Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self—the false self—and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want.
M. Basil Pennington, with thanks to inward/outward
I think if there is one area of growth into something resembling spiritual maturity that I can recognise in myself—and it is recognising, like seeing something in someone else, not anything I have done or could lay claim to—it’s this, that I have come to thirst for silence with an almost physical urgency. It is indeed the pathway to all we truly want: it is the place where we meet with God, Bethel (see Exodus 28:10ff), holy ground, our hearts’ true home. No wonder Jesus himself went away to desolate places (Luke 5:16) to pray, away from the noise of the crowd and the questions and squabbles of his own disciples; and no wonder he advised, “…whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
There is indeed something penitential about silence, as Pennington explains. Perhaps this is why, for me as for many others, especially in the Orthodox traditions, the Jesus Prayer, with its strong emphasis on Christ’s mercy and our sinfulness, is itself a doorway to silence within our own hearts.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner…