By an Anonymous Writer
Let us teach ourselves to maintain some silence externally. External silence is simple. Close the mouth, and close the ears. . Internal silence is more elusive, and more difficult to speak of.
Internal Silence begins with external silence. When we no longer are externally distracted by sounds, sights or any of the other senses, we may begin to look within, and spot any disturbances.
When the tongue is quiet, the heart begins to speak. Sometimes, this speech is good, while at other times, it is vain. We must learn to silence this heart. If we want God to speak, we must silence even our innermost parts.
Looking at the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18-19), it is clear that Elijah was disturbed after the priests of Baal were destroyed. Overcome by fear, he flees to the mountains. So here we have Elijah, coming from a good work. He raised the name of God on high and destroyed his enemies. Still, in doing this work, there was much disturbance around him. This disturbance came from the festal mood of the people for having rain come down again, from the joy of having been the mighty arm of God, or from outrunning the chariot of Ahab. So, Elijah felt the need to flee. He understood that Jezebel was out to kill him. We, therefore, must take example of Elijah, and flee from all, knowing that the devil, in the midst of the festivities around us, wishes to kill us. Even in service, there is disturbance, and the devil may use this service to take us away from silence with God.
Elijah, broken and sorrowful, goes to the mountains, but he has not silenced himself internally. He is full of sorrow, and full of thoughts. He says to God that he wishes to die, and he explains to God that he is tired of being his prophet. upset with the past and weary of the future. Elijah is unable to speak with God. He is left to the tempest within his mind. Finally, God teaches Elijah to quiet himself. First, Elijah hears a wind, then an earthquake, then a fire, and in none of these did God reveal Himself. Finally, in a light breeze, God spoke. God, in so doing, showed the need for internal silence.
An easy and practical way to practice internal silence is to sit quietly, away from any disturbance. For the first 1/3 of the time, repeat a section of the Bible, or the Jesus Prayer. Then for another 1/3 of the time, consider all the things that weigh heavily upon you, whether they be chores you must fulfill, or problems which need solving. Convince yourself that you can sacrifice a few minutes to silence, and that these problems will not be the end. Then, sit in silence for 1/3 of the time. Do not think about anything, good or bad. Be in absolute stillness. After this stillness, go, and seek out what is in your heart. Spot the deep inner disturbances. Weigh out your intentions, and quickly repent of them.
The Jesus prayer becomes an invaluable tool to this silence..
Sayings of the Fathers on Silence:
True wisdom is gazing at God. Gazing at God is silence of the thoughts. Stillness of mind is tranquility which comes from discernment. – St. Isaac the Syrian
In diligent exercise of mystical contemplation, leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being and non- being, that you may arise by unknowing towards the union, as far as is attainable, with Him who transcends all being and all knowledge. For by the unceasing and absolute renunciation of yourself and of all things you may be borne on high, through pure and entire self- abnegation, into the super-essential Radiance of the Divine Darkness. -Dionysius the Aeropagite.
There are three things you should preserve beyond anything else: disinterest in everything reasonable or unreasonable and vain, in other words detachment from everything; then clear conscience in everything, as we have said, by not causing its judgement for anything; finally complete peace, having your mind detached from anything earthly. When you have all these, find a place quiet, seat alone in a corner, shut the door [Mt 6:6] and cease your mind from anything ephemeral and vain. Press your chin on to your chest so that you can have your attention in yourself, with both eyes and mind. Hold your breath slightly to concentrate your mind and then, having all your mind there, try to find the place of your heart. In the beginning, what you will discover is darkness, much callousness and evil. But then, after having practised this method of attention a lot, night and day, you will find–great wonder!–an incessant happiness! The mind, through struggle, will have finally reached the place of the heart, where you will see the things you have never seen or known. There you will see the heaven which is within you, inside the heart, and you will find yourself enlightened, full of all grace and virtue.
From there on, if any kind of evil thought ever appears from any direction, before even being considered or take shape, you will immediately push it aside and dissolve it by the name of Jesus with his prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” Hence forth the mind will begin to bear grudge and animosity against the demons, being in an incessant war. It will raise its justified wrath and hunt them, attack them, dissolve them. As for the things following beyond that, those you may find out yourself, with God’s help, through your effort and the attention of your mind, keeping Jesus in your heart with His prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” That is why a Church-father used to say: “Stay in your cell and that will teach you everything!” – St. Symeon the New Theologian
“It is not possible to obtain spiritual insight by action or study. Spiritual insight is attained by silence, retreat and long prayers in their various stages.” – Fr. Matta El Meskeen