4th December

I recently said to somebody that Pope Benedict XVI is my favourite pope after St Peter! One reason is the brilliance and clarity of his teaching which has few parallels in my experience of reading so far. This morning during breakfast I found myself enamoured by a homily of his given at a 2012 General Audience. He speaks about the importance of silence in our spiritual lives. This is particularly evident in Mary and in the Advent narrative. Luke records twice in chapter 2 that ‘Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart’ (v 19, 51).

Today I will present one excerpt and a second tomorrow. If you want the whole article, lookup http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120307_en.html

The dynamic of words and silence which marks Jesus’ prayer throughout his earthly

existence, especially on the cross, also touches our own prayer life in two directions.

The first is the one that concerns the acceptance of the word of God. Inward and outward silence are necessary if we are to be able to hear this word. And in our time this point is particularly difficult for us. In fact, ours is an era that does not encourage recollection; indeed, one sometimes gets the impression that people are frightened of being cut off, even for an instant, from the torrent of words and images that mark and fill the day.

It was for this reason that in the above mentioned Exhortation Verbum Domini I recalled our need to learn the value of silence: “Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence” (n. 66). This principle — that without silence one does not hear, does not listen, does not receive a word — applies especially to personal prayer as well as to our liturgies: to facilitate authentic listening, they must also be rich in moments of silence and of non-verbal reception.

St Augustine’s observation is still valid: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt “when the word of God increases, the words of men fail” (cf. Sermo 288, 5: pl 38, 1307; Sermo 120, 2: pl 38, 677). The Gospels often present Jesus, especially at times of crucial decisions, withdrawing to lonely places, away from the crowds and even from the disciples in order to pray in silence and to live his filial relationship with God. Silence can carve out an inner space in our very depths to enable God to dwell there, so that his word will remain within us and love for him take root in our minds and hearts and inspire our life. Hence the first direction: relearning silence, openness to listening, which opens us to the other, to the word of God.

Garfield is going to be practicing lots of silence for obvious reasons!