Written By: Samantha Woolman
Issue: Set to Appear in the October Issue of the Newsletter
During my years of middle school and junior high school, my beloved catechism teacher would talk about the importance of silence. He said it was good for the soul and body, and that we should strive to make time for it in our daily lives. Back then, I acknowledged his words but didn’t quite understand their meaning. Now I think I have a better grasp of what he meant. Silence doesn’t have to be the dead-quiet lack of sound that leaves your ears ringing. It can be a moment free of worrisome thought in which you lift your heart in prayer and reflect on life’s seasons.
It’s interesting to think about how life reflects nature’s four seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter. In a very broad sense, they represent a human life. Spring represents birth and new life. As it progresses later into the year, rain washes the earth and renews it – similar to a baptism. As children grow into adults, become more intellectually and spiritually aware of their purpose, and determine just who they are, so spring busily prepares itself for the height of the year: summer. In this season, flowers are in full bloom, animals are active, and plants have grounded themselves in the soil. Autumn is the time where warmth still lingers but leaves are losing pigment and dropping from trees. Trees and other plants fade to match the color of the landscape. Winter can be an easy, gradual transition or a surprising jolt. Viewed as lovely and exciting for a moment, it’s cold temperatures sometimes match the hearts of those experiencing the constant storms, ice, and snow. What’s important to remember is that all these seasons have beauty. They also have something in common: all produce music and all contain silence. The newly awakened wildlife and sounds of melting snow, thunderstorms and chirping birds, crunchy leaves and crackling fires, snapping ice and plops of snow…all these blends together in nature’s music. But all this ceases sometimes, and gives us silence in which we can contemplate.
Silence allows us to truly experience the world. People often seem so caught up in trying their best to experience everything the world has to offer that they forget to take in what is happening around them. I once read a quote that caught my attention sharply – “The trees are already growing from which your coffin will be made”. The Orthodox teaching about death is not gruesome, but it does acknowledge that humans do not live forever on earth. It’s important to think about this, but not to concentrate all our mental and emotional energy upon it. Just as the seasons flow from one to the next, it’s good to steadily take in everything that is presented to us in life. We die, but we must first live before we die.
I think the Jesus Prayer is a wonderful way in which to both make and fill silence. Because it takes only a few seconds to say, it’s a simple and beautiful way to pray without distraction. When you have a moment of time between daily tasks, it’s a way in which one may give thanks and communicate with God. If there is a scheduled time for prayer, it also serves as a way to create mental silence and and self-knowledge. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote a prayer for self-knowledge. A portion of it reads “Let me accept whatever happens as from You”. This is a lovely reminder that a calm, quiet manner allows us to see more clearly, and that we are not given more than we can take on.