The Discipline of Silence

The Lord is in the silence. Are we?

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness will abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

   - Isaiah 32.16, 17

The rule of silence is decreed to be carefully observed, since it is written: But the nurture of righteousness is silence and peace. And thus, lest one be apprehended as guilty of much talking, it is needful that he keep silence, except for things profitable and necessary, since according to Scripture, in many words sin will not be lacking.

  
- Columbanus, Monks’ Rule II, Irish, 7th century

Isaiah was looking ahead to the day of the Spirit’s coming, when the Gospel would take root and flourish and bring forth righteousness in all those who truly know the Lord. Righteousness leads to silence and trust, Isaiah explained, and Columbanus made it a discipline.

Most of us aren’t very good at silence. We surround ourselves with noise – mp3 players, text messages, chatty conversation, TV, CDs. Being silent is difficult. You sit, and wait, and listen – for…?

But often in the silence, if we can manage to put away all our own words and distractions, the still, small voice of the Spirit of God will break through with a nudge, a prompting, a phrase, an insight, a startling illumination or conviction. And then we will know why silence is so important.

In practicing the discipline of silence we don’t look very busy. Maybe that’s part of our problem. We’re a generation that tends to define our spirituality in terms of busy-ness. But the beauty of silence is that it allows us to approach the unseen realm more closely, as we set our minds on the things that are above, where Christ is seated in the heavenly places, and wait for the rustling of angels’ wings, the breath of the Spirit, the penetrating gaze from the fiery eyes of the Savior, the living Word to spring up into our face in a new way.

In silence we learn trust. We learn to wait on the Lord. And we improve our ability to “practice things not seen” which is at least half of what it means to believe in the Lord (Heb. 11.1).

But the discipline of silence takes time and practice. Redeem your time from noisy things; take your thoughts and moments captive for silence, perhaps once or twice a month, for an extended period. See if you aren’t drawn closer to the Lord as a result.

In the silence you just might hear the still, small voice of the Lord in powerful and transforming ways.

Psalm 46.10, 11 (St. Chrysostom: “We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought”)
Rest in the Lord and be at peace, all who are mired in sore travail:
Lift up our God, praise Jesus our Lord; proclaim to all the earth His Word!
God is our stronghold, never to fail; thus may our hope and joy increase!

Help me, Lord, to keep silence before You, amid all the noise and distraction of this world, and speak to me in the silence, that I may speak and live boldly for You.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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