Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Twelve Degrees of Silence

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
I weave a silence...
I weave a silence on to my lips,
I weave a silence into my mind,
I weave a silence within my heart.
I close my ears to distractions,
I close my eyes to attractions,
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me, Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Still me, Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me Lord in your peace.

A Prayer from the Celtic Tradition
In our current world, silence is hard to come by.  Everyone seemingly wants to weigh in this political season as to who is right and who is wrong, make suggestions on domestic and foreign policy, and vocally share what is going on in their life, with their families, etc. We have a need to be constantly stimulated and entertained with a variety of modalities to accomplish this. Our world  is certainly in need of vocal witnesses to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, His message, His Hope, His Merciful Love, and His Light amidst the darkness in our culture of despair, depression, and death. But I find that as the societal atmosphere gets more heated up and vocal, I am becoming increasingly silent. I have checked my heart on this several times, and asked myself, "Are you being cowardly? Are you committing sins of omission? Are you opting out of your duty to proclaim truth in this present era and call of the new evangelization?"  Well, it is certainly possible. There have been times when I could have said more, been more forthcoming or articulate for sure. But what I am observing within is a need for silence and to the listen to the Holy Spirit for direction and guidance. I am very certain that most Americans and Catholics have heard the arguments for life, for protecting the dignity of every human being including the unborn, the immigrant, the poor, women, minorities, etc. in this election. I really just don't believe that there is anything else for me to say or add. Furthermore, I feel a pull to draw me inwards towards the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in fact, the Holy Trinity, as St. Elizabeth of the Trinity so eloquently proclaims as abiding within our souls. The only way to accomplish this is through silence.  

To assist me in cooperating with this tug towards silence, I purchased and read a book entitled, The Twelve Degrees of Silence, written by a French Discalced Carmelite nun named Sr. Marie Aimeé de Jésus, ocd [1839-1874].  In this brief encapsulation of her spirituality and what Our Lord Jesus revealed to this mystic in prayer, Sr. Marie Aimeé outlines the degrees of silence that correspond with deepening degrees of sanctity when done  in humility and unity with the movements of the Holy Spirit in union with Jesus Christ. Our Savior told Sr. Marie Aimeé that by practicing ever deepening silence, that she would become transformed into "a pure current that flows in God, into the torrent dissolved without trace." In this naked spirituality, she followed St. John of the Cross' way of 'nada' to become devoid of any personal ego, preferences, or attachments in order to be molded into "the most pure temple" where "there exists no noise, all is silent, peaceful and contemplative" and she gives "only God's life" [See The Twelve Degrees of Silence" p. 30] 

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Furthermore, He would use her increasing degrees of silence to refute a great heresy promoted by Renen in The Life of Jesus which promulgated the idea that Jesus was not divine. Sr. Marie Aimeé wanted to defend Our Lord, but was not to do so through vocal words, but through written words. Hers was a silent and written defense of the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, which would be approved by her superior and learned spiritual directors, who themselves recognized that it was Our Lord Himself who was granting the simple Sr. Marie Aimeé the profound insights and illuminations that she was expressing in her response to this heretical published doctrine. 

So impressed was St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] concerning Sr. Marie Aimeé's schema in accomplishing this total abnegation and purging of self, that she wrote an essay dedicated to her spirituality.   St. Teresa Benedicta recognized that this privileged soul knew how to keep the secrets of the King from a young age, and that perfecting this silence would be Our Lord's path to sanctity and union with this most pure soul.  [See The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations & Spiritual Texts, Essay II.4]

So, what are these 12 degrees of silence?  In the interior life, they are as follows:

1. Silence in Words
2. Silence in Actions
3. Silence in One's Imagination
4. Silence with One's Memories
5. Silence with Others
6. Silence with One's Heart
7.Silence to Self-Interest
8. Silence of the Mind
9. Silence to Judgments
10. Silence to the Will
11. Silence towards Oneself
12. Silence with God

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Of course, attaining these levels of silence takes profound prayer, surrender and abandonment to God's abundant graces and mercy. It is a daily task and a moment by moment abiding with the Holy Spirit, to listen to His promptings and to learn self mastery.  I continue my feeble little steps in cooperating towards this, but am reminded on a daily basis that it is Our Lord who does the heavy lifting in such an endeavor. 

Sr. Marie Aimeé eloquently shares, "Our Lord has been so graceful towards me; He has so abundantly perfected in me his blessed love and all the other virtues that I do not recognize myself anymore. I find myself in this awakening after the union with my God, and my transformation in Him, like one who falls asleep as a little or sick child, and wakes as a perfectly grown adult." 

In a world of constant noise and banter, Sr. Marie Aimeé shows us another side to the new evangelization. A side that is hidden and silent. One that focuses on the transformation of self in the hidden recesses of one's soul, through the purifying action of the Holy Trinity. One that can then radiate out the truth of Christ, His Gospel of love, repentance, and hope.  

"I want to sing a song for you composed of whispers in memory of your blessedness and my faults...O my Lord, what shelter have you prepared for a soul so feeble as mine, so that, independent of this incumbent body, she might elevate herself to Her Creator and her All? "

May it be so accomplished, through the intercession of Sr. Marie Aimeé. Amen. 

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