A Week In Silence

For a lot of people, even doing a day in silence would be a daunting thought. I’d had such a busy year of having to be loud and talkative when I really just wanted to do the opposite that I was in need of some serious reflection time. So, when my friends in SCM Leeds said they were going to Taizé and there was an option to do a week’s silent retreat, I jumped at the chance.
Normally when people go to Taizé they have lots of Bible discussion classes and workshops all day, then socialise late into the night at Oyak Bar! When you’re in silence you still have a Sister (or Brother for the men) lead a Bible reflection in the morning, but you spend the rest of the day alone and what you do is up to you, although it’s advised that you should spend a certain amount of time in personal prayer to reflect on the passages given for the day. You still go to the morning, afternoon and evening prayers along with everyone else (it was the only time we really used our voices!) and it was a beautiful sight to see everyone walking from all directions in the warm summer’s light to come together and pray. I often stayed late after evening prayer because people continued to sing and I found it incredibly meditative – it felt like you were losing yourself in it.
In the Bible reflections the Sister talked about following the call of God into the unknown like Abram and being a servant like Mary. She talked about how no one is beyond redemption when they open their heart to God, how we should help and include the poor and marginalised, and give all we have and live in humility, like Jesus did. We thought about what the Eucharist and Resurrection meant for us and the world, and how we could take these lessons and reflections and start using them to change how we live our lives.
I spent a lot of time reading in the garden of the silence house, and through these reflections and reading the passages around them, I suddenly started to see the Bible from a different angle, and everything started to make so much more sense. The daily outward silence began to translate into inner silence, and when the pattern of normally continuous thoughts was broken, it left space for God to speak directly and uncover the true meaning of the words.
On the last night we had the service celebrating the Resurrection, where children came round passing everyone a flame and eventually the whole church was lit with thousands of candles. You could really feel the love of God and the light of hope between everyone as they embraced and said their goodbyes. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a beautiful feeling of love in a community.

At breakfast on the last day our silence was broken, and it was quite weird to suddenly hear the voices of people you’d been with for a week and yet never spoken to - I found that I only knew around 3 girls’ names out of the 40 of us! But despite the silence, some of us had formed strong friendships, like me and Greta from Lithuania. We’d realised that you don’t need your voice to communicate and build relationships, just your eyes and your smile.