Cardinal Sarah on Silence
Am about halfway through Robert Cardinal Sarah’s The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. The book is set in a sort of dialogue between Cardinal Sarah and Nicolas Diat, inspired by a visit the Cardinal made to Grande Chartreuse, the motherhouse of the Carthusian Order. This place, and the men who live there, can be seen in the wonderful documentary Into Great Silence. The filmmaker proposed the movie to the monks in 1984, and they asked for time to consider it. Sixteen years later, they responded in the affirmative. He used a single camera and no artificial light. As a feat of technical filmmaking, it’s wonderful. More precious still is the intimate look at this most austere of orders - a community of hermits.
Cardinal Sarah writes about silence - in prayer, worship, and secular life. It’s slow going - he’s a methodical, contemplative writer:
Christ’s public life is rooted in and supported by the silent prayer of his hidden life. The silence of Christ, God present in a human body, is hidden in the silence of God. His earthly speech is inhabited by the silence speech of God.
The whole life of Jesus is wrapped in silence and mystery. If man wants to imitate Christ, it is enough for him to observe his silences.
The silence of the crib, the silence of Nazareth, the silence of the Cross, and the silence of the sealed tomb are one. The silences of Jesus are silences of poverty, humility, self-sacrifice, and abasement; it is the bottomless abyss of his kenosis; his self-emptying (Phil 2:7).
And so we must seek the silence of the desert - within ourselves first of all. These means calling our relationship with noise by its name: a dictatorship under which we should (and do) chafe. We have forgotten, in large part, what true silence really is. I had forgotten, if indeed I ever knew it, until I sat in the empty chapel at Gethsemane several years ago. The silence was so profound as to feel positively physical. Time passes differently there, and you can return to yourself - to your senses - like the prodigal son.
In other news…with Lent underway, we have started our small group study. We meet on Monday evenings, here at our home. The first session went very well. Looking forward to next week. RCIA continues apace. The Elect have moved into the Purification and Enlightenment period. Looking ahead, I need to start preparing content for Mystagogy, which we’re sort of rebooting. In the background of all of this, the application process for diaconal formation is coming to a close. Lots of self-examination, meditation, and prayer going on.