I am slowly reading, one chapter a day, a little book by Fr Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land. I very much appreciate his words on the importance of silence.
In his Maxims on Love, St. John of the Cross says, “The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must be heard by the soul.” In his Letter Seven, the same Spanish friar says, “Our greatest need is to be silent before this great God, … for the only language he hears is the silent language of love.” Silence is an urgent necessity for us; silence is necessary if we are to hear God speaking in eternal silence; our own silence is necessary if God is to hear us. Silence is necessary because, as Maggie Ross boldly puts it, “Salvation is about silence.”
As I get older I find that my need for solitude and silence grows. Yet how difficult it is to cultivate and hold on to the silence. My head is full of a cocktail party of thoughts. Who am I talking to? Why am I talking? Am I the one who is doing the talking? Talk, talk, talk. I can sometimes shift the topic, though not always, but I cannot stop the incessant chatter. Logismoi. Even in my sleep the interior discourse apparently continues non-stop.
The Jesus Prayer, which has become my principal form of prayer since the death of my son Aaron, helps. At least it redirects and shapes the rushing river of interior words.
Occasionally the riot of thinking quiets down and a silence takes hold, if only for a few, all too brief moments.
And then the cocktail party resumes …