“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am He; I am the first, and I am the last.”
Isaiah 48:12 ESV
This morning I got up early to take my requisite daily walk. I began with all my necessities: namely my tennis shoes, my dog, and my morning coffee. I prayed as I walked, sending my morning babble to God’s ears. I could have gone on like this for possibly infinite amounts of time. But as I turned towards home I was possessed with the crazy idea that I should stop talking and let my Savior have a turn. This was not the first time this idea had hit me – Christ gently chiding me (or not so gently as sometimes the case may be, “Stop speaking Nicki and listen.” Not surprising- I am sure my husband often desires the same of me. What is surprising is that at times it seems almost impossible for me to do so. This morning was one of those times. I stopped praying and just tried to listen. My mind wandered. My ears began to concentrate on the rhythm of my steps, the sound of the air rushing past my ears with my each breath, the jingling of my dog’s collar- but my mind could not keep still, I could not keep silent and I could not listen.
Last semester, one of my professors would pray before the beginning of each class, beginning with a long moment of silence. Until the class became used to the routine, the moment was met rather awkwardly, people unsure of just what was going on. At Church each Sunday, our time of prayer is also preceded by a short moment of silence, which we get through and onto the spoken portion as swiftly as possible. Why are we so afraid of silence? Why is it so hard for us to listen? Why is it so hard for us to “Be still and know that (He) is God”? Why should it be a task to still our thoughts in the presence of the Creator of the Universe?
Last fall, I went to a Mass and a Vespers service at The Abbey of the Genesee. The order of monks who make their home there used to be a silent order. Now I guess they are what you would call an “almost silent” order, but still, talking is limited, and their services are very simple with long moments of silence. I reveled in it. It was the first time I had ever been part of such a service. Sitting in communal silence waiting for God’s Word felt like a warm embrace. Yet, there were many in the room whom after a time became fidgety and were obviously uncomfortable. One of my fellow students remarked that he did not really see the point in sitting silently as a group of believers… we could do that on our own anytime. But do we? How often do I really sit in silence before the God of the Universe, the Savior of my soul? Even when I succeed in shutting my mouth, the noise in my head refuses to be drowned out. I cannot be still. I cannot listen.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
“But the LORD is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
 Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
 Lyrics adapted by Gerard Moultrie from the 4th century Liturgy of St James. 17t century French carol melody (Picardy) added in 1864; Harmonization added by Ralph Vaughn Williams in 1906.