"Flee from the world, be silent, and pray always."
--The key to salvation for 5th century Desert Monks
In Philippians, Paul writes that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (2:12), knowing that it is under the power of God in which we are able to do it (2:13). The truth here remains: We are to work out our salvation. As Christians, devotees to the Anointed One, our lives do not come to a culmination on that day when Christ entered hearts. Instead, it is the beginning of life, the beginning of salvation. We are saved; we are born again; we are being brought up on milk first; we are now children of God.
Yet we must still grow for the walk has just begun. This is the working out of our salvation. So when the Desert Fathers asked the Lord, "What must we do for salvation?" The response was to flee from this world, be silent, and to pray always. Solitude. Silence. Prayer.
This is the anti-movement of Christian life today. We are so busy with activities and groups and "ministry" that we rarely have time for God, just good one-on-one time with God. If there is no solitude there can be no silence. Maybe that is why we do not seek solitude--we are afraid of the silence.
To me, silence seems to be the toughest to achieve in a world where words are always spoken, horns constantly beeping, music continually playing, and commercials are annoyingly blarring. The noise is not only heard, but seen, making our eyes dart at the latest fashion, the newest technology, the fanciest color schemes--seeking to gain and keep our attention, if only for a brief moment.
Christianity seems to take this position. Churches have schedules for their services with smooth transitions, leaving no room for neither "awkward" silences nor reflective silence. From the welcome, to the music (called worship), to the video, back to the music, to the giving (where music is playing), to the preaching, to the goodbye (where music will play)--all are done smoothly and with enough noise to keep our short attention spans from wandering off to something other than our tiny gathering.
If it isn't the church service, it is the weekly schedule of work, appointments, bible studies, ministry opportunities that consistently draw us into the noise. All good things on their own and with the right perspective, but what has been enstilled in the American mentality, thus the Christian worldview that derives from it, is, "If you are not busy with something, you are not doing anything significant with your life." We are taught that if we don't burry ourselves within the noise, we will not be contributing to society.
This is our culture, American and Christian. We have become so accoustomed to the noise that if, for a brief moment complete silence surrounds us, we instantly grow uncomfortable, shifty even. We manage to fill the "void" with the noise of our minds: "What do I have to do today?" "There are so many bills I have to pay." "I wonder if we'll talk, and if we do, what do I say?" Words, songs, worries, concerns, joys, the future, the past--even writing--anything to keep silence from haunting us.
The problem is silence reminds us too much of death. No voices, no people, no responsibilities lead us to feel no importance, no significance, no meaning and if we don't feel any of these we would find it hard to live. Might as well be dead, right? Both silence and death bring us into areas where we are fully uncomfortable because the essence of each is completely unknown to us. Yet as Christians we should know better. For as death to ourselves takes us to eternal life with Christ, should not silence in the world take us to a deeper communion with God?
In both there is nothing of importance or significance or meaning--except for God Himself.