At a presentation for his new book on Wednesday, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that not only does the Church need silence, but the act of being in silence and of listening to God is efficient, in its own way.
“We have seen we must talk, we must do something, we must act; but silence is an act of adoration, it is an act of goodness, so it’s not about doing something that is efficient,” said Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
“Silence is (itself) very, very efficient. It gives you the opportunity to see yourself, to listen to yourself, to listen to God.”
Cardinal Sarah said that he wrote The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise because “we need silence, not only regarding the liturgy, but even to read a book, to listen to music.”
“To have rest, you need silence,” he continued, “and silence helps one to see inside oneself.”
People are in a very “awkward” situation, he said. “We never have silence in our lives, from the beginning to the last hours of the day. We listen to rumors, news, radio, the telephone. We need silence, anyway, to meet God and to have a very human life. Man needs to be silent.”
Cardinal Sarah spoke to EWTN May 24 after a presentation on the German edition of his book, given at the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima near Piazza Navona in Rome.
The German edition is unique because it has an afterword written by Benedict XVI, marking one of the rare occasions he has spoken publicly or published any sort of document since his 2013 resignation.
This came about after Benedict read the book, Cardinal Sarah said, when he approached the cardinal to say he would like to write an afterword for the German edition. Silence “is a fountain for my spiritual life,” Cardinal Sarah recalled him saying.
“I think that Pope Benedict is very interested in liturgy. And liturgy needs silence,” he said, explaining that Benedict told him the book had moved his heart deeply. “I said: ‘I’m very honored, Holy Father, please do it.’ It was his own initiative.”
During his presentation, Cardinal Sarah said that “when creation knows how to place itself in silence, God makes his voice heard.”
If we want to combat the modern problem and confusion in the world and in the Church, the solution, he told EWTN, is that “we must pray.”
In addition to prayer, we should uphold the doctrines of the Church and the family, as well as be faithful to the doctrines, he said.
“God will give us the right way to walk, you know: [that] confusion is not a good way to live. If we see clearly the way, then we can walk with security. So I think we must hold firmly to doctrine, and pray.”
He went on to say that is hopeful about the future of the liturgy in the Church, however, because many young priests do believe in and understand the importance of silence, which gives him confidence that there could be change in the future.
In his presentation the cardinal was careful to point out that finding and making silence in our lives and liturgy wasn’t the end in itself, but “a necessary condition” for the true destination, which is communion with God.
The voice of God, he said, is “Jesus Christ, the Word, and it is precisely the mystery of the Incarnation to shed light on the divine-human relationship. And it is in this light that he illuminates also the sense of the liturgy.”
“It is the irruption of divine in the human being,” he explained. “A bundle of light that comes down to us and brightens all our darkness.”
And silence is what creates the environment which makes it possible to “welcome the incarnation.”
Closing, the cardinal said that silence is “the inner climate, the inner attitude, the inner disposition that allows all this and makes the Word of the Church fruitful.”
“To a Church that is likely to become impoverished because it can close itself in parameters of purely human judgement, I humbly allow myself to point the way of silence, so that every believer, but also every celebrating community, opens to God’s initiative and accepts all grace which comes from Him.”
Edward Pentin and Paul Badde contributed to this report.