“QUIET!” Do you ever feel like screaming for some peace and quiet? Perhaps you have actually done so. Silence is hard to come by in the modern world. Planes, trains, automobiles, televisions, and smart phones are just a few of the modern technologies that fill our world with noise.
There’s so much noise, in fact, that researchers warn us about the negative effects of “noise pollution.” Research has proven that constant exposure to noise hinders the capacity for children to learn, compromises our health and drastically increases stress, which leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. So it’s fitting that the English translation for the Latin root “noise” is pain. A noisy life is a painful life.
Conversely, studies are showing that the silent life leads to a healthier life. The Heart journal has reported that just a few minutes of silence each day positively affected blood pressure and circulation of blood to the brain. The body rejuvenates itself with silence.
Religious orders have known the benefits of silence long before the science was around to verify it. Some religious orders dedicate much of their life to solitude and silence. The Carthusian order, founded by St. Bruno of Cologne in 1084, is a great example of life lived in solitude and silence. Although they do not take a vow of silence, the monks spend most of their days in solitude and silence whether they are working, reading, or praying. They do this in order to reach their goal, which is contemplation. Contemplation is best expressed as the soul’s pure and continuous dialogue with God.
Into Great Silence is a fabulous documentary filmed at Monastère de la Grande Chartreuse, the Carthusian monastery located in the French Alps. The documentary captures the lives of the Carthusian monks and lay brothers who live there. (You can watch the full documentary on YouTube.)
If you don’t think it’s possible to enter into silence through video, watch this documentary. I think you’ll be surprised. The film is a wonderful and rare look into the lives of men who have dedicated their entire lives to contemplative prayer through solitude and silence. Watching it, I found it very moving to think that these men dedicate their whole lives to pray for the world. Just think of it. They’re praying for you and me!
What’s more, the Carthusian way of life reminds us that God mostly communicates through the still small voice. Yes, God can and sometimes does speak in the thunder and lighting, but it seems that he most often speaks in silence. “Be still and know that I am God,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 46:10).
The prophet Elijah discovered God in the silence:
[God] said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Elijah heard God speak in sheer silence. And if you’ll take the time for solitude and silence, you’ll hear God speak too. You’ll discover what so many have discovered before you, that the words of the LORD “are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:22).
What hinders you from having silence? What have you noticed when you do practice silence?
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