What is Silence? from Cardinal Sarah’s Book: The Power of Silence

Quotes from: The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of 
Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah with Nicolas Diat, Translated 
by Michael J. Miller, Ignatius Press, 2016.

In Cardinal Sarah’s book, he speaks a lot about the mystery of silence in many varied ways.

From what I read, silence seems to be both an “attitude of the soul” (130) “of someone who prepares to welcome God by listening” (143) and a type of language that allows for mystical communion with God (199).

Here are some quotes that I gathered from Cardinal Sarah in regards to defining what this silence really is:

First, a general summary of what silence is

In the negative sense, silence is the absence of noise. It can be exterior or interior. Exterior silence is an ascetic exercise of self-mastery in the use of speech (141). As for interior silence, it can be achieved by the absence of memories, plans, interior speech, worries… Still more important, thanks to an act of the will, it can result from the absence of disordered affections or excessive desires (142).

Next, what silence is not…

Silence is not an absence. On the contrary, it is the manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences (27).

Silence is not the exile of speech. It is the love of the one Word (86).

Silence is not a form of idleness but rather an activity (144).

The silence that brings us close to God is always a respectful silence, a silence of adoration, a silence of filial love. It is never a trivial silence (206).

Rather, silence is the most powerful means to our true end: God…

Silence brings us to encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God (56).

Silence is the prerequisite for love, and it leads to love (62).

Silence draws a person into the most profound intimacy with God (65).

Silence leads to God, provided man stops looking at himself. For even in the experience of silence, there is a snare: narcissism and egotism (69). In silence, sadness is looking at oneself; joy is looking at God.

Silence is the prerequisite for being open to the great answers that will be given to us after death (219).

Silence is also a type of prayer

Silence is a divine liberation that unifies man and places him at the center of himself, in the depths of God’s mysteries (48).

Silence expresses God (54).

Contemplative silence is silence with God (55).

Silent love is the language God hears best and is the greatest love (58).

Contemplative silence is a silence of adoration and listening by a person who stands in the presence of God (69).

Silence is the simple reflection of divine love (86).

Silence is above all the positive attitude of someone who prepares to welcome God by listening. Yes, God acts in silence (143).

Silence is man’s greatest freedom (35). Silence is the supreme freedom of man with God (96).

Silence is a dam that restores a kind of dignity to mankind (67).

Silence is the privileged space that will allow for communion; it is on the order of language, but a different language (199).

Silence allows us to perceive better and to hear better; it opens our inner space (202).

Silence is the profound peace of the soul that knows that it is loved beyond its wildest dreams, the unchangeable calm that dwells within it – is that not interior silence? A living, expressive, inhabited silence (206).

Silence is also at the heart of the liturgy

Silence is an acoustic veil that protects the mystery (124).

Silence is a form of mystagogy; it brings us into the mystery without spoiling it (127).

In the Church’s liturgies, silence cannot be a pause between two rituals; silence itself is fully a ritual, it envelops everything. Silence is the fabric from which all our liturgies must be cut (130).

Liturgical silence is a radical and essential disposition; it is a conversion of the heart (131).

For Eastern Christians the iconostasis is the veil that protects the mystery. Among the Latins, silence is a sort of sonic iconostasis (136).

Silence is the liturgical sign part excellence (225).






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