From the archives…a meditation on silence and our Lady’s model of this increasingly absent virtue…
There is precious little of it in the world. In the busy life of a mother of many young ones, it is indeed rare. From cell phones, to radios, cds, dvds, mp3 players and a constant barrage of conversation, it seems the contemplative nature of motherhood is struggling for survival. The cacophony has even made its way into the sanctuary of the Church…there are quite a few parishes where the noise and conversation before and after Holy Mass is reminiscent of a rock concert, with a few dear souls struggling to offer prayer and meditation prior to and after receiving Holy Communion.
How do we keep silence? Our Lady is the perfect example for all of womanhood in this virtue. Holy Scripture reveals very little of what our Lady said throughout the course of her life. A sentence here and there: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to Thy word” “Son…they have no wine…” “your father and I have been anxiously searching for you…” “Do whatever He tells you…” And the way of the cross? Heartbreaking silence revealed what words could not…
During her betrothal, Mary even kept silent when Joseph must have been thinking the very worst. She, whose virtue and holiness was so apparent, was visibly pregnant with a child that was not his. His heart was breaking. He knew the penalty for this “sin” and yet seemed to know Mary was blameless and was going to “put her away quietly”. All this time, Mary knew his pain and knew that public perception would convict her of shame. She didn’t defend. She didn’t explain. She kept her silence and let the Holy Spirit do the work. Words weren’t necessary. She kept her thoughts to herself and maintained a spirit of quiet contemplation…
With one exception.
The Magnificat. The longest speech our Lady gives, is one in which she praises God. Her words, it seems, are reserved for that which is most important…offering praise and adulation for her God:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.
I find myself, of late, calling upon the Blessed Mother, more and more, to help me hold my tongue…I’m such a chatterbox. I speak too quickly and too much…and while I do relish silence and seek times of contemplation, I don’t feel I live contemplatively. My vocation pulls me this way and that…it is the sweet tug-of-war that every mother experiences throughout her day as she finds the Cross amidst the dishes and the piles of laundry. May our good Lady of Silence help to calm and quiet the noise and distraction of daily life and help us to remember that God’s voice is best heard…when we are listening.
From Holy Father, John Paul II:
“Mary’s example enables the Church better to appreciate the value of silence. Mary’s silence is not only moderation in speech, but it is especially a wise capacity for remembering and embracing in a single gaze of faith the mystery of the Word made man and the events of his earthly life.
It is this silence as acceptance of the Word, this ability to meditate on the mystery of Christ, that Mary passes on to believers. In a noisy world filled with messages of all kinds, her witness enables us to appreciate a spiritually rich silence and fosters a contemplative spirit.”
And from the book of 1 Kings 19:12
- Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
- After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound…Blessings,