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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

That Great Silence in Storm's Midst

The beauty of these forty days of Lent is that every hardship and trial can be made into an offering of love if we keep our course. Whether anxiety or frustration, disappointment or heartbreak, hidden in the exigencies of the moment is a sacrament - a visible sign of grace - inviting the response of faith, opening to a deeper encounter with the one who longs for our freedom. The challenge is to focus on the Lord's presence in the midst of the wind and waves.

Turn off every screen and speaker. Silence the cellphone and all talking heads. Enough of canned music and arguments. Eyes open, attentive ears, ready heart. Abstain, fast, and be silent - this is the life-vest to put on. Seek an icons glow until heaven finds you. For it is not we who make our way to Him so much as He who has set out to rescue his pilgrims in the threatening storm. Days of darkness, when nothing makes sense, when evil would seem to have the upper hand, these are taken into account in God's plan too. If this is chastisement, then it is long deserved - by me more than anyone else. Save the innocent Lord who my own silence has left so vulnerable. It is challenging to walk under the shadow of glory - for we must forsake those earthly lights on which we too long relied. Under that shadow, our lust for power and gluttonous appetite are unveiled and we feel the sorrow of not being in control or having the instant gratification to which we feel entitled. And then, finally, we face that lonely alienation that has been driving us and a certain painful emptiness that we have too long sought to evade. It is good to be sobered and to face the truth. Here, even social distancing can occasion compunction, and that piercing of the heart, unleashes a sudden torrent, and healing's faintest hint whispers truth. All that once appeared good no longer does so, and what really is good, we have not yet learned to see - so dark, alone, vulnerable and in need, we finally begin to pray. A lighted candle on the kitchen table as night descends: such simple joys are filled with meaning. As the beads of a rosary slip through the fingers and Bible passages echo out loud, what memories of grace and of friendship fill the silence. All of this only directs the heart into even deeper places, towards depths that the memory cannot go or the intellect glimpse - but every word of the Word is drawn there. Meaningful silences resound when Heart speaks to heart. And an astonishing secret is shared between Creator and creature. For in that ardent furnace of love, what bright warmth welcomes the pilgrim soul and the pilgrim God.

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