-by Kasia I.
“The chapel was still and dark as we filed in, hushed, almost on tiptoe. The first sight we registered in our dim surroundings was the glow of the golden monstrance that framed Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It was my first silent retreat, held at a convent, with several other young ladies attending. We had just finished our silent meal (unfortunately made up of such indiscreet foods as raw carrots and celery) and were about to start a lengthy period of Eucharistic Adoration.
I knelt reverently in front of the Host before sliding into my pew. After everyone finished her initial settling-in, the silence around us grew thick and almost palpable, only occasionally disturbed with the sound of a covered cough or creak of a kneeler. Closing my eyes and bowing my head, I tried to project an image of someone thoroughly engrossed in prayer, an image in keeping with the circumstances.
But during the beginning of that period of prayer, I kept feeling annoyed and uncomfortable—the kneelers were hard, the stuffy chapel lacked air conditioning, my shoulder kept aching irritatingly. Most awkward to me was the utter and unfamiliar silence. This lack of outward distraction, so unlike what I was used to every day, only seemed to amplify my inward distraction. A few times I squirmed uneasily and almost felt like screaming with exasperation. Since it was so noiseless, why couldn’t I concentrate on the fact that my Lord and my God was here before me? Desperately gathering and dismissing, and re-gathering and re-dismissing, my scattered thoughts (everything from “she’s wearing an interesting top” to “I knew I would forget to mail that birthday card”), I struggled in frustration. I loved God—why couldn’t I “feel” it?
I was thinking this way and trying to concentrate on Our Lord for at least an hour. Silence continued to reign. I could almost hear the minutes, the seconds, heavily dropping away one by one.
However, the longer I knelt in that sacred place, the less distracted I became. The thoughts and noises left in my mind from the everyday world eventually slipped away and dissolved into the silence. My soul slowly became stilled in the tranquility, and as it quieted I became more aware of Christ before me. I raised my eyes and looked on Him, in the appearance of a white Host, bordered by the shining gold and jewels of the kingly monstrance. Right here before us was the center of the chapel, the convent, the world—this Light, piercing the darkness that seemed to spread across everything else we could see. My eyes could not leave His Face, His Beauty. Suddenly I realized that, previously, I had been thinking selfishly. It didn’t matter how I “felt” within or without the silence, because He was the only one who really mattered. This silence which I’d found so oppressive at first became a vehicle of God’s love. The prayers which I had been struggling to express unknotted themselves and wound together seamlessly to make a wordless canticle of praise. I melted in love before the Lord my God.
My first prolonged and completely silent adoration became a defining period in my life. I had never realized how, in such a way, God’s love could be found in the calmness. God is easier to hear in the silence, as we can focus on His direction rather than on the events of the world. Of course struggles and distractions remain, and it takes quite a while every time to become interiorly still and attentive. However, I have glimpsed the power of silence as an aid to prayer and understanding. While I know the great importance of beautiful music and spiritual reading, I am no longer afraid or scornful of simply kneeling in inarticulate praise and love.
In fact, as I knelt that quiet night in adoration, I found no need for words or activities of any kind. Jesus Christ was before me and His Love was around me. And in the silence, my soul was singing.”
By Jove, I think she’s got it! Yes, it does “work”, for lack of a better, more immediate word, that way.