This principle that without silence we neither hear nor listen nor receive the word _ applies above all to personal prayer, but it also pertains to our liturgies: in order to facilitate an authentic listening, they must also be rich in moments of silence and unspoken receptivity. St. Augustine_s observation forever holds true: Verbo crescente, verba deficient — _When the Word of God increases, the words of men fail_ (cf. Sermon288; 5: PL 38, 1307; Sermon 120,2: PL 38,677). The Gospels often present Jesus — especially at times of crucial decisions — withdrawing alone to a place set apart from the crowds and from his own disciples, in order to pray in the silence and to abide in his filial relationship with God. Silence is capable of excavating an interior space in our inmost depths so that God may abide there, so that his Word may remain in us, so that love for him may be rooted in our minds and in our hearts and animate our lives. The first way, then: to learn silence, [to learn] the openness to listening that opens us to the other, to the Word of God.
However, there is a second important element in the relation of silence with prayer. For in fact there exists not only our silence, which disposes us to listening to God’s Word; often in our prayer, we find ourselves before the silence of God; we experience a sense of abandonment; it seems to us that God is not listening and that He does not respond. But this silence of God – as Jesus also experienced – is not a sign of His absence. The Christian knows well that the Lord is present and that he is listening, even in the darkness of suffering, rejection and solitude. Jesus reassures the disciples and each one of us that God knows well our needs at every moment of life. He teaches the disciples: _In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him_ (Matthew 6:7-8): an attentive, silent, open heart is more important than many words.
God knows us intimately, more deeply than we know ourselves, and He loves us: and knowing this should suffice. In the Bible, Job’s experience is particularly significant in this regard. This man quickly loses everything: family, wealth, friends, health; it seems that God’s attitude towards him is precisely one of abandonment, of total silence. And yet Job, in his relationship with God, speaks with God, cries out to God; in his prayer, despite everything, he preserves his faith intact and, in the end, he discovers the value of his experience and of God_s silence. And thus, in the end, turning to his Creator, he is able to conclude: _I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee_ (Job 42:5): nearly all of us know God only through hearsay, and the more we are open to His silence and to our silence, the more we begin to know Him truly. This supreme confidence, which opens way to a profound encounter with God, matures in silence. St Francis Severio prayed, saying to the Lord: I love you, not because you can give me heaven or condemn me to hell, but because you are my God. I love You, because You are You. Read more…