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The Power of Silence

God’s first language is silence.

In commenting on this beautiful, rich insight of Saint John of the Cross, Thomas Keating, in his work Invitation to Love, writes: Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God

… be nourished in prayer, which is a moment of silent, intimate encounter in which a human being stands face to face with God.

Let us not fool ourselves. This is the truly urgent thing: to rediscover the sense of God.
I think that we are the victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism. We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power. The only reality that deserves our attention is God Himself, and God is silent. He waits for our silence to reveal Himself.

Regaining the sense of silence is therefore a priority, an urgent necessity.
Silence is more important than any other human work. Because it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence.

Silence is not an idea; it is the path that enables human beings to go to God.

God is silence, and this divine silence dwells within a human being. By living with the silent God, and in Him, we ourselves become silent. Nothing will more readily make us discover God than this silence inscribed at the heart of our being.

I am not afraid to state that to be a child of God is to be a child of silence.

Conquering silence is a battle and a form of asceticism. Yes, it takes courage to free oneself from everything that weighs down our life, because we love nothing so much as appearances, ease and the husk of things. Carried away toward the exterior by his need to say everything, the garrulous man cannot help being far from God, incapable of any profound spiritual activity. In contrast, the silent man is a free man. The world’s chains have no hold on him.

Our busy, ultra-technological age has made us even sicker. Noise has become like a drug on which our contemporaries are dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids looking oneself in the face and confronting the interior emptiness. It is a diabolical lie. The awakening can only be brutal.

I am not afraid to call on all people of good will to enlist in a form of resistance. What will become of our world if it cannot find oases of silence?

Before God’s majesty, we lose our words. Who would dare to speak up before the Almighty? Silence is the essence of any attitude of prayer, because this silence, laden with the adored presence, manifests the humble acceptance of the creature’s limits vis-à-vis the infinite transcendence of a God who unceasingly reveals Himself as a God of love. To refuse this silence filled with confident awe and adoration is to refuse God the freedom to capture us by His love and His presence.Power of Silence

A human being enters into participation in the divine presence above all by letting himself be educated in an adoring silence, because at the summit of the knowledge and experience of God there is His absolute transcendence.

  •  Robert Cardinal Sarah                                             Extract : The Power of Silence 

The Primordial State

If you know me, you know my Father too.

Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?1

The problem, for the disciples, seems to be with Jesus’ experience of self.

To have seen me is to have seen the Father.1

Jesus does not identify with what they are looking at, Jesus of Nazareth.

I am in the Father and the Father is in me.1

“it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and finding its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.”2

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.1

  1. John 14:6-14
  2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. 1969. Introduction to Christianity. pp189-90

 

Listen To The Silence

The contemplative soul does not meddle with exterior attachments or human respect, but it communes inwardly with God, alone and detached, and with delightful tranquility, for the knowledge of God is received in divine silence.

  • St John of the Cross

Perhaps you know of Pascal’s cry as he stared at the stars that shone to the limits of the universe. He was seized by the great silence of a winter night aglow with the brightness of the stars and exclaimed:  The eternal silence of the infinite spaces fills me with dread!

God is eternal silence; God dwells in silence.

The works of God are marked with silence. It is in the silence of prayer and retreat, in the silence of the desert and the forest, that great souls receive their message from God. Recall how Saint Bernard enriched the whole of Europe with silent monasteries. In order to describe the beauty of silence, he used to say: The oak trees of the forest have been my masters of prayer. Silence is the great master. It speaks to the human heart. Silence is not an empty void; God dwells therein.

Whoever embraces silence, welcomes God and whoever relishes silence, hears God speak. Silence is the echo of God’s eternity.

Are you seeking to find God? Then listen to the silence; immerse yourself in silence.

The soul must not be a public square, where there is always a crowd of gossipers or of persons recalled from the past with their tales of suffering and rebuke. Such types, seething at their imagined foes and smarting in their own self-love, are seriously at fault. There should be nothing like that among us. Silence should penetrate deep within us and occupy every area of our inner home. Thus is our soul transformed into a sanctuary of prayer and recollection.

When we meet one day in heaven, we should be filled with joy that we have done everything asked of us. We should have given the Lord, not lip service, but lives of humble, habitual, and complete silence. Amen.

  • Pere Jacques.   Listen to the Silence.  ICS publications.

We Must See

Gaze upon Christ… come to see him with the eyes of your soul.

In analyzing ourselves, each one of us readily realizes our own personhood; this irreducible “me”. This “me” remains despite all the upheavals and changes in our lives. Throughout all our joys and sorrows, in health and in sickness. our human personality presides over every stage of life, from cradle to grave. That personality embraces our memories and our fantasies, as well as our pride and our shame at various times of our lives. That personality enables us to pray, to love, and to act be it basely or bravely. It is the mysterious “me” which imparts all value to our being.

When we scrutinize Christ, we find in him, an authentic human nature composed of both a real body and a real soul with all its faculties. We find in him also a will with a loving heart and a spirit capable of prayerful knowledge of God. That spirit was likewise capable of suffering the intense pain of the dark night of the soul, as when he cried out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lemma sabachthani?” [Mk 15:34].

However, what we do not find in Christ is this overarching  human “me”.
Therein, we confront the majestic mystery.

What a rapturous reflection the mother Mary experienced, when she first gazed into the eyes of her infant son and there discovered a glint of God’s infinity!

We must see Christ. I stress this point: we must truly see Christ. We cannot see Christ and remain as we are. We cannot exchange a look with Christ and not be overcome. If we are tepid and still attached to our ease, it is because we have not exchanged glances with Christ; we have not really seen Christ. Exchange that glance with Christ; a true, living, and real contact that is not the fruit of the imagination, but rather reaches the heart of things as they are.Pere Jacques

When I speak of seeing Christ, I mean the experience of being ‘swept up’ by Christ himself…. we become enveloped in the divine being… the presence of God himself.

He is the God-man, yet he does not have a human personality. Rather, it is the infinite person of God in whom Christ subsists, and through whom Christ is made incarnate.

  • Pere Jacques. Listen to The Silence : Conference 3.

Total Death

Christ possessed the beatific vision precisely because no human “I” separated him from God. Thus Christ directly beheld God’s very being.

Conversely, the blessed Virgin Mary did have a human “I”. As a totally human creature, she was a human person. As such, she would say, “I wish, I love or I do”, on the basis of her human personhood, which informed all her actions. However, Mary was so closely conformed to God’s will, that her human “I” dissolved and became bathed in the divine will. Thus, both Christ and Mary attained the pinnacle of prayer. Such prayer is the goal of the entire teaching of Saint John of the Cross. It is the “Living Flame of Love”, which blazes at the summit of the road and crowns the conclusion of the “Canticle”. It is Mt Carmel itself. That flame burns with infinite intensity in Christ and with great brilliance in Mary. Like all others who have come to Carmel, we have come with that same goal in mind.

In Christ and in Mary, the action of God himself slew, so to speak, in a single stroke, the human “I”.

Such a death is equally essential for us. We must die to ourselves. Our “I” must come to know this mystical death in order to attain a life of profound prayer. To the degree that we die to ourselves, to that degree will we come to know the fullness of prayer. There truly is a direct correlation between mystical death and the full
flowering of prayer.

If we hold on to ourselves for fear of mystical death and the surrender of our worldly desires, and if we hold on to our soul with its earthly attitudes, then we will remain just as we are with our own little soul and our own little bit of human happiness. In order to grow rich in God and all that comes from God, we must die to ourselves. We must let our human “I” diminish and ultimately coalesce into the divine will, the very being of God.

This mystical death affects every aspect of our life….Ultimately, the only source of inner peace, and the actual attainment of the heart’s deepest desires, is increased participation in God’s Infinity.

The soul is made to possess infinity, a spiritual infinity, God’s infinity.

We have, by this stripping of self, mortally wounded everything in us that is the human “I”. We no longer exist. We are being entirely submissive to the will of God.

Pere Jacques

We are literally a new being. This mystical death is thus real, and not merely figurative.

Let us quell within us whatever remains of our old self. Then, we, too, will be able to find complete happiness in the Infinite Being of God. Amen.

  • Pere Jacques.   Listen to The Silence.               Extract from Conference 7.

Hurry and Come Down

Hurry and come down, for I must stay in your house today. The master unceasingly repeats this call to our soul which He once addressed to Zacchaeus. Hurry and come down. But what is this descent that He demands of us except an entering more deeply into our interior abyss?

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am. Such is Christ’s last wish, His supreme prayer before returning to His Father. He wills that where He is we should be also, not only for eternity, but already in time. It is important to know where we must live with Him in order to realize His divine dream. The place where the Son of God is hidden is the bosom of the Father, or the divine Essence, invisible to every mortal eye, unattainable by every human intellect, as Isaiah said: Truly You are a hidden God. And yet His will is that we should be established in Him, that we should live where He lives.

Remain in Me. It is the Word of God who expresses this wish. Remain in Me, not for a few moments, a few hours which must pass away, but remain…  permanently, habitually…
We must enter ever deeper into the divine Being through recollection… we must descend daily this pathway of the Abyss which is God. Abyss calls to abyss. It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we will find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love … Blessed are those who die in the Lord !

You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. St Paul comes to bring us a light to guide us on our pathway of the abyss. You have died ! What does that mean but that the soul that aspires to live close to God in the invincible fortress of holy recollection must be set apart, stripped, and withdrawn from all things in spirit.

I die daily. I decrease, I renounce self more each day so that Christ may increase in me and be exalted. I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.

Our God, wrote St Paul, is a consuming fire, that is, a fire of love which destroys, which transforms into itself everything it touches. The delights of the divine enkindling are renewed in our depths by an unremitting activity: the enkindling of love in a mutual and eternal satisfaction. It is a renewal that takes place at every moment in the bond of love. Certain souls have chosen this refuge to rest there eternally, and this is the silence in which, somehow, they have lost themselves. Freed from their prison, they sail on the ocean of Divinity.

For these souls the mystical death becomes so simple and sweet! They think much less of the work of destruction and detachment that remains for them to do than of plunging into the furnace of love burning within them. They enter into Him by living faith, and there, in simplicity and peace they are carried away by Him beyond all things, beyond the senses, into the sacred darkness and are transformed into the divine image. Now this simple possession is eternal life savoured in the unfathomable abode. It is there, beyond reason, that the profound tranquillity of the divine immutability awaits us.

  • St Elizabeth of the Trinity.  ( Extract: Heaven in Faith )

Wholly Burned Away

Upheld, and yet without support,
darkness around, no light of day
while I am wholly burned away.

My soul is free and set apart
from every created thing,
lifted above itself to sing
of richer life delight the heart.
God is the rock to which I cling.
Now I can tell it as I ought:
the source of all my greatest bliss –
to feel, to know that my soul is
upheld, and yet without support.

I walk along a shadowed way
of suffering in this life of night,
and yet although I see no light
my sorrows not without allay:
I know the heavenly life burns bright.
The blinder love is I can say,
the greater is the life that flows,
holding the soul in peace that grows,
darkness around, no light of day.

Since Love began to work in me
his touch transforms me, this I know.
I see my soul translucent grow,
for at his pleasure, equally
both good and bad are changed and glow.
Filled with delight to be Loves prey
I feel his flame consume, and see
nothing is left, for rapidly
the whole of me is burned away.