24 November 2020


November 21, 2020

Pope Francis at last Wednesday’s audience added off-handedly, “In silence, always in silence. Mary’s prayer is silent. The Gospel tells us only one prayer of Mary at Cana, then we do not know, but always her presence is a prayer, and her presence among the disciples in the Upper Room is in prayer. Thus Mary gives birth to the Church, she is mother of the Church.”

Mary, in her life in Nazareth, speaks and narrates silence, which is the essential, original and originating word of God’s Word. Mary’s prayer is powerful, silent, vigilant and attentive to people’s needs, as at the wedding at Cana.

Ephrem the Syrian calls Our Lady “the silent one” and writes in his Christmas hymns, “When thou therefore hearest of the birth of God, be silent: what Gabriel said remain impressed on thy spirit! Nothing there is too difficult for that lofty majesty who for us stooped to be born among us and of us. Today Mary is a heaven to us, for she bears God.” A great teacher of spiritual life, Abbot Blessed Columba Marmion, commented on Mary’s life as follows: “In this inner recollection lived the Virgin Mary: the Gospel says that she kept the words of her divine Son in her heart to meditate on them: ‘Maria conservabat omnia verba hæc conferens in corde suo(Lk. 2, 19); she did not diffuse herself in words, but full of grace and divine illuminations, flooded with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, she remained silent, adoring her Son, contemplating the ineffable mystery that had been accomplished in her and for her, raising to God an unceasing hymn of praise and thanksgiving from the sanctuary of her immaculate heart” (Dom Columba Marmion, Monk’s Ideal Christ, pp. 375-384, passim).

Anthony Bloom, monk and metropolitan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote: “There are times when we have no need for words, either our own or others, and we pray then in silence. This perfect silence is the ideal prayer, provided, however, that the silence is real and not a daydream. We have very little experience of what deep silence of body and heart means, when an absolute serenity fills the heart, when total peace fills the body, when there is no agitation of any kind and we stand before God, completely open in an act of worship. There may be times when we feel good physically, and mentally relaxed, tired of words because we have already used too much of them; we don’t want to fidget and feel good in this delicate balance; we are there on the edge of the daydream. Inner silence is an absence of any kind of agitation of thought or emotions, but it is a total vigilance, an openness to God. We must keep absolute silence when we can, but we must never let it degenerate into mere pleasure. To avoid this, the great authors of Orthodoxy warn us never to completely abandon the normal forms of prayer, for even those who had achieved this silence of contemplation judged it necessary, whenever they were in danger of spiritual relaxation, to reintroduce the words of prayer until prayer had renewed the silence. The Greek Fathers placed this silence, which they called hesychia, at the same time as the starting and ending point of a life of prayer. Silence is the state in which all the faculties of soul and body are completely at peace, calm and collected, concentrated and perfectly alert, free from all agitation” (Anthony Bloom, Prière vivante, Cerf, 1981).

Cardinal and saint John Henry Newman composed this beautiful prayer, taking us on a spiritual journey into the heart of the Virgin of Silence:

Prayer to the Silent Mother

Silent Mary,
that you imagined everything
without speaking,
Beyond all human vision,
help me get in
in the mystery of Christ
slowly and deeply,
Like a pilgrim burning with thirst
enters a dark cave
At the end of which I hear a faint running of water.

Make me first of all kneel down
to worship,
let then keys the rock
And forward me serene into the mystery.
Finally let me quench my thirst
to the water of the Word
like you.
Maybe then, Maria,
the secret of the Crucified Son
will be revealed to me
In its boundless immensity
And images and words will fall
To make room only for infinity.

by Emiliano Antenucci