It may seem ironic to be paying so much attention to the words of those desert ascetics who tired so diligently to be, above all, silent. But they conversed with God in that silence and the fruits of those long conversations were their famous sayings and deeds. Many of the abbas taught their disciples desert wisdom by their example of silence. The key immediate lesson to learn was that, until they attained an inner stillness through their exercise of silence, they would not really be able to focus on their weakness and entrust it to God's care. Abba Pambo felt that people should be edified by a monk's silence rather than by his impressive words. This and similar desert wisdom about silence shows how silence protected monks from gossip, prejudice, turmoil and uncharitableness. Positively put, the language of silence also helped them to focus, to be present, to be mindful of God's enduring presence. But the proof is in the pudding. How did this mindfulness and contemplative union translate into life's relationships, community and church life? Abba Serinus said that if one lives outside the cell as he lives inside it, then he is on the right path.

Peter-Damian Belisle, The Language of Silence