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The Silence of God

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The Silence of God

In the first part of Verbum Domini, written by our Holy Father Benedict XVI nearly a year ago now, the Pope writes of the Word of God as ‘The God who Speaks’.  As you might expect, he writes about how God communicates through His creation, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, through scripture and tradition but also – surprisingly – through His silence.  Here is an excerpt from the end of that first part:

As the cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence.  The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word.  Hanging from the wood of the cross, he lamented the suffering caused by that silence:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46).  Advancing in obedience to his very last breath, in the obscurity of death, Jesus called upon the Father.  He commended himself to him at the moment of passage, through death, to eternal life:  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).

This experience of Jesus reflects the situation of all those who, having heard and acknowledged God’s word, must also confront his silence.  This has been the experience of countless saints and mystics, and even today is part of the journey of many believers.  God’s silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence.  Hence, in the dynamic of Christian revelation, silence appears as an important expression of the word of God.

When we are ‘caught up in the love of the God we cannot see’1, it is a little unnerving when he is silent as well as invisible, but the silence of God must not be mistaken for an absence of God.  His silence can be an opportunity for us to search more earnestly for him in prayer, in the Sacraments and in holy scripture.

However, as Verbum Domini makes abundantly clear (in Part III), if we hear the word of the Lord in holy scripture and let it remain just that, then the seed has not fallen ‘in rich soil’ and we have missed the point.  As Saint Augustine says:

“It is essential to realize that love is the fullness of the Law, as it is of all the divine Scriptures… Whoever claims to have understood the Scriptures, or any part of them, without striving as a result to grow in this twofold love of God and neighbour makes it clear that he has not yet understood them.” 2

Let us pray that we may embrace, when it comes, God’s silence in our lives.  We pray that we may have the grace to recognise God’s silence as an opportunity to reflect upon ‘his earlier words’ and the courage to follow those words in an active love of our neighbour.

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1 Roman Missal Preface of Christmas i

2 De Doctrina Christiana, I, 35, 39 – 36, 40: PL 34, 34

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