"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: Deep Interior Silence (DAY 2)


Today is Day 2 of the 30-day whole community retreat journey in light of the lockdown.

As they say silent retreats don’t really get going until the third day. Today is just the actual start of the lockdown. The daily retreat pointers in my blog could be loosely patterned according to the 16th century work written by St. Ignatius of Loyola but this is not exactly the same as the 30-day silent retreat that we give in the retreat houses. These pointers are meant to aid our spiritual living during a time of crisis.

Point Of Departure: Gary Jansen's book “Exercising Your Soul: Fifteen Minutes a Day to a Spiritual Life”

Gary Jansen gives us this simple image of how the Spiritual Exercises will make one stronger. Imagine two people standing on a tree branch. Both are of equal height and weight. Yet one person is physically fit while the other person is out of shape. They have the same body mass, only one has muscle and the other person has flab. Now what happens if they both fall from the tree in exactly the same manner? Both victims, of course because of gravity, hit the ground. Which one suffers fewer injuries? asks Jansen. Well, it’s a trick question. Both suffer sprained ankles. But which one recovers faster? asks the author. The person who is physically fit, that’s who. The out-of-shape person ends up suffering pain in his tendon for the rest of his days.

Let us not expect that the difficulties will go away when we undergo the spiritual journey. Difficulties will remain and probably it could even increase. But will you have the spiritual strength to bear it when it happens? While we all scramble now to limit being exposed to the coronavirus by following strict community quarantine, let us allot at least fifteen minutes a day to strengthen our inner spiritual core.

At the start of every retreat, long or short, I always use this metaphor to help the retreatant enter the sacred silence. When driving at dawn or at dusk, or during the so-called low light driving conditions, it is safe and wise not to speed up. Most accidents happen during that part of the day when light and darkness are competing. Most drivers would avoid the road but if it cannot be avoided then pullover and rest for a while. It is better to hit the road when it is already totally dark. The next three days or more will be like that. Each person varies in this regard.

We have been doing a lot of adjusting already because of the lockdown. We have moved from a busy environment into a quieter one and this will be the norm in the next four weeks. Acknowledge now this big change, we moved away from social chatter and hassle of a too-results-oriented world into a sustained isolation that was imposed on us. We temporarily said goodbye to our friends and loved ones from being together physically. We have just entered into a more silent kind of living. In a real retreat setup there is constant emphasis on sustaining silence all throughout the 8-Day or 30-Day e.g. the modest gaze of the eyes, the slow movements, and even the prohibition to greet or smile. We can look at the imposed social distancing as some form of reverential distancing that could help with sustaining internal silence. But what is there to profit from silence?

There are three connected images that I would like to use to describe this inner silence.

1. First image of silence is that of the sunset.
When you look at the sunset, you begin to feel some emotions within you. It is an amazing part of the day that could make a person look back, appreciate and wonder about one’s life.  The sunset is beautiful and it naturally takes your breath away. So many people go to sunset destinations to photograph this moment. These people fall for its magical view like a form of gravitational field. This silence that we have just immersed ourselves in is akin to a beautiful sunset that offers more to us each day than we can ask for.

The expressions that people use to describe this ordinary sun event is limitless just as each sunset is unique. St. Francis of Assisi calls the sun brother and the moon sister. As brother sun falls, he bears his emotions that is as crucial as the final scene in a great movie. One last characteristic of the sunset is its brevity. Like a flower it blooms but it withers.

2. Second, silence is a place of meeting.
There is usually a ceremony to mark this. But given the lockdown we had no choice. But we are still free today or tomorrow to ritualize entering into silence. The sunset could lead the way to a "meeting place." Silence is where two worlds meet. And we find God most intimately when there is silence.

This is not only something physical or auditory; it is much deeper than that. When one stays or dwells in this place of silence, you cannot help but untie your sandals to give full reverence to the space where you stand. You make certain gestures of deep reverence. This is often a trick inside the classroom. When the teacher suddenly stops talking, then silence is restored by the students to give respect to the teacher through listening. St. Ignatius' reverential silence means to stop, look and listen. We stop to recognise the presence of the Divine. We look with a sense of awe and wonder. And the listening to God would come in a breeze. Be reverent, St. Ignatius says when you receive a consolation, acknowledge divinity as the true source. The reverence is like a sacred force-field that protects a retreatant from the delusion that such consolation has been worked out through one's own efforts alone. If in desolation too or when we feel our prayer is boring and dry then, give God the reverence by patiently waiting. To meet God in reverential silence is to take pains in recognising and finding God in all things even when nothing seems to be happening. God is there but not as we usually expect or imagine God to be present. Mother Teresa once said sustained silence is a source of “great strength.”

3. Third, silence is prayer or silence makes prayer happen.
The more we drink from its still waters like a deer, our soul is quenched. Trust the silence like your friend and you are invited to immerse and ponder it. Marvel at it. Love it. But above all, understand silence and you will discover the secret to prayer. As Meister Eckhart once said, "Nothing is more like God than silence."

However let us be reminded that silence is only a method. If the whole of prayer is seen in terms of "voice" and "word," then silence functions only as a voice. Silent voice if you may which one could hear. And when there is silence, it becomes deafening. St. Augustine in a sermon talked about the difference between Voice and Word. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the fleeting voice and Jesus is the Word. John’s voice lasted only for a time; but not the Word which from the beginning of time is. And the Word lives forever. St. Augustine explained, that if you take away the word, or the meaning, then what is the voice? It becomes empty. The aim of Ignatian silent retreat is to let us hear the voice, God’s Voice that speaks of the eternal Word. For this Word to be heard anew in us, the voice of silence is needed.

There are millions of us, here and abroad, who have the time on our hands now to offer at least fifteen minutes each day. We are all different of course, but if someone could hear all the voices being spoken inside every house and room, that person would marvel. Each listens differently according to one’s own unique experience. But we are all the same because the Word is already in us, closer than we are to ourselves. It is found deep in each one’s heart most especially when we pause to listen.
"It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it" (Deut 30:12-14).

Let us pray that God’s Word will prevail as we journey together during this crisis period. Learn to choose Words that heal, our brokenness, words that resonate God’s unchanging love and His infinite mercy. Like a symphony of voices, some are soft, some are loud, but the music of the Divine Word remains. The music may come to silence, to a halt, but the Divine Word stays in us forever.

Let us now begin to listen from the heart to the symphony of God’s love.

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIPusing 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ


  1. In silence, I hear the birds sing; in silence i notice the cracking dry leaves, in silence i feel the rays of the sun. In silence I bask in awe and bend to worship.

  2. Ganda, JM. Baka maging libro na rin ito, ha?


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