One of the benefits of Mass is the quiet holy atmosphere that allows me to reflect, pray and focus on the Lord away from the noisy world. Recently during a weekday Mass a loud alarm began to clang before the priest had even finished the opening prayer. He paused. A siren screeched, it’s rude pulses alternated with those of the first alarm like siblings competing for their parents’ attention. The priest paused again.
Three men ran out to remedy the piercing horns, which continued squawking for at least 5 minutes. I knelt, put my head down, covered my ears and tried to pray against this unwelcome, nerve-wracking intrusion on this holy temple and my inner sanctuary.
Mercifully, the alarms finally stopped. The men returned to their pews, except one of them who scurried to the lectern to give us the first reading of the day. It was a long one, the story of Suzannah’s accusers and how Daniel caused them to reveal their lies. Fortunately I knew the gist of this familiar story because the alarms rang intermittently during the reading.
The shrill noisemakers were quiet during most of the Gospel reading and remained silent during the Consecration—praise God! As I received communion, I asked the Lord for the gift of peace. Stripped of my usual interior composure, I relied on faith that he dwelt in the Church, in the host and in my heart. I left Mass with the Lord in my body and in my spirit, but with my nerves jumpy, my heart far from peaceful.
Noise captures our attention in a way that silence cannot. How hard it is to concentrate on the Lord, his Word, his holy gifts to us with the distractions of the noise of the world. Even when we find a quiet haven at home unexpected bursts of noise erupt from a television or a ringing telephone in the next room or in the apartment above us. Sirens on the nearby highway are impossible to ignore. They shatter any attempt to keep our mind on our prayers, or keep our presence within the Lord’s loving presence.
Perhaps living in the presence of the Lord, in his peace and joy, depends more on our mindset than on our surroundings. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection gave us a basic lesson in worship. He would practice the presence of the Lord in everything he did, from peeling potatoes to praying with others. Somehow when I take the fries out of the freezer bag and arrange them on a baking sheet it’s not the same atmosphere as when he peeled potatoes in the monastery kitchen in the 17th century.
How much noisier is the 21st century! It’s an act of faith to know God is in all things. That means that he is in every particle of our lives, even the clatter and chatter surrounding us. We can only ask the Lord to give us ears to hear his voice in the silence of our hearts. We cherish the quiet spaces in our day, no matter how brief, where we can enjoy his company uninterrupted. Like Brother Lawrence we can persevere in finding God in all circumstances—no matter how busy or how loud.
Share your thoughts. Let’s explore this together.