One Silent Night, Jesus entered our world. The angels heralded the message of peace, the shepherds rejoiced and the wise men set on a journey to meet the Messiah. Truly, that night was silent and holy because the Word became flesh. The silence of that night beckoned us to holiness, to share an intimate relationship with the Father, to build a steadfast and faithful relationship with Christ.
Where have we lost that silence now?
Today, we are living in a world, which is marked by consumerism and competition, taller buildings but shorter tempers, well e-connected but less e-motionally connected, chat with friends across the globe but fail to walk the talk with our neighbour. We live in an age where we have conquered the highest mountains but have yet to master our self. We have lost touch with our humanity, our self, our purpose in life, our neighbour, our God. For the sake of a living, we have lost sight of the call to abundant living. William Wordsworth sagely observed, “When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign is solitude.
When was the last time you made the time to be silent and still? I mean to be still and experience the presence of God in our lives.
Jesus – A man of contemplation
All of the great wisdom traditions of the world have arrived at the same conclusion, to reconnect with who you really are as a person and come to experience the Divine that lives in you. We need to become aware that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus too sought silence and solitude to re-connect Himself with His Father, to recharge Himself for his mission. The Gospels illustrate seven instances, which highlights the Life of Jesus as a man of silence and solitude, in prayer and in unison with God.
- Solitude and silence at the beginning of his Ministry in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13)
- Solitude and silence before choosing the 12 to be with Him (Luke 6:12)
- Solitude and silence upon the death of His cousin, John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13)
- Solitude and silence at the dawn of fame (Mark 1:36)
- Solitude and silence in the midst of his daily work (Luke 5:16)
- Solitude and silence during Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29)
- Solitude and silence in the face of death at Gethsemane (Luke 22:41)
The disciples were so much drawn by the silence of Jesus and His prayer life, that they requested Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus’ prayer or the “Our Father”, which Jesus taught His disciples, was not merely words for vocal or recital prayer but the basic principles to live by in the Kingdom of God. Hence these principles should be pondered upon and reflected in the silence of our heart. (Matthew 6:6). It is an invitation to be alone with “The Alone”, thereby contemplating on the values of the Kingdom of God, contemplating that prayer is life and Life is prayer. Jesus Himself invites us to contemplate him in the silence of our hearts (Mark 6:31)
What is silent contemplation?
Silence is the not the absence of sound but the absence of self. Contemplation means to gaze at the face of Jesus, look at Him and love Him as He loves you. Silent contemplation simply means to experience the presence of God in every present moment in the silence of your heart. As we live our days, so we craft our life. Contemplating on scriptures, spending time with Jesus, gazing at the face of Jesus allows some of His nature to rub off on us. The purpose of silent contemplation should be to acquire the virtue or love of God. Only then, can we make our life “His message”. We need to adopt this “Inside-out” approach. Inside-out means to start from self first, even more fundamentally to begin with the most inside part of self. The definition though simple is not simplistic. It calls us to discipline ourselves, to surrender ourselves, to empty ourselves.
Silent contemplation leads us to Awareness.
Silent contemplation makes us aware of the abiding presence of Yahweh deep, deep within us. Life in God begins when words and thoughts fall silent, when worldly cares are forgotten, and when a place within the human soul is freed to be filled by Him. To be aware, to know what one is, is the beginning of all wisdom. We must know ourselves as we are, not as we wish to be. When we gaze at the face of Jesus and examine our life within, we come to know ourselves better in the Light of God and we are enlightened. A life well examined is a life worth living. As Moses, standing before the burning bush cast away his sandals as he came in the presence of God, so we must cast away our ambitions, dreams, desires, anxieties and be still and listen attentively to the voice of Yahweh speaking to us from within the burning bush of our heart. Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens. The ultimate value of life therefore depends upon awareness.
Awareness leads us to belongingness
Silent Contemplation is that process of dwelling deep into that area of our self that is love. God has poured His love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). Love is not a happening, love is being. Love is not an act, it is existence. The knowledge that we are filled with God’s love leads us to the total expression of love or blossoming of love. The Kingdom of God is within us. Jesus is the embodiment of Love, our source, the very core of our being. In Him, we move, we live and have our being. It is this awareness that gives us the sense of belongingness for one another. It makes us realize that we are created from love, for love and to love one another. It makes us realize that we must reach out in love.
Belongingness builds Strong Christian Communities
I do not believe we could ever attain perfect love for our neighbour unless it has its roots in the love of God. Only then, can we reach out to everyone selflessly and tirelessly. We need silence to be able to touch souls, observed Mother Teresa. We can make Small Christian Communities (SCC) Strong Christian Communities only if we adopt the Inside-out approach, i.e., when we first become aware that we are Holy temples of God, overflowing with God’s love, which in turn will lead us to belongingness for one another stemming out of God’s Love in our hearts, which will teach us to care for and share with one another in our community. This is the ABC (Awareness, Belongingness, Christian Community) we need to learn this Christmas.
This Christmas, remember to bring back that Silent Night. The fruit of silence is PRAYER, the fruit of prayer is FAITH, the fruit of faith is LOVE, the fruit of love is SERVICE and the fruit of service is PEACE.
I pray that this Christmas may bring peace and harmony in our lives through the fruit of silence.
Kindly keep me in your prayers.
Contributed to “the Examiner” dt December 19, 2009