That Great Silence in Storms Midst
by Dr. Anthony Lilles
The beauty of these 40 days of Lent is that every hardship and trial can be made into an offering of love. If we keep our course, whether anxiety or frustration, disappointment or heartbreak, hidden in the exigencies of the moment is a sacrament, a visible sign of grace, inviting the response of faith, opening to a deeper encounter with the one who longs for our freedom. The challenge is to focus on the Lord’s presence in the midst of the wind and the waves. Turn off every screen and speaker, silence the cell phone in all the talking heads, enough of the candid music and arguments, eyes open, attentive ears, ready heart, abstain, fast and be silent. This is the life vest to put on.
Seek an icons glow until heaven finds you for it is not we who make our way to Him so much as He who is set out to rescue his pilgrims in the threatening storm. Days of darkness when nothing makes sense, when evil would seem to have the upper hand, these are taken into account in the gospel in God’s plan. If this is chastisement, then it is long deserved by me more than anyone else. Save the innocent Lord who my own silence has left so vulnerable. It is challenging to walk under the shadow of glory for we must forsake those earthly lights on which we too long relied. Under that shadow, are less for power and gluttonous appetite are unveiled, and we feel the sorrow of not being in control or having the instant gratification to which we feel entitled. And then finally, we face that lonely alienation that has been driving us, and a certain painful emptiness that we too long sought to evade.
It is good to be sobered and to face the truth. Here, even social distancing can occasion compunction. And the piercing of the heart unleashes a sudden torrent and healing’s faith first hint whispers truth. All that once appeared good no longer does so. And what is really good, we have not yet learned to see. So dark, alone, and vulnerable, and in need, we finally begin to pray. Lighted candle on the kitchen table as night descends. Such simple joys are filled with meaning As the beads of the rosary slip through the fingers, and the Bible passages echo out loud what memories of grace and of friendship fill the silence? All of this only directs the heart and to even deeper places towards depths that the memory cannot go or the intellect glimpse, but every word of the Word is drawn there. Meaningful silence is resound when the heart speaks to heart. And an astonishing secret is shared between creator and creature for in that ardent furneness of love, what bright warmth welcomes the Pilgrim soul and the Pilgrim God.
Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park, California. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity.