Time of Silence

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Contemplation and practice feed each other; the two together make up the stage of silence before God. In prayer we remain speechless, we simply place ourselves before the Lord. To a degree, we remain silent in our practice as well, for in our involvements, in our daily work, we do not talk about God all the time; we do indeed live in God, but not by discoursing on God. as Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (3:7b). Silence, the time of quiet, is first act and the necessary mediation for the time of speaking about the Lord or doing theology, which is second act.

The time of silence is the time of loving encounter with God and of prayer and commitment; it is a time of “staying with him” (John 1:39). As the experience of human love shows us, in this kind of encounter we enter depths and regions that are ineffable. When words do not suffice, when they are incapable of communicating what is experienced at the effective level, then we are fully engaged in loving. And when words are incapable of showing forth our experience, we fall back on symbols, which are another way of remaining silent. For when we use a symbol, we do not speak; we let an object or gesture speak for us. This is precisely how we proceed in the liturgy; symbolic language is the language of a love that transcends words.

This is why images of human love are so often used in the Bible in speaking of the relations between God and the people of God. When two lovers fall silent and simply remain in each other’s presence, they know they are experiencing love of each other at a deeper level. Silence, contemplation, and practice are all necessary mediations in thinking about God and doing theology. Theology will then be speech that has been enriched by silence. This reflective discourse will in turn feed the silence of contemplation and practice, and give it new dimensions.

Gustavo Gutierrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent, xiii-xiv.

3 responses to “Time of Silence

  1. Wow, excellent expression of the practice of silence while both ‘sitting’ and ‘walking’

    What makes contemplation so refreshing for me I think comes from the edification of an intentional faith in the real presence of God’s spirit. I enjoy Thomas Keating’s work on the subject, but now glad to have this book mentioned by Gustavo Gutierrez.

    Thank you for the reference.

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