The sound of the world around us generally qualifies as little more than noise. Almost nothing advertises itself as unimportant or something to be attended to later. The insistent cries of everything often raise the demands for our attention to a deafening pitch. “Do this! Read this! Buy this! Remember this! Believe this!” The world constantly presents itself to us as though it were teetering on the apocalyptic brink of disaster – with the added note that our attention to the pending disaster will make a difference.
This is noise.
The world indeed teeters on the brink of an apocalypse, but not the one it fears. Its history has a direction but not of its own choosing. The coming apocalypse is silence.
The word “apocalypse” (from the Greek) means “revelation,” bringing into plain sight what had before been hidden. The Christian faith is, from beginning to end, apocalyptic in nature. It is always a bringing forth of hidden things. Very often the most important thing in the world is nearly invisible to everyone around: the birth of a child in a village in Palestine, the lonely execution of an itinerate preacher, an empty tomb that puzzles a city. Jesus is not what anyone expected. The entirety of His life is only understood after the fact, in the light of revelation.
On the morning of the resurrection, certain women felt that the most pressing thing in the world was to purchase additional spices and myrrh to give a more careful treatment to the dead body of their most beloved friend. It seemed so important that they started out “very early in the morning.” It was the first day of the week, a day for business. It was a day for opening shops and arranging goods. Some spice merchant in Jerusalem rejoiced over the first-thing-in-the-morning visit of some grieving women, virtually cleaning out his shop. Grief makes such great customers!
Everybody was rising for the day, with roosters crowing here and there, without significance.
In the tomb was silence.
The tomb was silent because nobody was there, except a stray angel or two. And into the silence were spoken words that made the noise of creation to pass into nothing: “He is not here. He is risen.”
After this, the women cannot hear anything of the noise. The angry words of a passing stranger go unnoticed. The merchants in their stalls along the souk calling out their wares are mute. For the women, the world has become silent. The apocalypse of the truth has the exclusive care of their attention. Only one thing is needful.
Nothing in the world has changed since then. The insistent noise of the merchants cries out and the impending disasters forecast by kings and criminals warn that an apocalypse is just around the corner. But all of this noise takes place in the silence of the true apocalypse. It is just noise. The silent Stillness of eternity has already entered the world. His first words continue to speak: “Peace be with you.”
Only one thing is needed.
This is Silence.