St. John of the Cross: Spirituality and Silence in the Modern World

According to St. John of the Cross, God speaks in silence. The challenge for us is to learn how to speak his language.

“It is best to learn to silence the faculties and cause them to be still, so that God may speak,” St. John wrote.

How apt, therefore, that today’s feast day for the 16th-cenutry mystic and Doctor of the Church falls in the midst of Advent, a time when the noise of canned shopping mall carols, office parties and all the other trappings of the season can seem deafening, an endless distraction from the spiritual preparations for Christmas.

St. John wrote frequently about the indwelling of God. Because the Trinity exists at our core, he stressed, we need to turn inward in prayer, an act that requires silence. Seeking God in externals, he argued, results in distractions and weariness, distancing us from our goal of strengthening our relationship of God.

St. John’s words challenge modern thinking. He wrote, for example, that we should remain “silent with our desires as with our tongue,” a bold contrast to today’s rampant consumerism.

Furthermore, silence can seem so elusive in modern society that its unexpected presence can seem unsettling.

Learning to embrace silence, however, is invaluable. As St. John reminds us, God “understands only one language, that of silent love.”


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