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This excerpt on silence comes from a newly released edition of In the Heart of the World by Mother Teresa. This powerful portrait of one of the most beloved women of all time is told in her own words through a fascinating blend of daily life experiences, prayers, and spiritual wisdom. Enjoy!
In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.
There is a very holy priest, who is also one of the best theologians in India right now. I know him very well, and I said to him, “Father, you talk all day about God. How close you must be to God!” And do you know what he said to me? He said, “I may be talking much about God, but I may be talking very little to God.” And then he explained, “I may be rattling off so many words and may be saying many good things, but deep down I do not have the time to listen. Because in the silence of the heart, God speaks.”
We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence.
In silence we will find new energy and true unity. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything.
The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. In that silence, He will listen to us; there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice.
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.
The contemplatives and ascetics of all ages and religions have sought God in the silence and solitude of the desert, forest, and mountains. Jesus himself spent forty days in the desert and the mountains, communing for long hours with the Father in the silence of the night.
We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally; to be alone with Him — not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything — to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.
In nature we find silence — the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence.
Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.
What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.
To make possible true inner silence, practice:
Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.
Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing them to all other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.
Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the truth, that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy; and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.
Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments, false suspicions of others, vengeful thoughts, and desires.
Silence of the heart, by loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; loving one another as God loves; and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed.
I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort, and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. For in the silence and purity of the heart God speaks.
Mother Teresa became known to the world for her selfless work with the “poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India. Since its inception in 1950, her order, the Missionaries of Charity, has opened more than 500 centers worldwide to help the dying and destitute. Mother Teresa was the recipient of many of the world’s most prestigious humanitarian awards, including the United States Medal of Freedom, the United Nations Albert Schweitzer Prize, and the Nobel Peace Prize. In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories, and Prayers collects her thoughts on compassion, joy, and generosity; on experiences from her life; and on some of her most valued prayers.
Excerpted from the book In the Heart of the World. Copyright © 1997 by New World Library. Reprinted with permission.