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The Power of Silence > Chapter V, Conclusion, and Afterword

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message 1: by Manny (last edited Jun 24, 2018 08:44PM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4202 comments Mod
The fifth chapter, “Like a Voice Crying Out in the Desert: The Meeting at the Grand Chartreuse” pulls together the various threads that Cardinal Sarah has been developing and comes to answer why search for silence. Though the themes seem a bit redundant at this point—I think he has answered the same question in every chapter—there is a change in presentation. A new voice enters the discussion, Dom Dysmas de Lassus, the Prior General of the Carthusians. Nicholas Diat is still asking questions, but now the two religious answer in a sort of duet. As the chapter title suggests, the meeting of the three take place at the Grand Chartreuse, the head monastery of the Carthusian religious order.

In an answer to why seek silence, Cardinal Sarah answers bluntly: “The authentic search for silence is the quest for a silent God and for the interior life. It is the quest for a God who reveals himself in the depths of our being (p. 191). He continues:

Silence is an extremely necessary element in the life of every man. It enables the soul to be recollected. It protects the soul against the loss of its identity. It predisposes the soul to resist the temptations to turn away from itself to attend to things outside, far from God.

If man wants to become entrenched in the depths of his heart, in that beautiful interior sanctuary, in order to examine himself and to verify the Presence of God within him, if he wants to know and understand his identity, he needs to be silent and to win his inferiority. (p, 192)

Dom Dysmas amplifies this by explaining the Carthusian rule of silence: “In a charterhouse [Carthusian monastery], we seek, not silence, but, rather, intimacy with God by means of silence. It is the privileged space that will allow for communion; it is on the order of language, but a different language (p. 199). Cardinal Sarah then cautions that seeking silence has to have meaning.

Man does not seek silence for the sake of silence. The desire for silence for its own sake would be a sterile venture, a particularly exhausting aesthetic experience. In the depths of his soul, man wants the presence and company of God, in the same way that Christ sought his Father in the desert, far from the cries and passions of the crowd. (p. 201)

Cardinal Sarah goes on to assure us not to fear the silence.

A Christian cannot fear silence because he is never alone. He is with God. He is in God. He is for God. In the silence, God gives me his eyes so as to contemplate him better. Christian hope is the foundation of the true silent search of the believer. Silence is not frightening; on the contrary, it is the assurance of meeting God. (p. 230) .

In the formal “Conclusion,” Sarah encourages us “to revolt against the dictatorship of noise, that seeks to break our hearts and our intellect” (p. 240).

Finally in a short “Afterward,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI praises Cardinal Sarah as a spiritual teacher, one “who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us” (p. 244).

This book does have something to say that is very important to the modern—or shall I call it, postmodern—world. But will the world listen? It would be wise if we each in our individual practices listened.

message 2: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 641 comments Thank you, Manny. Your presentation is excellent.

message 3: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments The one image in the final chapter that has haunted me was that of the desperate refugee. When we think of the risks taken by, the sacrifices made, the hardships endured by those seeking a better life in an earthly land, how much more should we be willing to risk, sacrifice, endure for the hope of the life in a heavenly homeland.

message 4: by Galicius (new)

Galicius | 469 comments What I learned from “The Power of Silence” taken as a whole was an exploration of what the title and the subtitle “Against the Dictatorship of Noise” very well describe. We may add darkness as the close ally of silence and their combined environment as the best means of coming closer to God. This work is encyclopedic in its focus on these themes. The bibliography gives only partial information on its sources. There are a great many quotes within the text with and without footnotes that show the extensive range of reading of both Cardinal Sarah and Carthusian Prior Dysmas de Lassus. This text definitely qualifies as a permanent source to return-to as it is too great to keep much of it in mind all at once nevertheless its focus is so concentrated that I treat it as a manual of how to get closer to the straight path. Nonetheless, despite its many gifts the advice it gives to us not directly involved in religious life—us non-contemplatives--is bare minimum and all too often this writing feels like it’s a long set of instructions for joining a monastery. “The silence of the monasteries provides the best earthly setting for the person who wants to ascend toward the One who awaits him.” (p. 72)

message 5: by Gerri (new)

Gerri Bauer (gerribauer) | 213 comments Inactive member here (family matters), who scrambled to catch up on this group read. "The Power of Silence" intrigued me - I'm drawn to contemplation, plus, our world keeps getting noisier.

Finished the book last night, and just read through all your interesting comments. As others noted, Cardinal Sarah did belabor certain points and stray off topic a few times. I, too, wondered (sarcastically) if true contemplative depth can be achieved only when chanting in a remote, dark monastery in the middle of the night. And yet ...

There's so much rich thought in the book. I'll need to return to certain parts, to ponder and digest the material in smaller chunks. I marked 54 notes/highlights on my Kindle while reading. Won't bore you with them! Many align with what others have already highlighted. Others include, for example, the interesting way Carthusian Prior Dysmas de Lassus differentiated meditation and contemplation: "In meditation, a man seeks to grasp something of the mystery. In contemplation, he marvels and abandons himself to God's love, which surpasses us." Then, near the end, Cardinal Sarah made this comment about the noise many people surround themselves with: "Postmodern man seeks to anesthetize his own atheism." Wow. Think about that. In one short sentence we feel how lost humanity can be without God.

Despite my pull toward the book's focus, I did have minor reservations about reading "Power of Silence" in the beginning. I shy from both far left and far right wings of thought, and consider Cardinal Sarah to be aligned well to the right. Some of the book's 5-star reviews enforced that opinion. So glad I read it, though. Although the book was weakest when it strayed from the silence/contemplation theme, the stronger points more than made up for it.

Cardinal Sarah's and Prior de Lassus's beliefs shine through - their deep faith reminds me that we all share a strong bond. Our beautiful faith helps us transcend our all-to-human disagreements and divergent opinions.

message 6: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4202 comments Mod
No one is truly inactive Gerri. We participate as we can. I'm glad you read this book and thank you for your well formulated thoughts. I still have to put my final assessment together.

As to right and left, I try to minimize controversial subjects here at Catholic Thought that divide us. I think of this book club as our little monastery away from the fragmented world. Cardinal Sarah thinks in terms of silence versus noise; I tend to think in terms of cohesion versus fragmentation. ;)

message 7: by Gerri (new)

Gerri Bauer (gerribauer) | 213 comments Thanks, Manny. I love your description of the club as "our little monastery away from the fragmented world." It truly is. I'm with you 100 percent on cohesion versus fragmentation.

message 8: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4202 comments Mod
I posted my review, but I'll provide a copy here:

The Power of Silence is an important book for our age. T.S. Eliot in is his masterpiece work, The Four Quartets summarized the state of humanity in the modern world as “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Cardinal Sarah has a variation on this theme: that in the modern world a dictatorship of noise has descended upon mankind and, indeed, has enslaved mankind. This noise has altered our fundamental relationship with God and has led to the pernicious condition of our souls. Eliot looks at the symptom, distraction; Sarah identifies the infecting virus, noise.

There is something to be said of this. I remember many years ago reading about the Native American’s first reaction to the sound of a firearm when first encountering Europeans. They had never heard a sound so loud that it disturbed to their core. It was a sound that felt like a cleaving slice. Nature does not provide any such sound, at least not on a routine basis. And the modern world is full of such sounds. We are rarely without sound, rarely allowed to have a wholesome composed time to commute with the divine, and rarely allowed to hear the silence that is God Himself. Sarah is most eloquent in his metaphors. “Silence is this powerful dike that controls the tumultuous waters of the world and protects from noises and distractions of all sorts. Silence is a dam that restores a kind of dignity to mankind.”

That dignity is an integrity of being, a wholeness that resists the fragmenting jolts of contemporary life. In the book, Cardinal Sarah takes us through the dictatorship of noise of our lives, through what it has done to us and to society, and what we can achieve by seeking silence. It is a little haphazardly written—or perhaps more accurately, not written in a linear fashion—and at times it feels he over stretches the argument. It is not a perfectly written book, and so it may frustrate the reader at times. But it does not diminish the book’s importance. It makes a monumental argument against the dissipation of our times.

There are lots of great quotes that are in the book. Here are a few that shows the development of Sarah's thought:

"At the heart of man is an innate silence, for God abides in the innermost part of every person. God is silence, and this divine silence dwells in man."

"In silence man conquers his nobility and grandeur only if he is on his knees in order to hear and adore God. It is in the silence of humiliation and self-mortification, by quieting the turmoil of the flesh, by successfully taming the noisy images, by keeping at a distance the dreams, imaginations, and roaring of the world that is always in a whirl, in order to purify himself of all that ruins the soul and separates it from contemplation, that man makes himself capable of looking at God and loving him."

"Persons who live in noise are like dust swept along by the wind."

"Words bring with them the temptation of the golden calf! Only silence leads man beyond words, to the mystery, to worship in spirit and in truth."

" Modern existence is a propped-up life built entirely on noise, artificiality, and the tragic rejection of God. From revolutions to conquests, from ideologies to political battles, from the frantic quest for equality to the obsessive cult of progress, silence is impossible. What is worse: transparent societies are sworn to an implacable hatred of silence, which they regard as contemptible, backward defeat."

"Silence is an extremely necessary element in the life of every man. It enables the soul to be recollected. It protects the soul against the loss of its identity. It predisposes the soul to resist the temptation to turn away from itself to attend to things outside, far from God."

message 9: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1556 comments Mod
Great comments, everyone!

I just finished this morning. We had a power outage for an hour, so I grabbed the book and read the remaining pages in silence. I thought it apt. It is amazing how quiet the house gets when no air-conditioning, no washer, no fridge rumbles. I will have to think about what I will write as a review. It is not a book easily summed up.

During my visit to my family in Germany we took a day trip to the Archabbey of St. Ottilien, a Benedictine monastery. We happened to be there during the noon hour when they sing the "noon hora", a chanting of psalms. Here the monks filed in one by one from their various tasks and seated themselves. Then the organ began and they chanted in responsorial form three psalms. Their voices filled the gothic church and we sat and listened in blissful silence.
The thought occurred to me how prayer grounds one, and how beautifully the rhythm or praying and working is lived in the monastic life. There is a great example to follow, to incorporate defined moments of prayer throughout the day - as much as this is possible.

message 10: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1556 comments Mod
I finally got around to writing my review. I kept thinking how can I give the book justice, there is so much wisdom in it, and this wisdom cannot be absorbed by one reading. For better or worse, here it is.

message 11: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4202 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "I finally got around to writing my review. I kept thinking how can I give the book justice, there is so much wisdom in it, and this wisdom cannot be absorbed by one reading. For better or worse, he..."

Good review Kerstin.

message 12: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4202 comments Mod
There is this lovely blog I occasionally visit called Vultus Christi, that's put out by one of the Benedictine Monks of County Meath, Silverstream Priory in Ireland. I hadn't been there in a while but I did just stop by and noticed he is discussing silence and using Cardinal Sarah's book. Those that have read the book might find this interesting. The closing lines of this post are: "All of these other things which Jesus did, and continues to do, are found in the silence of the Host. In a sense, the silence of adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament begins precisely where the Gospel of Saint John ends."

You can find that post here:

message 13: by Gerri (new)

Gerri Bauer (gerribauer) | 213 comments What great reviews, Manny and Kerstin, and for the link to Vultus Christi. And for selecting "Silence" to begin with. The book and the wisdom it imparts lingers with me. I've long had an admiration for the monastic life, and live my own life with many periods of silence - but not necessarily with prayer at those times. There's a part of me that - despite my comment above - wants to experience the communion with God that really does seem to be extraordinary at Vigils/Night Office. Much to ponder!

message 14: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 4202 comments Mod
I'm glad we selected this too Gerri. Glad you enjoyed it.

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