In the Silence

Elijah’s on the run, our scripture reading at Mass today says.

“At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
But the word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” (1 Kings 19, 11-16)

Some 30 years ago, as a younger man I climbed that mountain, Sinai, on a memorable tour with Fr. Donald Senior. We rose about 2 AM to begin the climb in the dark, guided up the rocky winding path by a guide with a flashlight. Bedouins offered a camel ride for anyone who couldn’t make it, almost 7,000 feet up.

We arrived at the barren top at sunrise. I remember the silence of the place, the bare rock, the absence of plants or trees or any sign of life. The guide pointed to a speck of green down aways, “Elijah’s cave,” he said. We left before the sun was high; too hot to stay there long.

The scriptural story says Elijah was told to “stand outside on the mountain before the Lord,” and he experienced a strong wind, an earthquake, fire, but God was not in any of these. Then, in the silence, he heard a “tiny whispering sound” and he hid his face before God.

“A tiny whispering sound.” That’s the way God spoke to Elijah and that’s the way God speaks to us. Elijah pours out his woes to God. He’s a fugitive, fighting for his life, with no chance against Ahab and Jezebel.

But God whispers to Elijah. Go down the mountain and go north again. Your enemies won’t stop you. There’s a mission I have for you; I’ll be with you. In the silence Elijah heard God.

In the silence of the Eucharist, God also whispers.

3 thoughts on “In the Silence

  1. Isabel (mother & grandma)

    This reminds me of a tour to St. Catherine’s monastery with Fr. Donald Senior, and a late Claretian priest, another priest, and you. I opted out of the climb. The Claretian priest (I forgot his name) remembers waking up early for the climb to Mt. Sinai and the cloud that enveloped the mountain…that God’s presence and glory came in the cloud. God thus speaks to us in many ways even in music.


  2. Gloria

    Thank you for the Elijah story, Fr. Victor. It’s one of my favorites in the OT. God’s whisper to Elijah was God’s love song to Elijah.

    Noisy Silence

    Dear God,

    Here I sit
    elbows propped on the table
    chin resting on my hands
    surrounded by noisy silence –
    clocks ticking and chiming
    refrigerator humming
    Mother’s concentrator running
    the incessant buzzing in my head

    And yet I am wrapped
    in the quiet of
    your very real presence
    and all I hear is
    your love song

    Gloria Ziemienski
    January 1999


  3. cenaclemary12

    “The mysticism of everyday life is an opportunity to deeply mine the depths of human experience, relationships with others, and our encounters with nature. Rahner says to be a mystic is to occupy the core of human experience. . . . Mystery is mysterious. It is! Sometimes it comes in stillness when you’re alone. Sometimes it comes without drama and fanfare. Sometimes it comes as an epiphany, an awakening. And sometimes, it comes while you’re practicing the gifts of the Spirit. . . .”

    From Karl Rahner, “Religious Enthusiasm and the Experience of Grace,” in Theological Investigations, vol. 16, Experience of the Spirit: Source of Theology, trans. David Morland (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1983), 47.

    Liked by 1 person

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