Holy Land Pilgrimage

The Sound of Silence

February 23, 2020

Silence of the Sacred Host, pervade me!
Hiddenness of the Sacred Host, envelop me!

The Holy Land is remarkably compact in size. Yet, scattered in this small region of the world are four Carmelite monasteries which sit as silent witnesses to pilgrims of the mystery of the Incarnation.

In typical Carmelite fashion, there is a hiddenness to these oases of prayer. Two of these monasteries are in the range of Mount Carmel. The first, El-Muhraqa, commemorates the place where Elijah challenged and defeated the prophets of Baal by calling down fire from Heaven. Down the range is the Stella Maris Monastery, which houses the cave where Elijah dwelt. This monastery is the Motherhouse of the Carmelite Order.

The other two Carmelite monasteries are in Bethlehem and Nazareth, respectively. One could easily pass by these places of silence and contemplation without realizing they exist. While visiting Nazareth, a few of us wandered to the door of the Carmel and knocked. A gentle-eyed, French Carmelite named Sr. Miriam Thérèse led us into their simple chapel to rest in the Presence of Jesus. While leaving, Sr. Miriam collected our names so she could continue to pray for us. What a gift to have a Carmelite nun put us on her prayer list!

The life of the great prophet Elijah would mark the Carmelite charism. Focusing on prayer and contemplation, the Carmelites are stunning witnesses to a hidden life in Christ Jesus and silence. Just like Elijah, who found the Lord in the sound of silence (cf. 1 Kgs 19:12), so too these faithful followers of Elijah find the Lord in the deep silence of prayer. They remind pilgrims like us just why we are here in the Holy Land: to receive the love of Christ more deeply, seeking Him in faith and prayer at these blessed sites.

Christ is the perfect embodiment of silence and hiddenness. He spent nine months hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. He then spent most of His first 30 years on earth, in a certain sense, hidden and silent at Nazareth. He now continues this way of hidden silent love, in a profound way, transubstantiated in the Most Holy Eucharist. He hides in what appears to be ordinary bread, but indeed, is no longer ordinary bread, while He silently awaits each one of us. This very same Jesus, who walked these lands, awaits you and me in the nearest Tabernacle.

– Elliot Żak
Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana

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