Holy Silence and Private Dialogue with the Lord
By: Fr Tadros Malaty
When the month of Kiahk begins, what is occupying the believers’ minds is the vigilance in the praises of “seven and four, where everyone smells the aromas of the meeting with the saviour of mankind through the praises of the heart and mind.
This month is characterized by vigils in the monasteries as well as many of the churches; especially the evening of Saturday and the continuance of praise till the liturgy of Sunday morning.
The readings of this month are considered the believer’s journey in the company of God’s people towards meeting the child of the manger.
The silence of the child of the Temple
During the first week of the month of Kiahk, the church celebrates the remembrance of the presentation of the Saint and Virgin Mary to the Temple in Jerusalem when she was a child of three years, for she was consecrated to the Lord. When her mother, Anna was barren, she was very sorrowful, her and her husband Joachim, and she vowed to the Lord and said “My God, if you grant me a fruit, I will offer her, a vow to Your Holy Temple.” The Lord answered her and granted her the saint and she called her Mary. After she raised her for three years, she brought her to the Temple of the Lord and presented her to live among the virgins, and she grew in virtue, asceticism, and worship. She spent around ten years until the fulfillment of time in which the Lord came into the world incarnate of this pure virgin whom He chose.
Perhaps, one of the most important virtues that she gained since her childhood was Holy Silence, for she was silent with her tongue regarding the banters of the world and what transpires in it, in order for her heart to be occupied with God’s dealings with her. This virtue accompanied her till the day of her departure from this world. The evangelist repeats his words about her “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart … but His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 19: 2&51). It was not possible for St. Mary to endure what she received from divine gifts that exceed even the heavenly had she not been granted with the grace of God that she contemplates in her depths the mysteries of God and His gifts to her and to all mankind.
This saint remains unique, the leader to the host of the silent in the Lord since her childhood, for the temporal joys of life nor its tribulations cannot grab the thoughts of the believer away from his/her union with the Lord nor his glorifying Him for His wondrous economy that we may enjoy the union with His glories.
Through holy silence, the virgin was prepared to become the mother of God, and through holy silence, the believer is prepared to become a temple of God and the Spirit of God lives in him (1 Col 3:16).
If the world celebrates the birth of the Lord Christ (Christmas) with decorations, lights, exchanging of gifts and parties. What St. Mary presented in her holy silence since her childhood exceeds all decorations, gifts or celebrations.
It is befitting for us during this blessed month that we evaluate our life: do we receive the savior of the world in our hearts through private dialogue with Him, without being hindered nor interrupted by vain conversations.
The saint did not cease since her childhood from her determination to fulfill her message, and this was revealed in clarity when she heard about Elizabeth her kinswoman that she was pregnant with a son in her old age. “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40). Through her holy silence, the babe leaped in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41-44), and the home of the priest was converted as if to a home of praise, in which even the babe participates!
Let us be silent with St. Mary, and carry our Christ in our hearts, and the Spirit of the Lord will work in us, where the earth will become for us a jubilant heaven. This is the Christmas gift that will please the wondrous child of the manger!
The silence of the elderly priest
In the first Sunday of the month of Kiahk, our hearts become enflamed with longing to practice what the Lord’s promised; Mary enjoyed since her childhood. We also enjoy the silence that the elderly priest Zachariah experience while receiving the announcement of the birth of John the forerunner, who prepares the way for the Lord.
Truly, Zachariah’s silent was because of his nonbelief of the annunciation that the Lord presented to him through Gabriel, who stands before God (Luke 1:20). However, God, the doer of all good things transformed this punishment into edification of Zachariah the priest and the spreading of the news of this gift that was granted to him… that all who heard about the birth of John wondered: “What kind of child will this be?” (Luke 1: 66), and they felt that the Hand of the Lord was with him!
Zachariah the priest was in need of this silence, for he could not find a chance to converse even with his wife Elizabeth nor his relatives. I wonder how Zachariah spent these nine months?! He had nothing before him except for silent praise, reading of the Holy Scriptures, and continual pleading that the Lord enlighten his mind and reveal to him His plan, mysteries, and prophecies with practicing of his prostrations and his visible and invisible worship!
Likewise, it is befitting for us with the beginning of the month of Kiahk that we ask with the language of the heart before the tongue saying “In Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9). We practice our fasts, prostrations, prayers, and praises that the child of the manger may shine the sun of righteousness upon us and we recall the words of the prophet “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2).
The procession of the silent
The incarnation of the Word of God, His pregnancy, and His birth in a manger and not in the house of one of the priests or one of leaders of the church or times propels us to join the wondrous procession of silent.
The Temple did not celebrate His birth, the priests and leaders of the church did not go to worship and praise Him, and silence engulfed the world. Surely, the heavenly hosts, who are not capable of gazing upon His divinity or glories, stood in silent to receive the Savior!
Who, I wonder, are the members of the hosts of the silent?
The angel of the Lord appeared and stood before the simple shepherds and the Glory of the Lord shone around them, and suddenly, with the angel, appeared a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!) (2: 9, 13, 14).
They did not appear to the multitude of priests or people, but the simpletons vigilant in their works in honesty, and most likely they were longing to meet the Messiah the Savior. Therefore, when they saw and heard the heavenly, they departed to Bethlehem while saying “Let us now go … and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15), and they came rejoicing. It is as if those shepherds were joined to the angelic precession in silence without calling!
Joined also to the procession, a group of Maggi led by a great planet, as St. John Chrysostom says, an angel came in the shape of a planet, and spoke to the Maggi in their language, the language of astronomy and planets!
The evangelists do not mention anything about their conversations on the way whether neither amongst themselves nor with the peoples that went out to look upon them in astonishment?! And as if the evangelists call upon us to join this silent procession. We do not speak with our tongues but through our hearts, minds, holy emotions, and actions towards the King, the Savior of the world!
When they came to Jerusalem, no one from the King’s palace nor the men of the Temple accompanied them, but rather, what occupied Herod’s mind was killing Him and what occupied the leadership of the Temple was their fear and worry about losing their power and income!
Let us join the procession of the silent!
Grant me O Lord to join, through Your grace, the procession of the silent
To Join Your chosen child saint Mary,
That I may find my comfort in Your Holy Temple with the virgins!
That I may walk in the simplicity of childhood
And the joys of this world do not distract me, nor do the tribulations perturb me!
I will be silent in Your Temple, and my heart will speak with You,
And You, O Holy One, will speak with my weakness.
That I might keep, with Your mother, all things, contemplating on them in my heart.
In silence, I will be occupied in being confirmed in You.
That I may see You dwelling in a depth deeper than my depths,
And higher within me more than my heights!
That I might join Zachariah the silent priest.
So that what occupies my mind are Your words and Divine revelations.
The deadly letter will not hold me captive,
But I will find in Your book the paradise of freedom,
I pluck from it the fruit of Your Holy Spirit:
Love, Peace, Meekness, Purity…
I drink from the eternally flowing wells of Your love!
That I might join the simple vigilant shepherds in faithfulness.
And see the heavens not far away from me.
And hear the heavenly hosts rejoicing for my salvation.
And join the choir of the angels and enjoy the new song.
Permit me to join the gentile Maggi.
Their hearts were enflamed with longing for You.
And they walked in the way witnessing to Your.
And offered to You what the priests and Levis did not.
Your grace will lead men that I might not stumble from resisting
The evil even if he were a king.
And not to judge anyone even if he were a priest
Not occupied with your salvation!
Let my tongue be silent, that my heart can speak,
And my heart will be silent, that You O Holy One can speak in me!