21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 

22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

Zechariah’s silence speaks to the people more eloquently than his words could have done.

Too often I am captured by language. I am determined to have an impact, to convince, persuade, argue my case. Words are the blunt instrument I use in a futile attempt to batter my life (or perhaps your life) into the shape I want it to take.

Zechariah has had the experience of Presence. He has encountered one who stands “in the presence of God”. This makes all the difference.

Words are often a futile attempt to fill the spaces that threaten me with the feeling of emptiness. Words often obscure my awareness of Presence; they clutter the space that might allow me to open to mystery. Too many words crowd out the silence making it hard for consciousness of the Divine to emerge.

The function of a priest is to be a bearer of awareness, to transmit Presence. Zechariah needed to be silenced in order to fulfill his priestly role.

Too often the busy activist management model of priesthood that impoverishes our contemporary versions of priestly ministry makes it impossible to follow the silent path of Zechariah coming out from the Presence in the sanctuary and speaking eloquently through his silence.

Mystery brings an end to words. I am stunned into silence by the incomprehensibility of the universe I inhabit. Words fail me in the face of the puzzle of the human condition. The beauty of creation calls forth a response that exceeds any possibility of being captured by my meagre command of language.

What keeps me from following Zechariah into “the sanctuary of the Lord” and being content simply to offer the silent prayer of incense? Do I fear that mere prayer will not be productive? How did I become reduced to the role of management when my true function is plumbing the depths of mystery and carrying forth an awareness of the Presence that resides in the secret depths of life? What is lost when we demand our bearers of Presence become managers of business?

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What makes silence uncomfortable? How can I build more moments of silence and stillness into my life?