Let the deepest silence be maintained that no whispering or voice be heard except that of the reader alone. But let the brethren so help each other to what is needed for eating and drinking, that no one need ask for anything. If, however, anything should be wanted, let it be asked for by means of a sign of any kind rather than a sound. And let no one presume to ask any questions there, either about the book or anything else, in order that no cause to speak be given [to the devil] (Eph 4:27; 1 Tm 5:14), unless, perchance, the Superior wisheth to say a few words for edification.
Let the brother who is reader for the week take a little bread and wine before he beginneth to read, on account of Holy Communion, and lest it should be too hard for him to fast so long. Afterward, however, let him take his meal in the kitchen with the weekly servers and the waiters. The brethren, however, will not read or sing in order, but only those who edify their hearers." - Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 38.
Our modern culture does not like silence. If you don't believe me, ask your pastor to arrange a time in worship where there is no sound. Then take a look around during that time and watch everyone fidget. Even song lyrics, the ones from The Sound of Silence that kicked off a lot of the changes that have impacted our society have decried a time without noise.
"Fools said I ,you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
In the wells of silence." - Simon and Garfunkel
In a Benedictine community a very counter culture thing is encouraged - silence. This is most apparent at meals. There is no speaking except the words of the one reading from the words of the Church Fathers or from other readings aiding spiritual growth. In the silence, in the midst of readings about our relationship with our Creator, interesting things occur. The most interesting to me is the reverence with which people treat each other. Without words, everyone begins to interact with each other in an attitude of complete respect. No word is spoken while the meal is served, condiments are passed, and the remnants are collected. A lot of what seems to be unconscious bowing occurs. Utmost care is offered, both to the word being spoken, and to those hearing it.
If we approach silence as a means to be open to the leading of God's Spirit, something does grow within us. But it is not something like a cancer. Instead the respect for the holy and for each other seems to blossom. It seems one is never closer to God, and to our brothers and sisters, when we stop letting our words get in the way.
Would you like to experience this type of silence? Check out http://www.SBAbbey.com, or Google for a near by Benedictine abbey. The Holy One is there waiting for you in the silence