present and not absent. And in such spaces, such moments of emptiness, we find a fullness that does not destroy us but feeds us and fills us with a Life that cannot die.”
Is this not what love is?
I crave silence and run from noise. The best days are when I am in the office alone and the phone doesn’t ever ring. Even better…to be home all alone…all day.
I do not comprehend how people can function with noise all around them all day long: headphones shoved in their ears or cell phones hands free chatting constantly.
Give me peace and quiet…and I will seek it out.
Amen! What the world needs now is silence.
Dear Father Stephen,
Asking for your blessing.
I have seven children, ranging in age from 21 to 1. Noise is a common feature of our home and as a quiet person, I often struggle with the stress and agitation it causes me. There have been times when I have been able to quiet my own mind and heart and rise above the noise around me. It then becomes a kind of joyful music of life that uplifts me. This takes a lot of effort and practice, though and I rarely manage it.
Thank you for your wonderful ministry on this blog. — Martha
Beautiful, inspiring, challenging reflection! Thanks so much for it!