Discernment in the Spirit of Advent - Silence


This is the second article of a four-part series - to read the first part, click here.

Advent is undoubtedly a time for silence, even if the lived reality of the season is often far from this ideal.  As the liturgy recounts for us the centuries of Israel's wait for the promised Messiah, we are invited to join the vigil.  There is a sense of hush, of the silence and stillness of midnight while we long for the first blush of the "dawn from on high to break upon us" (Lk 1:78).  With the patriarchs and prophets, we strain our ears to hear the cry go up, "The bridegroom is here!  Come out and greet him!" (Mt 25:6).  This is not the silence of sleep, but the silence of eager watchfulness.

The silence of the Blessed Virgin is also present in the spirit of Advent.  Our Lady has very few words or actions recorded in the Gospels.  She is truly a woman of silence, and during this holy season we may especially see her silence as she goes about her simple daily labor, in her own home and in the home of her cousin Elizabeth, as the Infant Christ is being formed within her.  St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite saint of great silence herself, reflects thus: "Do we think what must have been in the soul of the Blessed Virgin when, after the Incarnation, she possessed within her the Incarnate Word, the gift of God?  In what silence, what recollection she must have buried herself in the depths of her soul in order to embrace that God whose mother she was."  Indeed, Mary has a silent heart, ever-attentive to the voice of God and to the presence of the Incarnate Word in her womb.

Discernment of our vocations is, in a certain sense, a process of discovering what gift of God has been placed in our own hearts - we seek to know for what we have been created.  How does Christ want to be made present to the world through our lives?

The process of discernment also has similarities with the waiting of the people of the Old Covenant for the coming of the Lord.  "How long, O Lord!" we are tempted to cry out; at times, it may seem like He is slow in coming to show us the path marked out for us!

In all this, the Advent spirit of silence can be a great help to keep our hearts attentive and eager, yet in peace.  The scriptural images of silent vigil which we encounter can provide us with food for reflection on how God may be asking us to wait for His revelation of His plan.  Praying with some of the scriptures used in the Masses of Advent is an excellent way to grow in a spirit of eager and open anticipation, without falling into anxiety or impatience.

We can take advantage of this season to incorporate a little more silence into our days.  It isn't possible to control all the noise in our lives.  But perhaps you can turn off the radio when you are driving alone.  Or step out of a Christmas party for a few minutes of silence to thank the Lord for those gifts of fellowship and joy.  Maybe you are able to set aside 15 minutes to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament on your way to work.

Ask Our Lady to help you see where you can grow in silence.  Even these little practices can be very fruitful in giving God more space to speak to our hearts, and as we grow in hearing His voice about small things, we are more disposed to be open when He calls us to big things!