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The Power of Silence > Chapters II & III

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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Having established that the world’s noise runs contrary to the silence that is God, Cardinal Sarah demonstrates in chapter two (“God Does Not Speak, But His Voice Is Quite Clear”) how God speaks in His silence.

Creation itself is a silent word of God. The wordless beauty of nature displays before our eyes the manifold riches of a Father who is ceaselessly present among men. This devine speech is not audible to ears that are too human; nevertheless, it is the most profound speech of all. The sun, the moon, and the stars are absolutely silent to our ears, but they are a word and a message essential to our earthly existence. There is a language of the stars that we can neither know nor comprehend but that God understands perfectly. (P162)


Cardinal Sarah takes us through God the Father’s silence, the silence of Jesus Christ, and the silence of the Holy Spirit. He even tales us through the silence of the Blessed Mother and that of her spouse, St. Joseph.

In the third chapter (“Silence, the Mystery, and the Sacred”) Cardinal Sarah establishes how before the holiness of God, Man is required to be silent.

Before the divine majesty, we are at a loss for words. Who would dare speak up in the presence of the Almighty? When God reveals his glory to Isaiah, the prophet cries out: “Holy, holy, holy!” He uses the Hebrew word kadosh, which means holy and sacred at the same time. Then he exclaims: “I am lost!” We could just as well translate it: “I am reduced to silence!” (Is 6:5). (P. 227)


And he develops this further.

Sacred silence is therefore the only truly human and Christian reaction to God when he breaks into our lives. It seems that God himself teaches us that he expects from us his worship of silent, sacred adoration…Our sacred silence becomes a silence of joy, of intimacy, and of communion: “The words of the wise [are] heard in the quiet” (Eccles 9:17). (P. 231)


Cardinal Sarah goes on to show the need for silence in our forms of worship and adoration, especially in the liturgy.


message 2: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Chapters two and three were more succinct and to the point with wonderful examples. Chapter one I thought was a bit redundant and wordy, though I thought the central thesis profound. I'm finding this whole book very profound.


message 3: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Manny wrote: "Creation itself is a silent word of God. The wordless beauty of nature displays before our eyes the manifold riches of a Father who is ceaselessly present among men. This devine speech is not audible to ears that are too human; nevertheless, it is the most profound speech of all. The sun, the moon, and the stars are absolutely silent to our ears, but they are a word and a message essential to our earthly existence. There is a language of the stars that we can neither know nor comprehend but that God understands perfectly. (P162)"

I love this passage. Living in the country as we are, I am continually amazed and in awe of the nature around us. Sometimes I am moved to tears taking in the splendor around us. We have a dead oak on our property, and various birds like to perch there. Last week I saw a pair of big horned owls. I've heard them many times, but this is the first time I actually got to see not only one, but two!
Two days ago one of our trail cameras picked up a doe with newborn twin fawns scampering after their mother. God created each one of them in such beauty words fail to express it. When I showed the footage to my husband, he didn't utter a word! Some things can only be taken in in silence.


message 4: by Kerstin (last edited Jun 11, 2018 08:26PM) (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
In # 163 Sarah continues:
"163. I am certain that God gives to each believer a heart capable of hearing the language of creation."
I have no doubt about it.


message 5: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
This is a surprising and yet very profound insight:
"166...I am convinced that the problem of contemporary atheism lies first of all in a wrong interpretation of God’s silence about catastrophes and human sufferings. If man sees in the divine silence only a form of God’s abandonment, indifference, or powerlessness, it will be difficult to enter into his ineffable and inaccessible mystery. The more man rejects the silence of God, the more he will rebel against him."

Isn't this the age-old demand of "showing one more sign"; if only "one more sign" is miraculously produced, then I am willing the believe...


message 6: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "This is a surprising and yet very profound insight: "166...I am convinced that the problem of contemporary atheism lies first of all in a wrong interpretation of God’s silence about catastrophes an..."

I agree with your comment on 163. I have no doubt on that either. However, given that God doesn't stand in front of us and declare Himself and given that science has developed theories of how the universe came into being, then I can understand how the atheists come to their conclusion. Those theories depend on huge, astronomical probabilities, which in my opinion aren't very likely. But the atheists go in with an outlook of skepticism, and so only weigh the probability based theories rather than a God who guided those probabilities to come to be.


message 7: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments Kerstin wrote: "This is a surprising and yet very profound insight: "166...I am convinced that the problem of contemporary atheism lies first of all in a wrong interpretation of God’s silence about catastrophes an..."

It is the age old problem of theodocy. How can we understand human suffering before an all-powerful and all-compassionate God. Sarah's answer grounded in the silence of God is profound and I need to ponder it for a while before I think I will really understand what he is saying. However, I don't know how I would be able to communicate it to someone who sees the suffering of the innocent as a sign of a random universe or the absence of God. I think what he is saying comes from a place of strong faith and requires the eyes of faith to comprehend.


message 8: by Kerstin (last edited Jun 12, 2018 11:44AM) (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Manny wrote: "However, given that God doesn't stand in front of us and declare Himself and given that science has developed theories of how the universe came into being, then I can understand how the atheists come to their conclusion. Those theories depend on huge, astronomical probabilities, which in my opinion aren't very likely. But the atheists go in with an outlook of skepticism, and so only weigh the probability based theories rather than a God who guided those probabilities to come to be.

I think the atheists with their unlikely probabilities are just trying to exclude a Creator at all costs. It's pretty desperate, really, not to mention unscientific.

Are you familiar with the Penrose number 1/10^10^123? In a nutshell, it is the improbability the universe created itself. Sir Roger Penrose got a lot of flak on this, as he mentions the Creator - oh horror of horrors! Now, a quick internet search didn't produce a better link, but here it is.
https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-Pen...
With search engines' algorithms being heavily tilted towards political correctness that's no surprise.

What I find fascinating about this is that you can take any anomaly in nature, say, why is water at its densest at 4 degrees Celcius? What is the probability of this happening by random chance? This fact has huge ramifications towards life on earth, since when lakes freeze in winter, they don't freeze all the way to the bottom, and water creatures survive.
Another example, take the carbon atom and how the electrons are positioned. What is the probability of this happening by random chance? Yet life on earth is based on this configuration.
Last example, my yucca plants are blooming right now. Yuccas can only be pollinated by yucca moths. What is the likelihood of such a specialized symbiosis to happen by random chance?
All of these examples have probabilities near zero, pile the rest of Creation on top, and the universe emerges as an incredibly special place. The argument of deliberate design becomes quite strong and with it the concept of form following function. From God's perspective, what basic building blocks do I use to create life? The carbon atom is one of them. What properties does water have to have so fish can survive the freezing of a lake or river? And the yucca, I think God likes to play :) Think about it, take the concept of pollination, how many options can you play with to get the function accomplished? Or my favorite, the platypus, creating an animal like that takes humor and playfulness :)

Seriously now, the argument from form following function is a very logical one and is highly ordered. It is little bits like this that can chink the armor of the atheist standpoint.


message 9: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
If I had heard of the Penrose number I had forgotten, but I've seen the probability of the universe coming together as that kind of astronomical number. You just reminded me of something. You know I'm an engineer, and some ten to fifteen years ago I was sitting in a meeting with a company that was doing some statistical analysis and they gave us a pitch about this software they had come up. They used an example of trying to calculate the odds of digging into the ground and finding an airplane engine fully built by nature itself. All the material and dimensions and assembly coming together by nature. It was some ridiculous improbable amount and I have no idea if the calculation was correct but if it was so astronomical for an airplane engine, my thought was could you imagine what the odds are for the universe. And then what are the odds that human life gets evolved to be what it is.

Anyway I've been meaning to read one of the books on this.


message 10: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 640 comments Thanks so much for the excellent analogy of the airplane engine, Manny. I had never heard it before.

Kerstin, your comment beginning, "I love this passage. . . " reads like poetry.


message 11: by Galicius (last edited Jun 14, 2018 03:01PM) (new)

Galicius | 469 comments There were several topics addressed in these chapters that stood out for me.

I know there it is difficult to describe a mystery, heaven no less, but this does not help: “The liturgy of eternity is silent; souls have nothing else to do but to join the choir of angels.” (p. 99)

He is critical of the indiscriminate distribution of Holy Communion to all who come to receive it. I was glad to finally hear someone speak up against the frivolous behavior of some priests and congregations at mass: “How many priests walk towards the altar of sacrifice while chattering, discussing, or greeting the people who are present instead of losing themselves in a sacred silence full of reverence . . .” (p. 124)

The pastor of our parish will not bless the congregation at the end of the mass without saying something about the current sports team, the weather, or other nonsense. I am tempted to walk out without his Blessing when he starts on this but I don’t.

Serious criticism of modern liturgy: “The liturgy is sick . . . the omnipresence of the microphone”.
(p. 130)

Diat asks: “What would be your fondest wish concerning the place of silence in the liturgy?” and Cardinal Sarah answers: “silence that is full of sacred reverence and love”. (p. 139)

“I deplore the long noisy, offertory processions, embellished with endless dances, in some countries in Africa.” (p. 140)
And “the horrible forest of cell phones during our Eucharistic liturgies” (p. 141)

What would he say about the presence of cameras at a wedding mass?


message 12: by Kerstin (last edited Jun 14, 2018 04:38PM) (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "Serious criticism of modern liturgy: “The liturgy is sick . . . the omnipresence of the microphone”.
(p. 130) ."


I haven't gotten this far yet... But I agree! My pet peeve is all the secular music masquerading as hymns, and I sing in the choir! If I never have to sing a Marty Haugen or David Haas, et. al., again I will not shed a single tear. There is not a single masterpiece among them, as Anthony Esolen once put it.

Recently after choir practise someone was talking about this big church where they had an elaborate sound system including the choir area, and it all sounded like a big entertainment production number. I turned to our priest who had joined us after he was done hearing confessions, and I said to him that I would have major reservations with such a set up. He agreed. We go to mass to worship God not to be entertained.


message 13: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "He is critical of the indiscriminate distribution of Holy Communion to all who come to receive it. I was glad to finally hear someone speak up against the frivolous behavior of some priests and congregations at mass."

Amen.
What I don't understand with all that nonsense is why folks are so bent on receiving the Eucharist when they don't believe in it. The only answer I have is that the purpose is to undermine the Church - either from without or within. It may have been in the article Manny posted or some other article I read recently, that about 20% (if I remember correctly) of Catholics don't believe in the real presence.


message 14: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments Kerstin, I am surprised that 80% of Catholics actually understand and believe in the doctrine of the Real Presence. I thought it would have been much lower and I thought I saw a statistic with in the past year that had belief in the Real Presence among American Catholics much lower. I hope your figure is correct.


message 15: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments In Sarah's section on silence in the liturgy, I appreciated how he pointed out the places in the rubric that calls for silence. My parish has tried to be more aware of keeping silence at various points such as after each reading or after "Let us pray: to encourage more reflection.

He also writes of wanting a reform of the liturgical reform. From some of his comments in this section, I get the impression that he wants to return to the style of liturgy prior to Vatican II. That would not be my hope. He wrote of the Eucharistic Prayer being prayed in silence by the presider. That would not enhance the liturgical experience for me. My mind wonders too easily. I need to hear the prayers to feel engaged.


message 16: by Galicius (new)

Galicius | 469 comments I don’t want to sound like I am critical of what we witnessed attending a Sunday mass last April, and will not name the church on the gulf coast of Florida. There were however several strong entertainment elements in what we saw that impinged on the purpose of the gathering and seriously obscured the religious portion. The church is the closest we’ve seen to the occasional television sighting of a Protestant megachurch. At least a thousand were in attendance. The choir, the cantor, the large number of participants at the altar was overpowering to us. The performance by the choir included about a dozen members ringing hand-held bells during the singing of “Gloria”. The distribution and receiving of communion involved the servers going deep among the sections of aisles to accommodate all and very few in the congregation remained in their seats. The parish bulletin describes it as a very active community with several organizations, programs, event-filled weekly calendar. It may just be an example of a “modern” church. It was all so “professional” compared to our small “amateurish” parish church that it overwhelmed us.


message 17: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments I can understand how that could feel overwhelming. With the limited number of priests in many diocese, I think we will see more and more very large congregations like that. Many diocese are consolidating parishes because there are not enough priests to serve as pastor for all existing ones. There are also fewer and fewer practicing Catholics in the pews. They remind me as a modern incarnation of the large cathedrals and other large churches of urban centers in Europe through the Renosonce with their amazing, professional choirs that would have paralleled the best in the entertainment of that day. I am certainly not comparing the musical quality of Bach to Haas, but simply the size and the paralleling of contemporary culture.


message 18: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "The performance by the choir included about a dozen members ringing hand-held bells during the singing of “Gloria”

UGH! Now there's a bad memory. At a previous choir I sang the director had us do this from time to time. I always tried to avoid grabbing one. In the liturgical setting I find a trumpet is a much better instrument to express joy and exuberance.


message 19: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "In Sarah's section on silence in the liturgy, I appreciated how he pointed out the places in the rubric that calls for silence. My parish has tried to be more aware of keeping silence at various po..."

Mass is a totally different experience when truly prayed. Our old parish was very good at it. Then we moved and trying to find another parish wasn't all that easy. At one parish we ultimately didn't choose the priest is such a fast talker you feel he has to get done before he is overtaken by a herd of buffalo.


message 20: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments Your metaphore made me chuckle.


message 21: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "Your metaphore made me chuckle."

We live in Kansas... :)


message 22: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
While we can all use more silence in our contemplative moments, I can’t help feel that at times Cardinal Sarah is stretching the argument too far. How can you have liturgical service in total silence? And what’s wrong with music to accompany. Beauty is as important as silence and singing is praying twice as St. Augustine said. Yes I agree dancing down the aisle is not appropriate but even Cardinal Sarah acknowledges older people who are lonely should be able to converse after Mass. We are communicative beings. Expressing ourselves, with limitations of course, is not only necessary but human.


message 23: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1554 comments Mod
Manny wrote: "How can you have liturgical service in total silence?"

I was looking for this part and I must have missed it. I didn't get the sense he was advocating for total silence, meaning the absence of any sound.


message 24: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4201 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "Manny wrote: "How can you have liturgical service in total silence?"

I was looking for this part and I must have missed it. I didn't get the sense he was advocating for total silence, meaning the ...I didn't get the sense he was advocating for total silence, meaning the absence of any sound."


I don't know. I'm not sure how far he wants to take silence. I guess there are parts which have to be spoken but I assume anything else he desires silence.


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