Not a single other person was out on the rail trail with me this morning. The air was still. I stopped at Unkety Brook to gaze out on it for a while and sensed I was in a Temple of Silence. Silently sap is running in the trees. Silently shoots are forming for next month’s leaf appearing. Silently seeds buried last fall are germinating. Silently snowflakes fall on my gloves. There was sacred silence around me and within me.
I thought about the Carthusian monks and nuns who live lives of mostly silence, men and women called to a vocation of silence and solitude. The Carthusians have been in existence for nearly a thousand years. The one Carthusian monastery in the United States happens to be southern Vermont. I wish I could visit and be in the silence with them, but visitors aren’t allowed. A few years ago I saw a segment of the 2005 movie Into Great Silence. A German filmmaker was allowed the rare privilege of filming inside the Grande Chartreuse Carthusian monastery in France. The film is 2 hours and 59 minutes of images of the brothers in silence broken by the communal prayers and no music or voice over commentary. I only saw a 30-minute segment in the classroom, and it challenged me. Someday I’d like to spend time alone in my room watching the entire film and enter into deep silence with them.
I want to protest the constant noise of the culture of our time – endless argument, propaganda, bitter and abusive language, even just simple chatter. We live in a time of constant activity and noise. This noise sickens and yet reassures us. Noise somehow makes the postmodern man feel secure. It is quiet in our streets right now in the time of COVID-19, and we are distraught. We are confronting our emptiness without the bustle and the noise.
When the virus crisis is over and the noise resumes, I want to recommit myself to breaking free of its addicting distraction. More time quietly with my God. Less time running around and less time looking at screens. Growing in self-awareness and intimacy with God.
The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth be silent before him. Habakkuk 2:20
*A good resource is the book Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton.*