Contemplative silence is a fragile little flame

Cardinal Robert Sarah, writing in The Power of Silence, offers what I think is a fitting reflection for Holy Week:

“Our world no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing. Modern civilization does not know how to be quiet. It holds forth in an unending monologue. Postmodern society rejects the past and looks at the present as a cheap
consumer object; it pictures the future in terms of an almost obsessive progress. Its dream, which has become a sad reality, will have been to lock silence away in a damp, dark dungeon.

“Thus there is a dictatorship of speech, a dictatorship of verbal emphasis. In this theater of shadows, nothing is left but a purulent wound of mechanical words, without perspective, without truth, and without foundation. Quite often ‘truth’ is nothing more than the pure and misleading creation of the media, corroborated by fabricated images and testimonies.

“When that happens, the word of God fades away, inaccessible and inaudible. Postmodernity is an ongoing offense and aggression against the divine silence. From morning to evening, from evening to morning, silence no longer has any place at all; the noise tries to prevent God himself from speaking. In this hell of noise, man disintegrates and is lost; he is broken up into countless worries, fantasies, and fears. In order to get out of these depressing tunnels, he desperately awaits noise so that it will bring him a few consolations. Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer. The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence. This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God. Even in the schools, silence has disappeared. And yet how can anyone study in the midst of noise? How can you read in noise? How can you train your intellect in noise? How can you structure your thought and the contours of your interior being in noise? How can you be open to the mystery of God, to spiritual values, and to our human greatness in continual turmoil?

Contemplative silence is a fragile little flame in the middle of a raging ocean. The fire of silence is weak because it is bothersome to a busy world.”