Silence is something that is definitely lacking in our world. It often seems that we are uncomfortable with it, because it feels like an emptiness, a void that needs to be filled somehow. In silence, our own thoughts and anxieties can seem too loud, and rather than pay attention to what's really going on in our souls, we turn on music, or the TV, anything for "background noise" or distraction. We put a wall of sound between ourselves and our hidden depths.
Unfortunately, that wall of sound also gets between us and the voice of God in our lives. We forget the story of Elijah on the mountain, waiting for God:
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before God, but God was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire, but God 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.
And then God and Elijah had some time to chat. In the silence.
The brothers of Taizé's silent prayer for peace is an opportunity for pilgrims to sit with their own souls for a while, to confront their own internal struggles and reach for the peace that God alone can give. They know that in a time of silence, our monkey-minds whirl around for a while, but if we give the silence a chance, we can come to a peaceful stillness where God converses with us without using words. Then our anxieties can lift and we can reach a place of true peace, the kind of peace our world really needs these days. At the end of thirty minutes of silence in Taizé, the brothers sang the beautiful chant below, and I found myself moved to tears of happiness.
Tomorrow evening, we will be praying (with a bit more silence than usual) for peace at Holyrood Mennonite Church. Please join us for our ecumenical prayer of silence and songs from Taizé at 7 p.m., followed by friendship and community.
And if you're too far afield to enjoy praying with us, please enjoy Da pacem Domine below and offer your own prayers for peace in our hearts, homes, communities and nations -- our world can always use them.