Silencing the Heart
by George Maloney
"IF WE ARE TO MEET GOD deeply within our hearts, we must learn to silence our hearts. What a lost art is this, to silence our hearts! How agitated with thoughts, desires, fears, anxieties we are when we come before the Lord in prayer! The greater our "distraction" or diffusion, the less conscious is our prayer, the less unifying is our union of mind with the mind of God in a loving surrender. Westerners especially are prone by our highly developed rational gifts through science towards a chattering mind. We find it very difficult to let go and surrender to a God that must be encountered through faith that presents God as darkly, as in a mirror. We tend to be the master, sure of ourselves, afraid to step out beyond the controls of our senses and our scientific method.
Yet God says, "Be still, and know that I am God." God calls us into a silence of the heart where all artificiality crumbles, new psychic and spiritual powers burgeon forth, released through the uncreated energies of God. Such silence leads us into the inner recess and there our heavenly Father will recompense us. This recompensing comes to us in the healing of psychic disturbances, the chaotic meaninglessness of so many past experiences that hang like dried skeletons within our memories, the anxieties that force us into an isolation of deadly loneliness. We become consoled, loved by God in an experience that is beyond concepts. We know that we know God loves us! This being-loved-by-God experience at the deepest level of our consciousness restores our strength, pushes us to new self-giving and creativity.
Silence takes place on several levels just as heart is a reality for humans on various levels of meaning. Silence is the heart on these levels moving toward total integration. There is the silence on the physical level. Here we learn to bring an exterior silence into our bodies, our speech, our walk, our gestures, our general composure radiating a deep centering interiority. One cannot be centered deeply if one is continually babbling without the control of weighing each word, each thought before the indwelling God.
The Israelites were brought into the desert by God, uprooted from their enslaving surroundings and brought into the silence of the desert. Moving from noise to silence is always an uprooting, a leaving of something for something else. Yet there cannot be any movement into the inner silencing of the heart unless there be a movement away from physical noise, whether that be from outside distracting noises or the distracting noises that we allow our bodies to produce when we are not centered. Isaiah says, "Your salvation lay in conversion and tranquillity...."
That conversion consists in an inward turning, to attain an interior silence of the soul, of all the mental activities of our interior faculties of memory, understanding and will. Many spiritual people have turned inwardly away from the noises of the physical world only to find deafening noises inside their own minds. Great discipline of the mind is needed to uproot such noise and find that inner peace and tranquillity that can come only if our minds are focused more deeply upon God as the inner fortress of his strength.
That deeper focus is the silence of the heart where we attain a childlike trust, joy and peace in the embrace of the indwelling God. This silence is a gift from God's Spirit.
From Chapter 1 of Inward Silence by George A. Maloney, s.j., (Denville, NJ: Dimension Books) 1976.