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Silence and Mary

Silence and Mary

Our Lady of Silence

– Father Johann G. Roten, S.M.

Today's Gospel is an exhortation to vigilance. It pricks, goads and spurs us to cast off drowsiness. It wants to be a manifest against grogginess, listlessness and indolence. Yes, there is something in Christianity that speaks out against catching forty winks, visiting the sandman or going to the land of Nod. Languishing, drooping and flagging do not seem to fit the catalog of human behaviors a Christian would be proud of.

To foster vigilance, I would like to suggest silence, for no other reason than the fact that Our Lady on Saturday is primarily Our Lady of Silence. On Saturdays, Mary does not speak; she does not put forward one of her many privileges or celebrate a special event of her life. On Saturdays Mary is simply present. She has the comfortable appeal of a familiar face and a well-thumbed book. She is – on Saturdays especially – the faithful companion, an integral part of the annual liturgical cast, but inconspicuous and unobtrusive, a homemaker rather than a pacemaker, humble, but casual. Content to stay in the background, she points to her child. Standing at the end of a week and wrapping it up in the folds of her mantle, she rings in the day of her Son.

Our Lady of Silence is neither tightlipped nor close-mouthed. Her bearing is soundless, but peaceful. She may be wordless, but she is never voiceless. Our Lady's message on Saturday is an unspoken one; much of what she has to tell us is implicit or implied. But never ever could we be so foolish as to call her inactive, quiescent or passive. For Our Lady of Silence is also Our Lady of Vigilance.
Remember the Greek God, Harpokrates. Borrowed from the Egyptians, he is the God of Silence. He is usually depicted as a baby, nude and sitting on his mother's lap. She offers him her breast as he sucks his thumb.

How can the God of Silence be typified as a baby? The heart of the matter is that silence holds the power to renew and rejuvenate us. Silence strips us of our defenses. Silence makes us naked of those cardboard rationalizations and projections we so often employ. Slowly, if we allow it, silence strips away our need to engage in those arguments in which we insist that we are right. Silence clearly and cleanly cuts through the constant flow of words and rituals that so often keep God at a safe distance.

Silence carefully places us in Our Mother's lap, where Our Lady of Silence can feed us with the milk of vigilance. The image of Harpokrates sitting on his mother's lap is very much like the host of paintings and sculptures of the Virgin Mother with the infant Jesus on her lap. The silent image of Mother and Son suggests the childlike contemplative prayer of being absorbed in God. And this is the bridge between silence and vigilance. To be absorbed in God makes us both silent and vigilant.

May Our Lady of Silence remind us where we truly belong: absorbed in God in childlike contemplative prayer.

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