Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 31 October 2023
Whether you choose to celebrate Halloween in its truest sense which is the Christian and sacred celebration of All Saints or, the popular and pagan manner that is scary or spooky, November first reminds us always of things that are hidden and not seen.
What is really scary whenever November first approaches is the insistence of so many benighted souls including many Christians who highlight the erroneous pagan practice of dressing evil when halloween literally means “hallowed eve” or “holy evening” before the day set aside for all “holy souls” already in heaven we call “saints”. Any soul who enters heaven is considered a “saint”, that is, holy even if not recognized or canonized by the Church.
Remember the old Our Father translation when we used to say “Hallowed be thy name”? That’s it! Hallowed is the old English for holy. Where people got that idea of halloween as evil is clearly from the devil! And part of that sinister ploy by the devil in making evil funny and acceptable – and visible – is happening in the social media where everything must be seen, shown and exposed. Notice the expression “as seen on TV” to sell and market products while Facebook users brag their rule of thumb “show pictures or it never happened”.
Not everything can be seen and must be seen and shown. Recall how Genesis portrayed Adam and Eve hiding in shame, covering themselves with leaves after eating the forbidden fruit but these days, which could be the second phase of the Fall, men and women are not ashamed at all of their sins and scandals that instead of hiding, they make known to everyone deeds better kept in private, saying words better kept unsaid. They have absolutized the truth, baring all in total disregard of persons’ dignity and unity of the community. We have lost decency because we have also lost our sense of hiddenness, of privacy through silence and stillness.
Hiddenness is a sacred presence where each of us can be all by one’s self focused on God who is the root of our being and existence no matter how one may call Him. St. John Paul II said in one of his writings that God created man first to be alone with Him. And that is how it will be to each of us in the end: we die alone. With God.
We all have this gift of hiddenness within each one of us. This we experience in our desires to be still, to go to the mountains or anywhere for a retreat or introspection, for some “me” time to rediscover and find one’s self anew.
Hiddenness is the passageway to the great gifts of silence and stillness that everyone needs to maintain balance in this highly competitive world filled with so much noise where everybody is talking, including cars and elevators. Compounding the problem of noise within and outside us are the cameras everywhere that entertain us and safeguard our well-being. But, are we really safer these days with all the CCTV’s and Face ID’s we use?
Many times, we have actually stripped ourselves of the innate mystery of being human, of the beauty and gift of personhood that some have tried to reveal using the camera but failed because we are beyond seeing. We do not notice how the cameras actually rob us of respect when unconsciously we give ourselves away to the world with our photos and videos spreading far without our knowing. Worst, we have allowed the camera to invade our hiddenness without us realizing that its effects backfire to us as we rarely have the time to analyze the possible outcomes of our photos and videos that usually tend to show what is negative and bad than what is positive and good about us. Our fascination with cameras perfectly capture our Filipino term palabas that literally means “outward”, a mere show without substance inside (loob). As a result of these sounds and images saturating us daily, the more we have become confused and lost because we do not have our grounding or “bearing” found only in hiddenness.
“In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be seen and acknowledged. We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being. Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.”
Fr. Henri Nouwen
We need to regain our hallowed hiddenness if we wish to grow and mature truly as persons – emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. With the phone and TV always around us even in the church, everybody and everything has become so ordinary and cheap.
Regaining our hiddenness is learning to put our technology in its proper place to be grounded in God in silence, the one commodity that has become so scarce these days since the invention of the Sony Walkman more than 40 years ago that spawned all these gadgets all over us now.
Silence is the language of God which leads us to Him and to our true selves. Every communication by God is always preceded by silence, something we have refused to learn as the most basic requirement of every communication. No wonder, we quarrel a lot, ending up more confused than ever because we never listen to others in silence. We never dialogue but simply talk, talk, and talk.
Genesis tells us in the beginning when God created everything, there was silence before He said, “Let there be light” while the fourth gospel solemnly tells us, “In the beginning was the Word… And the Word became flesh” (Jn.1:1, 14). Both instances evoke the beauty and majesty of God in grand silence.
All books in the Old Testament especially those of Psalms and of Job teem with many instances of God in silence amid every sunrise and sunset, in the gentle breeze and vast skies and oceans. In the New Testament, all four evangelists reported nothing Jesus said and did in childhood until the age 30 except for his lost and finding in the temple when 12 years old; Jesus was totally silent all those “hidden years” of his life in preparation for his ministry that lasted only three years, accomplishing so much whereas we speak all our lives and still end up empty. Most of all, the evangelists tell us too how Jesus frequently invited his disciples to a deserted place to pray, be silent and rest to be in communion with God his Father.
Hiddenness is God’s mode of presence that cannot be captured nor described in human terms. That is why He is hidden. It is not that God is hiding from us but He is inviting us to be intimately close with Him to exclusively and personally experience Him, be filled with Him.
It was the same thing Jesus did on Easter, remaining hidden from the disciples. When he finally appeared to Mary Magdalene who tried to touch him, Jesus stopped her to signal to her and to us all of the new level of relating with the Risen Lord in hiddenness. In all Easter stories, we are told how the disciples fell silent whenever Jesus appeared to them. In Emmaus, after the breaking of bread, the two disciples finally recognized Jesus who immediately vanished too! Why? Because Jesus wanted his disciples including us today to follow him personally in his hiddenness to find him and ourselves too.
Appearances or images and noise in life are very fleeting. Very often, the most significant moments and insights we have in life are those that come from our long periods of silence, of prayers and soul-searching.
This November 1 and 2 as we remember all those who have left us in this world, let us keep its sacred origins: All Saints Day for those souls already in heaven and All Souls’ Day for those who have departed but still being purified in the purgatory. Both dates invite us to “hide” in prayers, in silent remembering to experience God and our departed loved ones in the most intimate and personal manner without the gadgets and things that numb us of their presence. Amen. Have a blessed All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days!