Chocolate? No, TV
"Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence." — T.S. Eliot
At my house, the TV is off. It will be until Easter. The first time this happened, it was accident, coincidence.
Some years ago, a few weeks before Easter, a burglar took some odd pieces of jewelry, a shirt my cousin gave me for Christmas, and my VCR. Worse, he took the adapter for the cable box. The antenna reception on the television was bad, so I turned it off until I could get a new adapter. I was busy with seminary and all the stuff of Easter, anyway.
Holy Week was quiet that year. And moving. We staged "The Living Last Supper" one more time, but this time it was as if I had never seen it before. Its message sank into my bones. "Is it I?" the disciples asked Jesus of his betrayer. They waited for his answer.
So did I.
I'm from a tradition that doesn't give up things for Lent. In fact, we often pick up the vices others lay down (bar-b-ques on Friday, Cadbury parties). So when I told my wife I wanted to do a penitential exercise, one corner of her mouth creased slightly. When I told her I would watch no television for six weeks, she laughed. She knows I love television. I worked in television. I programmed television. I eagerly tack onto the busiest work day a full night's channel surfing. My wife long ago surrendered the remote to me. But, good sport that she is, she was now willing to give up TV altogether, for my sake.
I must confess nagging doubts in the days before our first intentional media blackout. I would miss March Madness. I'd have no water cooler patter to share with the Must-see crowd. Voyager might reach home without me. Everybody loves Raymond — except me.
Nevertheless, after the late news on Mardi Gras night, we closed the doors on the TV cabinet and entered Lent in silence.
St. John of the Cross uses the phrase "my house being now all stilled." He refers to the stillness of his spiritual house in which the soul lives without words. In my case, the stillness must come first in a literal sense. My den is stilled before my soul is stilled. In this stilling, we go to sleep a little earlier, we read more carefully, we talk more deeply — when we choose to talk.
And we listen.
The evenings are at first very long, but in the growing quiet of the passing weeks, twilight seems as a single moment with a single thought, if any thought. By Holy Week, we are ready for Christ to break our silence however he chooses:
"One of you will betray me."
"Father, forgive them."
"It is finished."
If we make room by our silence, the Word will resound.