It is better to remain silent and to be than to talk and not be. Teaching is good if the speaker also acts. Now there was one teacher who “spoke, and it was made,” and even what he did in silence was worthy of the Father. He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence, in order to be perfect, that he may act through his speech and be known by his silence. Nothing is hidden from the Lord, but even our secrets are close to him. Let us then do everything in the knowledge that he is dwelling within us that we may be his temples, and he God within us. He is, and will reveal himself, in our sight, according to the love we bear him in holiness.
— Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr
Seek silence within and without. Within, to still the voice that carries our attention away from Him. Without, to find ourselves, however briefly, in the deserted places where he used to go to pray. Then we too can echo Samuel: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.
It is not easy today. Perhaps it has never been easy to find silence. Parents of children certainly know this. We crave silence to gather our thoughts, and rest for a while in the knowledge that the littlest ones are in bed asleep. For a moment, we can relax our guard. Sleep will be after us soon as well, but until then…night moves through its courses and all things are in silence.
Where we live, the nighttime stillness is broken only by the occasional passing car. When the wind is right, we can hear trains in the distance. Sometimes a dog from the farm next door. Owls. The occasional riot of coyotes passing through the fields and woods. I remember holding a baby in the small hours of the night and longing to get back into bed. Then I thought about the Trappists at the monastery in Conyers, who were preparing to start their day with Matins. Their silence was being broken by softly-chanted psalms.
As Creation imperfectly reflects the One who made it, its sounds can let us hear Him, and maybe loudest of all in moments of silence amidst praise.