Updated: May 14, 2021 04:23 AM GMT
Family members in formal clothes attend an online Mass at home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Photo: UCA News)
The pandemic has surged four times in Vietnam but this time it is worse and more dangerous due to the rapid transmission of the new variant of Covid-19 from India. Residents in my Lang Co Parish in Thua Thien Hue province have to maintain social distancing to ensure their safety and contain the outbreak.
Lang Co is a popular tourist destination which connects the ancient city of Hue and Da Nang, the largest commercial city in central Vietnam. Lang Co, which is always crowded with locals and tourists, is usually lively and vibrant, especially the local market.
Now the streets of Lang Co are empty and quiet. The calm atmosphere and fine view at monasteries and temples render our inner souls relaxed, tranquil and peaceful, but the quietness due to the outbreak brings us — especially youths and children — a frightening, heavy, uncomfortable silence as we have yet to grow accustomed to the silence. However, all events and situations give us useful lessons and messages.
Through this pandemic, we are learning how to maintain deep silence and return to ourselves.
Thirty years ago, William Shannon observed: “We are living in an age of words. We are suffocated, buried and flooded by words from all sides. And those words often convey little impression to us as they are too much and superficial. They fail to come out of silence but noise.”
His remarks are even more relevant in this information age when people are filled with superficial, false and biased information. People race against time, live in a hurry, work in haste, eat in a rush and speak quickly.
Silence is fertile land for rice to grow. Silence is a mother’s womb for thoughts to take form
“In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.” (Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Communications Day — Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization)
Silence is fertile land for rice to grow. Silence is a mother’s womb for thoughts to take form. If we do not retreat into silence, our speech will lack depth and our words are meaningless. If we always speak pointless words, we never hear anything, never become anything and in the end, because we speak before we have anything to say, we become those who cannot speak.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI observed: “As the cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word. Hanging from the wood of the cross, he lamented the suffering caused by that silence: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini)
If God speaks in silence, how can we listen to his call and receive his word when we refuse to return in silence?
Furthermore, we have to return in silence so that we can speak to God of silence. Then silence becomes praying deep in contemplation. Mediating on God’s Creation, plan of salvation and invisible but lively presence via events in the Church and world.
“In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed.” (Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Communications Day — Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization)
Thanks to silence, we listen to God’s call and get closer to him. Silence invites us to return to our insights/inner souls, face our real human mistakes and weaknesses.
Jesus not only lived in silence, loved silence and taught silence but he used silence as an effective way to carry out his mission. When seeing people noisily intend to make him king by force, Jesus withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
When the people noisily condemned a woman caught in adultery, Jesus kept silent to show his divine mercy on the woman, who also remained silent. As a result, she experienced infinite divine mercy.
Silence outside and inside us is essential for our faith life
The world likes boisterousness and animation and hates silence as silence is from God, the true and the good, after all. In peace and quiet, we easily encounter God as he is not in noise. Thanks to silence, we live a good life, display good behavior and discover and give up malevolent intentions.
Silence outside and inside us is essential for our faith life. We should enjoy silence, especially silence in our spirit so as to meet and love God, and please God since he is not in noise.
God’s Word continues to invite us to “go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” We should use the time of physical distancing to take a good rest from our daily routine and have ourselves refreshed in mind by meditating, studying, praying and reflecting on God’s Word, from which silence is no longer a frightening experience but becomes joy and peace in our mind.
During the special Year of St. Joseph, who lived a life of silence, we should fervently appeal to him to help us receive and love silence so that we can find God’s will in our life.
Father Joseph Phan Van Quyen is the pastor of Lang Co Parish. This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on tonggiaophanhue.org here. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.