Monks Don’t Vow Silence

Carl McColman over at Patheos has a great piece on how the Cistercians respect for silence has been misinterpreted over the years as a vow. Their restraint on speech comes from a different place. He compares their affinity for silence to the commitment that married couples make to one another as the result of their vows to love. And he goes very deep.

The silence of a monastic is like the intimacy and vulnerability of a marriage. It emerges from a place deep within the heart of the nun or monk. True spiritual silence is far more than the mere absence of noise; just as true love is far more than the absence of hatred or fear. Silence, embraced for spiritual reasons, opens us up to the hidden presence of God in our lives. Such hidden presence is subtle, and cannot be well expressed in words—for words, even those printed on a page or computer screen, paradoxically signify the absence of silence. The silence of God can never fully be explained but must simply be experienced—rather like love within a good marriage, which can never be fully captured by words but can only be lived into by those fortunate enough to enjoy a thriving union.

It is only out of humility that I can write these words, for as a layperson, who am I to comment on the experience of monks or nuns? But I’m taking the risk of sharing these thoughts anyway, for I believe that the silence of monastics is a reminder to all people of faith—even those of us who do not live in a cloister—to make room in our lives for at least a modicum of silence, hopefully every day. But just as monks do not reduce restraint of speech to a vowed act, it would be equally futile to try to regulate our quiet in any kind of legalistic way.

I learned something! Nice! Read the entire article to learn even more.