Silence, Love and Mystery
I met these three words in an article, quietly sitting beside one another, waiting to catch my attention. The words were familiar enough but what stopped me was seeing them together. They were like puzzle pieces that make a picture only when you recognise how they are shaped for one another.
Silence for me is not absence of noise, or absence of anything: it is an attitude of attentiveness towards presence. On most days I stand by our small garden pond for a while and gaze into the waters. I grew up by ponds so they draw me to be awake to their life: a beetle scurries from the depths to the surface…a dragonfly rests on a green stem…the shape of leaf and flower is scattered by sunlight across the water. The silence of patient waiting opens me to life in all its intricacy, variety and beauty. There is a silence in really giving attention to a child as she tells a story, or you share crayons in the colouring of a picture. Silence in prayer is openness to God-with- us. Every space is crowded with presence if only we turn to meet it.
Being attentive in this way is the characteristic of love. God is Love, always present to us and for us. Love is a way of relationship; it is what happens when we stop seeing others as solely existing to meet our needs. To really know another we have to let go of our agendas towards them. Then we become open to see the other and to receive whatever it is they choose to share with us. Love is a receptive and humble silence that allows the other to be – a silence that is warm, welcoming and attentive. The life of God is expressed in giving and receiving, and not in grasping and imposing. In the Rule of Saint Benedict silence underpins the life of the community, But silence in this sense is not only the absence of words; it is an attitude of willingness to undertake the work of renunciation whereby we make room for one another rather than fill the space with our words, wants, fears and grievances.
The attentiveness of silence and the generosity of love are recognitions of mystery. At some point ‘I’ stop and the other begins...creation begins...God begins. The ‘I’ must stop to allow the other to come near. And the other is always surprising, beyond the limits we might want to impose. The pond in our garden is a living, evolving reality, new every morning. The person we have formed a fixed opinion of will break out of that box. The story we have built up over time about who we are and how our life will unfold will one day fall apart, since in God we are more than we now know.
The reality of mystery collides uncomfortably with our need to control. But silence and love provide a way. Silence is both a letting go to, and a stepping out towards Love whose presence is woven in and through all these things. Love will work all things towards a good we may not yet be able to see. The mystery is God-with-us. Each day asks us to move with this Love in and through ‘what is’, whether or not this is the reality we wanted or planned for.
‘Silence, mystery and love’: three words; and also a way to live and a way to be found by Life.