‘What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language He hears best is silent love’
– St John of the Cross
One of the most fascinating aspects of the life of the Blessed Virgin as recounted in the Gospels, is just how little we actually know about it and how silent She remains for the most part. The Blessed Virgin is a Woman of few words; and if anything, that makes those words She does speak, resound even more powerfully.
Silence is something this present age does not espouse very well – indeed, the world far prefers the hustle and bustle of constant noise and din. The noise of the world also tends to be quite vacuous – it is a different noise in every moment, each one replacing that of the moment before, which is instantly forgotten. All those moments of noise are moments lost. The trouble with this is that it drowns out everything else – including the gentle whisperings of the Holy Spirit, Who loves to move like a gentle breeze within silence. Silence is His place. In that silence, we can become more attuned to the needs of others, something else which is lost by constant noise.
Our – fallen – human nature means that the noise we like most is that noise which focusses on ourselves; this, too, is very much a part of our age, with it’s relentless focus on the individual, the self. Everything is about me – or we so are tempted to think.
The counsel of Saint John of the Cross flies in the face of this worldly view. He reminds us that silence is the place of prayer and of encounter with the living God; our God is a God of silence.
This is reflected clearly in the life of the Virgin, who maintained that silence except when it was necessary to speak. Her longest text in Scripture is that of the Magnificat – Her marvellous praise of God and of the great things He has done. Unlike ours, Her words are not about self, but about God. Even at Cana, Her words are sparse – but they efficiently and effectively convey Her intent. For the most part, however, She remains silent – even at the foot of the Cross. Her silence there, more than anywhere else, is that silent language of love which God hears best.
Perhaps She has something important and worthwhile to teach us about words and about silence.