One of the characteristics of great art is its popularity and familiarity among the general public. But there is a revolutionary and highly praised musical work that you have never heard, even if you are very familiar with it. John Cage composed his famous 4’33” in 1952 and considered it to be his greatest work. The composition derives its name from its length – precisely four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The reason you never heard this work is that this particular composition has no sound at all and is entirely composed of silence. Instead, the audience is invited to deeply connect with the vast silence of the music hall and listen to the sound of the silence. Cage’s 4’33” is a stark reminder about the crucial importance of silence, solitude and rest in our lives.
In today’s Gospel reading, we find the religious and political leaders of the time conspiring against Christ and seeking ways to “destroy him.” Meanwhile, we see the Lord ministering under great pressure by healing the multitude who came to him from all over Israel. But then something unexpected happens when Christ decides to take a break amid all this action and retrieves to the healing and restoring solitude and silence of the seashore with the disciples. Can you imagine leaving behind people who crossed hundreds of miles on foot searching for healing? Can you imagine leaving behind an active conspiracy and crisis and seeking solitude, silence, and rest? Yet, that is exactly what the Lord did.
The hectic rhythm of modern life can be toxic to the human soul. We work hard to ensure we don’t fall behind and catch up with every duty and deadline, responsibility, obligation, and expectation. To achieve this enormous task, we automate, outsource, delegate, and streamline our lives and try to squeeze productivity and efficiency from every minute and heartbeat we have. In the process, we lose something very precious. We lose ourselves and become restless. When the pressure of chronic exhaustion and anxiety starts tearing us apart, we realize that it is perhaps time to take a break and rest. And when it comes to our understanding of what is rest, we mistakenly often identify it as an annual family vacation. We try to outsource our rest itself to a nice resort that sells rest by promising to pamper us with fine dining, entertainment and breathtaking sights.
Family vacations are essential and precious. However, the Christian definition and understanding of rest is much bigger and based on the words of our Lord, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Therefore, rest for us is also a spiritual experience that through silence and solitude, creates opportunities to expose the wounds of our tired souls to the healing rays of our Lord. A lifestyle that incorporates prayer and meditation into our daily routine helps heal and restore souls and bodies. Private prayers, silent meditations, and reflection in solitude disrupt our routines and schedules, separate us from our worries and anxieties and allow us to rest our souls and bodies in the silent and sacred presence and peace of our Lord.
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