Parte - 1
SILENCE AND STILLNESS ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME: Often we say that behind a great person there is a great man or a woman! In religious context, I would say that behind a well-integrated or saintly person, there is a great deal of silence, stillness and prayer, which lead one to delve deep in the mysteries of life, mysteries of the universe and the Ultimate Mystery itself, which we call God. Silence and stillness enlighten us to discover and experience who we are, who God is and how we could live harmoniously! Let me also make clear that silence and stillness are not one and the same. Silence is the beginning of an inward journey and it concerns more external aspects. Stillness is more than silence. Stillness takes us beyond silence. Stillness is more internal and denotes interior peace, tranquillity, restfulness and quietude of mind and heart. Stillness is rest to the mind, sleep to the spirit, and nourishment and refreshment to both. It is internal sobriety. It has a quality of depth. Further, stillness prepares us to be open to the Spirit, thereby receive the Spirit of God, the spirit of humankind and that of creation. Stillness prepares us for communion and oneness with the Divine and everything that is born of God. Silence and stillness create space within us to grow to human-divine fullness. With stillness, everything that is broken and distorted has a chance to be healed and become whole; everything has a chance to bring us back to the original beginning. Everything can be recreated in an atmosphere of silence and stillness.
To enter into stillness, we have to allow ourselves to be taught by nature. Look at trees or mountains or flowers. How still they are! They are deeply rooted in stillness of their being. When we perceive stillness in creation, we connect ourselves to the stillness of nature. In fact, feeling of oneness with all things in nature is true love. Love unites all. We need such peace-producing silence in our lives. Silence and stillness heal us, uplift us and rejuvenate us. All of us long for positive silence and stillness at some time or other. All of us have an innate desire for them, but very few enter into them.
Once we make a beginning of silence, many disturbing voices from within emerge. Voices of anger, un-fulfilled needs, hurts, resentments, unresolved conflicts and relationships. What we need as the first step is to enter into relaxation and calm, which lead us to restfulness. This is precisely stillness. In stillness we can seek to be merciful and kind to our own shadows, limitations and weak points, and befriend them. Gradually these internal enemies get transformed into healed resources of immense energy. Of course, deep faith and a lot of patience are sine qua non, but it is possible.
Let us then try to close our eyes and quieten all our senses for at least ten minutes in the morning and before going to bed. Certainly but gradually we shall rise to the newness of peace and harmony. Stillness is prerequisite to prayer and contemplative life. In the Bible the word ‘silence’ is not used often, but the symbols of silence are used very often, such as ‘desert’ over 700 times, ‘mountain’ 750 times, and ‘night’ 450 times. Jesus withdrew in silence to lonely places and prayed (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16). Jesus practised silence that enabled him to experience God as ‘Abba’ and all humans as brothers and sisters. Gautama Buddha entered the depth of silence and came out as ‘enlightened’ by Truth, which transformed him into a ‘compassionate Buddha’. Mahatma Gandhi used to observe a day of silence once a week, and he began a nonviolent movement that gave India political freedom from the British Rule. Fr. Oshida O.P. says: “To keep silence and enter into stillness, is to enter in the womb of God.” Macarius says: “To become intoxicated with God, one has to calm and still one’s heart”. Silence certainly helps us to achieve stillness, and stillness helps us to pray always contemplatively.
St Francis was a religious genius, a mystic and a pilgrim, who lived in simplicity a high degree of harmony with God, with others, with nature, and with himself. In his last Testament, St Francis affirms that the Lord himself led him to live the Gospel authentically and thereby go through several profound spiritual experiences. St Francis entered into deep stillness and solitude from time to time at La Verna and at other places to experience the ‘Abba Experience’ of Jesus that eventually lead him into a life of Communion with God and all that is born of God. Thus, continuously he experienced an inseparable bond between God, humans and nature. He considered himself just one of the members of God’s family of creation. This is why he could not separate himself from all genuine human concerns for justice, for the poor, and for an honest commitment to society, and interior peace. For this reason, he did not opt for a total Monastic life - cut away from the living realities of ordinary people. Thus with deep experience of ONENESS, and ‘everything belongs to God’, (Acts 17:28), St Francis could always say: “My God and my all!” He did not consider himself at the top of a hierarchy of all beings, nor did he declare himself superior to the non-human creation. Rather, St Francis saw himself as a part of creation. His spirituality overturned the spirituality of hierarchical ascent and replaced it with a spirituality of descending solidarity between humanity and creation. Instead of using creatures to ascend to God (from earth to heaven), he found God in all creatures and identified with them as brothers and sisters; he found heaven on the earth. By surrendering himself and daring everything for love’s sake, the earth became his home and all creatures his brothers and sisters.
Joseph Prasad Pinto, Capuchin.