The Power of Silence

The Power of Silence

Against the Dictatorship of Noise

Book - 2017
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Now with a new afterword by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI!

In a time when there is more and more noise, and technology and materialism continue to exert their hold on us, Cardinal Robert Sarah presents a bold book about the strength of silence. The world generates so much noise that seeking moments of silence only becomes more necessary. For Cardinal Sarah, modern man, in repressing the divine, finds himself in a deep dilemma, an oppressive and anguishing trial. The Cardinal recalls that life is a silent relationship between what is most intimate in man and God. Silence is indispensable for hearing the music of God: prayer arises from silence and returns to silence with ever greater depth.

In this long and profound conversation with Nicolas Diat, done within the hallowed walls of silence in the famous Carthusian monastery of La Grande Chartreux in France, the Cardinal proposes the question: can those who do not know silence ever attain truth, beauty, love? The response is undeniable: all that is great and creative is formed by silence. God is silence.

After the great international success of God or Nothing , translated into fourteen languages, Cardinal Sarah seeks to restore to silence its place of honor and importance. "Although speech characterizes man, silence is what defines him, because speech acquires sense only in terms of this silence." This is the beautiful and significant message of The Power of Silence .

In this book, Cardinal Sarah has only one aim, which is summed up in this thought from his book: "Silence is difficult but it makes a human being able to allow himself to be led by God. Silence is born of silence. Through God the silent one we can gain access to silence. And a human being is unceasingly surprised by the light that bursts forth then. Silence is more important than any other human work. For it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and others so as to place ourselves humbly and generously at their service."

Publisher: San Francisco : Ignatius Press, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781621641919
1621641910
Branch Call Number: 248.47 SAR
Characteristics: 247 pages ; 23 cm

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scribby
Nov 28, 2017

I picked up this book more or less at random off of the “new arrivals” shelf, and was immediately intrigued – though I’ve been reading it slowly (in addition to other books) to digest every paragraph.

I have noted the dual tendency in religion to be either noisy and ecstatic or quiet and contemplative; wild pagan festivals contrast with Zen meditation. The same duality occurs in Christianity: in the early 2000’s I was a member of a Pentecostal church in the thick of a revival, and experienced the craziest of enraptures (I even personally witnessed at least one miracle) but at the same time have always noticed the palpable peace at a liturgical service and felt myself drawn towards art and music that explores silence – Messiaen, Takemitsu, Cage, Monet, Rothko. This book investigates that quieter side, in which one comes to God in silent adoration. The subject is explored in much more detail than a reader might expect from such a seemingly almost null subject. There’s a whole universe in that silence. Later on, more difficult questions are brought up, such as God’s silence in the face of evil, suffering, and death – with the conclusion that God also suffers because of the evil done by people, and that suffering brings us closer to Him. My one objection is that the book relies too much on pronouncements and quotes from others through the ages, but not at all on anecdotes or personal experiences by the author or others (though there are enough Bible passages and commentaries upon them to keep it authentic). This could be my own religious background showing through – I’m not Catholic – but the book is full of fascinating (and in some cases life-changing) insights nonetheless.

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dennismmiller
Aug 19, 2017

In this remarkable book-length interview, Cardinal Sarah launches an assault against the "empire of noise" that, he warns, threatens to colonize our minds and souls. Sarah's message is equal parts admonition, exhortation, and challenge. In his view, modern man is sunk in a sea of noise both as the result of his membership in a society driven by mass consumerism and as a deliberate choice to narcotize himself from the problems of thought. As the power of noise has grown, so our public life has become increasingly dominated by the "raving madness" of demagogues and activists. Meanwhile, the "buffered self" is insulated against the transcendent by a cocoon of noise. Truth, goodness, and beauty cannot be seized - they must be received, and this requires contemplation, and contemplation requires silence. Modern man's bottomless appetite for novelty alienates him from the eternal and enslaves him to the ephemeral.

Worse still is modern man's sense that he himself must be a noisemaker, the consequence of a fixation on action at the expense of contemplation, on doing at the expense of being. This preoccupation extends even to prayer and the liturgy, driving out all sense of mystery and the sacred with banal talk and insipid music. Cardinal Sarah finds in the silence of the Divine the meekness of God and the root of human freedom. In silence we participate in the silence of the Incarnation, of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Gethsemane, the silence before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate, and finally the silence of the cross and the tomb, and in that silence we encounter a God who suffers with us and for us. Silence is at the heart of communion and therefore of all authentic community - it is in silence that we offer ourselves and in silence that we accept what is offered us.

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