Archdiocese of Chicago

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Day of the Great Silence

While Jesus’ dead body lay in the tomb, those who had gone before him in death came to know that the gates of paradise were open. Did they shout? Will heaven be noisy? I believe those who are saved for all eternity know whatever they have to know without speaking. The contact with God and others is immediate.

Death leaves us speechless, and Holy Saturday is the one day in the Church’s liturgical year without its proper celebration of the Eucharist. The Church on earth is silent.

A day of silence is becoming more rare. “Texting,” I’m told, puts one into constant contact with others. There is no unexpressed thought or unrecorded feeling. To me, this constant and immediate contact would seem more like hell than like heaven, but that’s probably just a generational difference and a difference in personal formation. When I was a seminarian, great periods of the day and all of the night were spent in silence: no talking, no phone calls, no radio, no television. Once I got used to it, I welcomed it. Silence became friendly and useful. Without it, how can one reflect on what is most important? Jesus, the Gospels often say, went apart to spend whole nights in silence, not to be alone but to be more clearly aware of his Father’s presence in prayer. Yet some great saints, given totally to a noise-filled apostolate, like St. John Bosco in his work with young people, seemed to be without the luxury of long periods of silence.

At least, long periods of silence show us what interior resources we have or don’t have. Jesus, who through his death and resurrection, is closer to us than we are to ourselves, fills Holy Saturday and every day with his presence.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

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