The Eclipse of Silence

By Fr Joseph Martis
Former rector of St Joseph's Seminary. Currently professor and HoD of Philosophy Department.
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March 22, 2020

We are familiar with solar and lunar eclipses. It takes place when the Sun or the Moon is shadowed. Have we ever heard of the eclipse of silence? Surprisingly not, but interestingly, we are thoroughly in it. Indeed, the word “silence” today has become silent; silence is silenced, it is eclipsed. Silence nowadays has no home, no space and no status. Silence is nearly an endangered species of our generation. Yes, we live in a world of noise. There is noise in the morning, noon time and even when the sun goes down; noise around us, outside of us and within us. Noise of all sorts: The cell phone ringing endlessly, the message tone popping up at every second, the loud bombarding music, the TV programs, internet bazaar, thus the list goes on. There is so much of noise around us: at home, in the streets, at work place… Oh yes, noise everywhere. But that is not the end of the story. Today, the noise has pierced inside of us. It has penetrated our inner selves; the noise of worry, anxiety, tension, distractions, is incessantly knocking our minds and hearts. Where can we flee from the hullabaloo which has invaded our lives and infected our surroundings? Have we not become victims of the noise? Has it not become a new sort of drug to which we have become dependent? As a result, we are awfully scared of silence. Silence, for some, has become boring, disgusting, even killing. For the man of today, silence could mean an emptiness of the self, an anxiety into a nothing, a leap into an abyss; a bottomless void; a boring and insipid existence. Some others consider, silence as a reality of the past, outdated; a legend, a piece of treasure looking good in the museum. Thus, it almost looks like human person has turned his back to silence. Should silence thus be forgotten or has not time come to rediscover the meaning and significance of silence and find its true worth. I feel it is necessary to revive the sanctuary of silence. Silence requires a renaissance, reconsideration, a reawakening, for we cannot be allowing ourselves to be totally inundated by the power of noise but fortified by the power and majesty of silence. As the Christian community is living in the season of Lent, a season of grace, a season of blessing, a season of silence and contemplation, it is an opportune moment to reflect on this noble, precious and essential treasure of human existence.

Let me first and foremost affirm what silence is not:

Silence is not an absence of talk. No doubt, the virtue of silence necessitates less of talk and more of listening; more of contemplation, more of serenity, more of openness towards others. Silence is the presence of peace, joy, inner freedom, liberation from internal constraints; it is the presence of love, of devotion. Silence does not mean absence of communication, on the contrary, silence constitutes the most powerful and vibrant way of communication wherein our deepest thoughts and sentiments can be shared.

Silence is not defeat. Silence sometimes is thought to be a gesture of defeat. When I am silent, I am weak and fragile, I lack backbone; I have no force or guts. But in reality, it is not a defeat. Lives of great men and women, warriors, saints, seekers, prophets, scientists, has shown that silence often has been a forceful sign of self-strength, it bolsters inner power and force. Great spiritual giants have proven this fact. Look at Jesus, facing Pilate, the Roman Governor, the powerful ruler of the time. Pilate mocked at him, Pilate insulted him, challenged Him, But Jesus did not speak, he was silent, the silence of Jesus was his inner strength. He was stronger than the powerful Roman Governor. Pilate felt uneasy, perturbed, on edge. Pilate was totally shattered vis-à-vis the silence of Jesus. Pitifully, Pilate does a cowardice act of washing his hands. For Jesus Silence was the source of great strength.

Silence is not humiliation. Silence is not a sign of humiliation. By silence neither do I downgrade myself or someone else. Silence is inner strength. It catapults the power of the self to its highest esteem. As someone writes, Silence is true wisdom's best reply. It is the balm of every chagrin.

Silence is Power. Nature proves this verity. Look at the seed sown in the ground, it does not speak, does not make any noise, but the strength of the tree or the plant depends on the time spent by the seed under the earth in silence. The absence of sound is not the absence of power but it is the presence of inner strength, self-mastery and self-realization.

Silence is Sublime. Silence regenerates, it empowers, Blaise Pascal, a renowned French Philosopher said, “it is in distraction man is lost but in silence, he finds meaning.” According to the great mystique, St John of the Cross, “to meet God, silence is the most powerful way and means”. Our communion with the divine happens in total and sublime silence. It is the language of the realized, which nourishes wisdom, enables to discover the hidden treasures of our hearts.

Silence was the capital force of Jesus. For thirty years, he was silent preparing intently for his mission. He was in complete silence for forty days and nights before commencing his public mission. On the journey or the way of the cross, he kept silent most of the time. He endured suffering and death through the language of silence. The sound of his silence was more powerful than any words. Silence was the tool used by Mother Mary to follow her son Jesus. She pondered most of the time on the words of Jesus. Her silence was sublime, joyful, exuberant and fecund. St Joseph, no doubt is the Father of silence. He said nothing but in his nothing there was everything.

Silence is Life. The nature does not talk or shout, the sun and moon only shine, the stars only twinkle, the trees only whisper, the flowers bloom, the rivers and seas just sing, We have seen, when a ray of sunshine pierces a black sky it gives birth to a rainbow. When we are faced with staggering beauty, what do we say? Usually nothing, we are rendered speechless. To gasp in amazement at the incomprehensibility of the universe is to taste the waters of silence. Awe, wonder, and joy are silent. They beckon us, but their call is silent. To be aware of their presence, we have to be still and listen.

To be in silence is to listen to myself, the inner world in which I live, listen to the sacredness of my being, the inner display of myself. Without silence the mystery of my inner self, the core of my being is lost, my life is reduced to fear and anxiety. To be in silence is to listen to the voice of my God, for He speaks to us in silence. “Have you not heard His silent steps … He comes, comes, ever comes” sings the most luminous Poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Silence is a ladder to reach the divine and the sublime. The first language of God is silence and to understand this language we need to be in silence. Silence liberates human person from the allurements of the world. In a world inundated by noise, the Christian celebration of the Lent and very specially the Good Friday, a day of total and absolute silence, enkindles us to see the pristine beauty of human existence in silence and to savor the power, wisdom and love of God in silence.

 

Comment on this article

  • Silvestre, Paris

    Sun, Mar 29 2020

    Well written father Martis.
    "Silence is good but to a certain extent".

    Agree

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 28 2020

    Jesus on how to achieve silence in one's cluttered mind and peace deep within.

    Message to Joseph of Jesus and Mary.

    There can be no peace in anyone’s heart if there is guilt. I came into the world to expiate for your sins and to cast out your guilt.


    Beautiful Prayers to reconcile with God to achieve silence of cluttered mind and heart and to be peaceful.

    Prayers given to Maria Divine Mercy.

    Crusade Prayer (8) The Confession

    Dearest Jesus, I ask your pardon for all my sins and for the hurt and injury I have caused to others.
    I humbly pray for the graces to avoid offending You again and to offer penance according to your Most Holy Will.
    I plead for the forgiveness of any future offense, which I may partake in and which will cause you pain and suffering.
    Take me with you into the new Era of Peace, so that I may become part of Your family for eternity.
    I love You, Jesus.
    I need You.
    I honour You and everything You stand for.
    Help me, Jesus, so that I may be worthy to enter Your Kingdom.
    Amen.

    Crusade Prayer (24) Plenary Indulgence for Absolution (x 9 days)

    O, My Jesus, You are the Light of the earth. You are the Flame that touches all souls. Your Mercy and Love knows no bounds. We are not worthy of the Sacrifice You made by Your death on the Cross, yet we know that Your Love for us is greater than the love we hold for You.
    Grant us, O Lord, the Gift of Humility, so that we are deserving of your New Kingdom. Fill us with the Holy Spirit, so we can march forth and lead Your army to proclaim the Truth of Your Holy Word and prepare our brothers and sisters for the Glory of Your Second Coming on earth.
    We honour You. We Praise You. We offer ourselves, our sorrows, our sufferings, as a gift to You to save souls.
    We love You, Jesus. Have Mercy on all your children wherever they may be.
    Amen.

    Ref: 1: theworkofgod.org
    2: crusadeprayergroup.org

    Agree [6]

  • Sr. Judy Lewis UFS, Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 28 2020

    Dear Fr. Joseph.
    A thought provoking article and scientific article on "Eclipse of Silence".

    Agree [1]

  • Ronald, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 27 2020

    What is the difference between stillness and silence?

    Agree [1]

  • geoffrey, hat hill

    Thu, Mar 26 2020

    On a more mundane note, whilst there's no such thing as absolute silence, engineers at Microsoft have achieved a sound level of -20.3 dB (human lthreshold being 0 dB) in their anechoic chamber at Washington. Anechoic Chambers are used to test sound emanating from instruments with ultra high precision. But humans go bonkers in this 'almost noiseless' environment with in 45 minutes!

    Agree [1]

  • Benny D Cunha ufs, Derlakatte

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Dear fr Joseph
    A thought provoking article. Reflective and inspiring to understand the meaning of life in this current situation. Thank you very much.

    Agree [1]

  • Maria Dcosta, Mangalore

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Father , your article has aptly captured all the nuances of silence and the variety of silences manifested have made the article a veritable treasure to preserve and reflect upon for personal growth .
    You have pondered on the topic researched on it ,woven in useful quotes thereby making silence truly heard , seen and felt.
    You can publish a book of your articles to better the world .
    I liked that statement " Silence is not defeat...it bolsters inner power...it is the balm of every chagrin.. You have quoted Blaise Pascal too very well.
    Thank you, Fr. Martis. You are a blessing !

    Agree [3]

  • Lawrencedcosta, Mangalore

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Congrats Fr.Martis for explaining the loudness of silence that gives meaning to most of our inner spiritual living.The loudness of silence is most expressive on Good Friday in the entire liturgical life of church because on that day as a Christian I experience redemption ,it’s mysterious depth and an act of supreme love. Very educative on the nurturant aspects of silence and it’s impact on our spiritual life.Would like to have more such writings from you.

    Agree [1]

  • Lucy Peris, Gurpur/Bahrain

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Very well written Father. Thank you for the inspiring article on Silence.

    Agree [1]

  • Joe Britto, Nakre /Bangalore

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Dear Fr. Joseph Martis..your amazing article 'The Eclipse of Silence' really sends a LOUD and Clear message to us .
    THANK YOU

    Agree [5]

  • Sr Jyothi fernandes UFS, Mudarangady/Udupi/Mysore

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Dear Fr Martis
    Thanks a lot for your very much relevant, scholarly and timely article.
    Your a write up on the Eclipse of Silence gradually leads the reader to appreciate and to wonder at the amazing value of Silence. Indeed it's a beautiful piece for self reflection during this season of Lent and especially to contemplate and wonder at the life giving silence of the Good Friday.

    Agree [3]

  • Fr J. B. Saldanha, Permannur

    Wed, Mar 25 2020

    Dear Fr Joe,
    Your special article, ‘Eclipse of Silence’ is indeed thought provoking. As you rightly point out we live in a world of noise. In the bargain, silence has become an endangered species of our times.

    Mother Teresa once said, “Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.”

    As seminarians we were taught to meditate on sacred scriptures. Of different methods introduced to us, I preferred the Ignatian method of meditation with remote, proximate and immediate preparations. Only in the silence of the heart it was possible to connect with God. Daily meditation of thirty minutes taught me to find meaningfulness of life in the silence of my heart.

    No doubt, we are social beings and we seek the comfort of company. In fact, failure to relate to the other can be a problem in our present day society. All the same staying away from noise will never put our life in danger.

    Thanks Fr Joe for this thought provoking write up. We need to understand the deeper meaning of silence right at this moment where we are haunted by anxiety of covid-19. It is only in the silence of our heart we shall have renewed energy to stay inside and fight against corona virus.

    Fr J. B. Saldanha
    Permannur.

    Agree [6]

  • Anita Martis, Moodubelle

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Fr Martis thanks a lot for yr beautiful reflections on silence.Good to read and meditate.

    Agree [4]

  • Fr Felix Monteiro, Fr Muller Charitable Institutions

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Dear Fr Joseph Martis.. Congratulations for your thought provoking and scientific article on "Eclipse of Silence". This article is very much relevant in this season of Lent and in particular as the entire world is anxious about "deadly disease Covid-19". As we are living in a world of NOISE...your article is an eye opener to reflect on the relevance and importance of SILENCE. Thank you dear Fr Martis...

    Agree [7]

  • Fr Richard Mascarenhas SJ, Puttur/Dharwad

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Thank you very much dear Fr Martis for your article on 'The Eclipse of Silence.' It is a well written article. I liked the way in which you have broken the silence by giving the meaning, spirituality and the theology of silence. It is very true that - the more one goes inside of oneself he or she is able to listen to the sacredness of ones being! Kudos to you dear Fr Joseph Martis.

    Agree [4]

  • McQueen, Mangalore

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    very well written, dear Father Martis. God bless us all, always

    Agree [3]

  • Oliver Sutari, Kuthyar/Shirva

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Dear Fr. Martis,
    What an incisive and introspective piece this is. It is also very well laid out. Without question, meaningful silence has become a rare commodity. Thank you for the reminder.

    Agree [4]

  • Joe Gonsalves, Mangalore

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Yes. SILENCE sometimes is called for and that is what we practice during Retreats and Missions. However sometimes this silence needs to be broken and the best person who has uniquely broken this silence to speak and announce the word of God is none other than Rev. Father Maris. He has broken the silence at times with his musical voice and even playing an instrument after the homily in Milagris Church and won the respect and admiration of the congregation. He has indeed made good use of THE GOD-GIVEN GIFTS.

    Kudos to dear Father Martis. May you and your theories be blessed.

    Agree [9]

  • Rev Fr Richard Aloysius Coelho, Director ,Father Muller Charitable Institutions, kankanady , Mangalore 575002 D. K

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Dear Fr Martis its a very good reflection on Good Friday.Thanks for telling the theology and spirituality of Silence..

    Agree [5]

  • Stephen, Bangalore/Bahrain

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Dear Fr. Joseph - What an Awesome and Aspiring thoughts on the word Silence.
    Indeed Silence is Golden. Thank you and please do pen your thoughts more often.
    God Bless

    Agree [5]

  • Vincie Rodrigues, Thottam / Mississauga, Canada

    Mon, Mar 23 2020

    Fr. Martis’s work to define silence is wonderful when you compare it to noise. The old adage claims “Silence is golden”. Silence does gives an excellent opportunity to feel the difference between a noisy life to altogether a different life when one practices this difficult state in our life.

    In relation to the context of Lenten Silence no doubt it promises to be alone with yourself reflecting upon the mysteries of our faith in the Life, Suffering, Death and Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In the good old days it was recommended to remain silent after the Preaching and Teaching during personal or group retreats. The forgotten practice of closing eyes and remain silent for few minutes worked refresher of mind.

    Thank you Fr. Martis for reminding us the way to pray and reach out to God by meditation in the silence.

    Agree [7]

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Sun, Mar 22 2020

    “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Silence and noise are the two sides of the same coin which Jesus called in to decide about paying tax to Caesar.
    Having said this, I highly appreciate Fr. Joseph Martis’s exposition on the subject of silence and noise in this season of lent.
    This takes me to the tribal Africans before they were colonized by European conquerors. The cannibals would catch the missionaries and other white adventurers and roast them alive on huge fires to the accompaniment of loud drumming to drown the cries of the persons being roasted for supper.
    That is one aspect of silence and noise which is to mask your bad deeds.
    Then there are tin pot leaders who make noise to sustain themselves.
    In other words, both silence and noise have their uses and abuses – not contradicting Fr Joseph’s highly erudite and relevant exposition for the Lenten season and the dreadful Corona 19 advance scenario.

    Agree [7]


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