Having little ability to speak necessitates finding alternate ways of communicating. It means becoming creative in conveying meaning in some way that does not require spoken words. It also forces me to listen more intently to those around me and it provides an opportunity to listen more deeply to God since the distraction to focus on self which I can create with my own voice is no longer available. It offers an atmosphere of other-centeredness, especially when focusing on God; it also fosters gratitude for the gift of speech, suddenly recognized because of its absence. But the real challenge is that just as one does with a piece of poetry, being temporarily silent means having to learn to ‘hear’ beyond and between the words, since I can do little to fill the space. Another way to express this is that being silent is a reminder that we all need to find ways of being attuned to God since we know that ordinarily when God speaks it is not with words that we hear with our physical ears, but rather it is something to which all our senses must be applied. Being silenced helps us to discern His presence in the world around us and within our own hearts.
Being silent is not always about becoming passive, though this is appropriate at certain times. However, when we are listening to another person, being silent is actually a type of activity: we need to actively listen, that is, to put effort into hearing what it is the other is conveying. We communicate our caring by laboring to be truly present to them. There are times when we know our words will fall short, so we simply are with the other, unchaining them from the burden of aloneness. Also, we have heard the adage that ‘silence speaks louder than words:’ there are situations in which keeping quiet about something is the greater good, and there are other times in which speaking up is necessary. But in order to know which is which, we need to first be silent, praying for wisdom. Then if we are to speak, we need the continued wisdom to know what to say. Sometimes the Lord is asking us to quietly get out of the way and let Him do what only He can do or reveal something only He can reveal. And when difficult things do need to be said, if they are said with love, no matter how challenging the situation may be, we are to say them. If we remember that love is always the intention of the follower of Jesus, then we will know what to do and whether the time is right to act.
May we be open to learning the art of listening! May we trust that God listens to us when we pray, and may we be accepting of His response! May we begin to see Divinity mirrored in every creature, including ourselves! May we use our words and deeds to communicate peace, healing and love, but also have the courage to speak difficult truths if we are called to do so! And may we discover God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit mirrored to us, and indeed present to us, through creation and in the artistry of our brothers and sisters! Let us meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The text of Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42891
The first image is a painting by Fr. William Hart McNichols which is part of a triptych which was commissioned by a funeral home in Taos, New Mexico. It is called Tree Triptych for Rivera Funeral Home. I chose this work because is seemed to speak of the solitude which Robert Frost was describing in the poem. Honestly, I love every icon or image that Fr. Bill paints which has stars and the moon in it. His renderings of the night sky are always meditation points for me, no matter what else is in the icon or image. There is always a sense of peace evoked in his night skies. But what I love most about this image, however, is the small candle in the bottom left hand corner. It speaks to me of hope and of Christ who is the Light which dispels all darkness. The wind seems to be trying to blow out this flame, but the flame prevails, as does Jesus.
To view the entire work, and to see the other two trees which appear with this one in the triptych go to http://fineartamerica.com/featured/tree-triptych-for-rivera-funeral-home-220-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
Next is The Creation of the World by Guisto Menabuoi, an Italian painter from the Florentine school. (1320-1391) I chose it because it reminded me of the beginning of Genesis in which God spoke "Let there be..." and things came into being. It was the word of God which created, breaking the silence of eternity. It also made me think of viriditas, the lushness and bounty of creation, all of which is charged with the presence of God, the life-giving Creator, the Artist of all Artists. You can find more on this work at http://www.fineart-china.com/htmlimg/image-51701.html. By the way, if you look closely you can see layers of golden light, earth-colored brown, and green (viriditas?) surrounding the orb which seems to represent the earth.
Third, is a mural which shows St. Hildegard of Bingen sitting on what seems to be a throne, maybe the throne of wisdom and truth, though most likely a reference to her position as abbess in her community. (The inscription under it states that she is a prophet, actually). She is seen to be writing, something she did quite prodigiously. Maybe she was writing about viriditas, or perhaps the quote found in this entry. This wall mural is in the church at St. Hildegard Abbey at Rudesheim am Rhein in Germany.
(Fr. Bill McNichols also has some wonderful icons of St. Hildegard which do not appear in this piece, but you can find them at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/william-hart-mcnichols.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=576462 and http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-hildegard-of-bingen-171-william-hart-mcnichols.html.)
Finally the last image is one of my own photos taken at Crater Lake, Oregon. I chose this because of the stillness of the water. There was a profound silence in this spot except for the faint sound of the gentle breeze. Because there are no currents in this lake which literally fills up a volcanic crater, the image of the mountains and clouds are mirrored perfectly. If you look really closely, on the left side of the photo you can see a cloud which seems to be floating on the water just above the tree tops: it is a mirror image of the actual cloud in the sky directly overhead. Indeed, all of creation is "a glittering, glistening mirror of Divinity!"