I all but completely missed this until the sermon called to my attention that the purpose of this silence may not have been punish Zechariah’s lack of faith but to encourage him to listen. This explanation caught my attention as it is present in Masonry and many of the old mystical traditions. Members of the Pythagorean community had to complete a 5 year period of silence. Many eastern and western traditions incorporate various modes of meditation which seek to increase mindfulness of the present. As Masons, the theme of silence is prevalent throughout the degrees. Similar to the story of Zechariah, silence can be understood through a punitive lens but I posit that the concept of listening without the burden of having to respond is of greater value to us as Masons and humans.
In the social media age we have been given a microphone without any instruction to listen (or think) first. I am just as guilty as anyone of feeling the need to respond to EVERYTHING. There is a fine line between things that are necessary to correct and things that likely won’t be solved by offering my opinion (or even facts). We miss out on a great many things when we become enamored by our own words.
As we approach this season of renewal (be that Christmas, Solstice, Chanukah or any other winter celebration), let us remember to listen to the beauty of the world surrounding us. The nights are getting longer and colder but soon the Sun will rise and give way to new beauty and warmth. Let us each commit to spending more time in silence and appreciating the sounds of yule logs crackling, children in wonder, and carolers spreading hope. Celebrate and cultivate that warmth which we as Brethren have the ability to share. Pay attention to the ways in which the Grand Architect has established his greatness in our lives. The beauty of spring depends on our ability to calm our thoughts and fully embrace the experience of winter.