By stillness and silence I conquer pride and vanity. When I have calmed all my senses and my only movement is my breathing and I sit still and rapt in Your lap, there is no me – just You. What proud or vain conceit can thrive in such an atmosphere? It suffocates. Without the noise and motion of a busy self it cannot live. Its life-blood is drained away. That is why when this is experienced there is an increased longing and anguish for it. This longing is a gift of Your grace, for by it we lose ourselves in You, and that is where we want to be.
If being still and silent before You enables me to forget self and let You in, would stillness and silence before others be a means of less selfish love? Probably not! For the truth of the matter is Your ways are not our ways. It is not our way but rather Your grace that calms us and stills us in Your presence. In the presence of another person such calmness, silence and stillness might indicate apathy rather than love. In the ways of men, love must be “shown” with fanfare, activity, proclamation and performance. The hopeful results of contemplation are learning that the ways of stillness, silence and receptivity are Your ways and that the ways of men are often barriers to growth in Your love.
It is in the moments of stillness that the loving certainty of what Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism describes as “intellectual visions” takes place. The awareness of You brought about by no form of sensual or imaginative effort, yet inexplicably certain. Such moments thrive in the friendly habitat of stillness and silence though they certainly are not limited to such times. Our failure to encourage them is a “human” failure. You are like Fr. Anthony DeMello’s image of a movie screen which is itself invisible because of all the images projected upon it, yet it is nonetheless there. With the analogy of a bus that we never get off of, DeMello further describes our penchant for getting comfortable with certain formulas and routines that never allow us to penetrate the “dark night” or the “cloud of unknowing.” The stillness and silence needed are not on the bus.
There is great consolation in the fact that You love even when no one else does. You will help us find a way. The psalm says, “God makes a home for the desolate to dwell in.” Once we are truly conscious of the fact that He whom we seek dwells in us, life must become a search for going beyond the images it projects and seeing the screen on which they are projected, a stopping and getting off life’s bus and following different routes in stillness and silence, for that is where we find You.