In silence and simplicity
Editorial - Summer 2016
Frank Freeman SDB, Editor of the Salesian Bulletin
We certainly live in a noisy and complex world. Noise has become a permanent backdrop to our lives in modern societies, in our bustling cities with their hurrying crowds as well in formerly tranquil countrysides. The sounds of a technological age are everywhere amid an ever increasing complexity of our lives. .
The very means of communication have become involved and demanding of our time and attention. Whether we use mobile phones, or e-mail addresses and websites, all offer us greater information but less and less personal communication. We have become, in many ways, the tools of our tools, and the servants of our servants. Coupled with the noise factor is the fact that we are conditioned to live in a fast moving society that is always looking ahead to the next event. This addiction to new experience, yet another thrill, destroys our enjoyment of the present experience. More and more complex ways are being found to entertain us, to satisfy the insatiable thirst for thrills. Very few experience the enjoyment of reading or homely conversations. The simple enjoyment of a game or social activity no longer satisfies. We must be up and doing.
And with this process simple ways have given away to the more complex. Even in our speech, the simple, straightforward word is bypassed for the lengthy flowery phrases. How often we hear those working in the public arena use such phrases “at this given point in time” instead of the simple powerful “now”. The ever-increasing official government reports, conferences, seminars are held with little lasting consequences. The simple idea within the grasp of many is often destroyed by lengthy interpretations, additions and clarifications until a desert of ideas in a sea of words is the result. St Francis of Sales would advise that “There is no method more forceful than a simple explanation.” Such are the ways of the noisy, commercial and competitive world in which we live.
In the spiritual realm of faith it is not so: the essentials of great intense moments are marked by simplicity and silence. For Christians there can be no greater moment of spiritual intensity and experience than the moment of Baptism, and yet sheer simplicity marks that moment: “I baptise you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is the same in all the sacred moments (sacraments) where the giving of divine life and pleasure is so marked. Even in that sacrament where the Church ordains its ministers, the power is transferred by the simple laying of hands in silence.
In a few short weeks, we will once more celebrate the great mystery of our faith, the Incarnation, the overflow of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity into time and space and into our history. And yet it happened so simply and in a warmly human way in the surrounds of a country stable in Bethlehem, far from the jostling halls of commerce and political intrigue in Jerusalem. “While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of its course, your almighty word leapt down from heaven from the royal throne.” (Wisdom 18.1-15) So it must be with us too: we cannot receive the Word if our lives are filled with bustling noise and confusing complexity.
May we all, as we celebrate this Christmas, forsake many of the empty tinsel practices of the commercial world and find quietness and simple heartwarming ways of strengthening the bonds of friendship and family life