This year, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall side by side; Valentine’s Day is the day after Lent. They are dissimilar – Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and reminds us of penance, fasting and almsgiving; Valentine’s Day reminds us of lovers, sweets, flowers and feasting. The Lenten period of 40 days begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday, in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Valentine’s Day is well – one day.
Forty days is very symbolic in the Bible; here are a few references, although there are many others:
- It rained 40 days and 40 nights during the Flood (Genesis 7: 4)
- Noah waited 40 days after the waters receded and the Ark settled on Mount Ararat before he sent out the raven (Genesis 8: 3-8)
- The Israelites spent 40 years “wandering” in the desert (Numbers 14: 33; Deuteronomy 29: 4)
- Elijah fasted 40 days in the wilderness (1 Kings 19: 8)
- Purification of Mary is 40 days after birth of Jesus (Luke 2: 22-4)
- Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert after His baptism (Matthew 4: 1-2)
My husband, Tom and I, had the opportunity to lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during Lent. Pilgrimages are journeys of faith, a time to think about God and experience the land He sanctified with His very life. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert after His baptism in the desert near the River Jordan, a 10 minute bus ride to the vast Judean Desert. Our pilgrimage includes spending 40 minutes in this desert! Our bus driver leads us off the main highway into a gravel pathway leading to an area where he parks the bus, turns off the motor…and immediately one experiences the silence of the desert. As pilgrims get off the bus and walk up the hill, their breath it taken by the view of the vastness of the desert, and most especially the silence! They are asked to take this symbolic 40 minutes (remembering Jesus’ 40 days) and experience a time of prayer and total silence. For Tom and I, this time passes too quickly! The view of the desert, realizing Jesus was in that area and spending time just embracing the silence is an unforgettable moment! Numerous pilgrims have told us how much they appreciated this experience. One man in his 40’s said, “I have never experienced a silence like this, never!” Others have commented on how this experience of silence gave them a desire to include silence in their daily lives upon their return home.
How can we choose silence in today’s world filled with noise from television, radio, traffic, music, conversations? It’s possible – it’s a choice! Consider a time in your daily schedule when there is less noise. (Early morning? Late evening? Lunch period? When children are sleeping?) What do we benefit from silence? Personally I become more aware of God’s presence and I experience a peace.
Blessed Mother Teresa explains it well in a way that is called the Simple Path:
The fruit of silence is PRAYER.
The fruit of prayer is FAITH.
The fruit of faith is LOVE.
The fruit of Love is SERVICE.
The fruit of service is PEACE.
What does silence have to do with Valentine’s Day? Spending time in silence with someone we love is a gift, perhaps greater than the best chocolates or beautiful flowers. A time when one appreciates the other and experiences the ‘inner beauty and sweetness’ of that person. My husband and I enjoy sitting in swinging bench in the yard and just enjoying being with each other without conversation or outside noise to distract our moment of silence with one another.
Consider giving the gift of silence to someone you love this Valentine’s Day. Begin the Lenten Season by planning time for silence.
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta