SILENCE was the first prayer I learned to trust when I began my visits to San Damiano. Only later did I begin to let the words in. The silence of the chapel at prayer was broken only by a habit of praise that I came to see was so primal it was not only human. It was — or it mimicked exactly — the essential utterance of existence. It rose from the raw passion which rules life, an urge which has no voice but craves articulation. This communal prayer voiced a harmony otherwise elusive in all of creation, yet thrumming in the monastic silence.
True experience always comes about in withdrawal "from the crowd." The original, true and proper attitude of the mind is, as Heraclites says, that of "listening to the truth of things..." Our journey into the territory of being should be made in silence, with wondering, wide-open eyes. The fullness of truth and reality is revealed only to those who attain to a silence which covers every aspect of their beings, or who, in other words make their basic attitude toward the whole of being one of delicate and reserved courtesy... For anyone who wishes to hear what is true and real, every voice must for once be still. Silence, however, is not merely the absence of speech. It is not something negative; it is "something" in itself. It is a depth, a fullness, a peaceful flow of hidden life. Everything true and great grows in silence. Without silence we fall short of reality and cannot plumb the depths of being.
The most beautiful words, those that give the most genuine help, are often born in a silence filled with suffering. Silence is the glowing furnace of the word, the forge of true speech and sensitivity.
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