Reflections on Silence and Solitude

  1. Compiled by Susan King, OCDS
    from works by:
    Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD; Pere Jacques, OCD; George Maloney; Thomas Merton;
    Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta; and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

From Listen to the Silence (A Retreat with Pere Jacques, OCD)

  1. We cannot hear the voice of God, who speaks without words, except in silence.
  2. Elijah sought solitude with God in his beloved cave at Carmel to replenish spirit through silent intimacy with God.
  3. St. Therese of Lisieux longed for the day when the spirit, the Rule, and the silence of Carmel would be fully restored.
  4. The author of Imitation of Christ tells us that there is no sense in going off in solitude or retreat if we don’t leave the self behind.
  5. Let us seek the love of truth and light, and make that light shine within us. Let us seek Christ in loving silence.
  6. In silence and solitude, let us seek to discover the limitless love of God revealed in Christ. “In the evening of this life, we will be judged by love.” (John of the Cross)
  7. “Immerse yourself in total silence during this retreat. Gaze upon Christ; as did the Virgin Mary. Thus, you will come to see Him with the eyes of your soul.”
  8. Christ sought solitude in order to be absorbed in prayer.
  9. Prayer should be our steady, supernatural method of breathing, day and night in the silence of our souls.
  10. “The Living Flame of Love” — That flame burns with infinite intensity in Christ and with brilliant brightness in the Virgin Mary in the silence of the Blessed Trinity.
  11. Every aspect of Christ’s life bears the imprint of His dignified serenity marked by discreet silence.
  12. Jesus breaks His silence and speaks only to utter words charged with this brilliant light of eternity.
  13. “The eternal silence of the infinite spaces fills me with dread.” (Pascal)
  14. God is eternal silence; dwells in silence and because He is the One, He says all and possesses all.
  15. Contemplate the Incarnation: it was accomplished in the silence of the Virgin Mary’s chamber, when she was in prolonged silence (prayer). Our Lord’s birth came during the night while all things were enveloped in silence.
  16. The Virgin Mary “kept all these things in her heart,” (Luke 2:19) meditating on them in silence.
  17. St. Bernard: “Silence is a great master. It speaks to the human heart. Silence is not an empty void; God dwells within.”
  18. Whoever embraces silence, welcomes God, and whoever relishes silence, hears God speak.
  19. During the solitary confinement of St. John of the Cross, he accepted his isolation, embraced silence and learned the true value of suffering.
  20. We entered the Carmelite Rule precisely to find silence.
  21. Silence of words in order to listen.
  22. Silence of action: moving slowly and serenely, with discretion and dignity, promoting a prayerful environment around us.
  23. Silence teaches us humility, allows us to grown in holiness.
  24. The Holy Spirit speaks only to souls absorbed in silence, in a language devoid of words, but full of love, in the secret recesses if our hearts.
  25. For a life of prayer to have its intensity and fullness, it must be wrapped in silence.
  26. A loyal silence in God’s presence, in the depths of one’s heart, about one’s self, on one’s lips, everywhere is Carmel, the Monastery of Grand Silence.
  27. Silence allows us to hear the delicate breath of the Holy Spirit who discloses to us the mystery of Christ.

From Elizabeth of the Trinity – He is My Heaven (Jennifer Moorcroft)

  1. “I would so love, my Master, to live with you in silence and do your will.”
  2. “I will remain like Mary Magdalene, silent and adoring, close to the Master.”
  3. “A Carmelite is a soul who has gazed on the Crucified and hungers for silence, that she may always listen, and penetrate even deeper into His Infinite Being.”
  4. “Alone with the Alone, I am ready to follow Him everywhere. I have within me a solitude where He dwells, and nothing can take that away from me!”
  5. “The Word will imprint in your soul, as in a crystal, the image of His own beauty, so that you may be pure with His purity, luminous with His light; the Holy Spirit will transform you into a mysterious lyre which, in silence, beneath His divine touch, will produce a magnificent canticle to Love; then you will be the praise of His Glory.”
  6. “Adoration is the ecstasy of love, uttered in profound silence; the silence that David spoke when he exclaimed, ‘silence is your praise!’ the most beautiful praise, since it is sung eternally in the bosom of the tranquil Trinity; and it is also the last effort of the soul that overflows and can say no more.”
  7. A praise of glory in a soul of silence under the touch of the Holy Spirit draws from it divine harmonies, through which suffering produces still more beautiful sounds, more delightfully moving the heart of God; like an echo of the Eternal Sanctus.
  8. “Oh my Three, my all, my Beatitude; Infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to you as your prey.”
  9. “O Virgin most faithful, you remain night and day in profound silence, in ineffable peace, in a divine prayer that never ceases, your soul ever inundated in heavenly light. Your heart is like a crystal that reflects the divine One, the Guest who dwells in you. The beauty that knows no setting. The spirit of love overshadows you, you live buried in adoration. Keep me ever in a divine embrace.”

From Inward Stillness (George Maloney)

  1. Charles De Foucald states: the Lord prays alone and at night. How sweet to speak alone with God while everything sleeps, drowned in silence and darkness, unfolding my soul to His love.
  2. God’s true silence issues from His perfection and holiness. Love expresses itself in perfect silence.
  3. Divine Love also is the silence of repose in which the Word comes back to rest in the eternal embrace of the Father.
  4. All God’s creatures were spoken in the silence of His Creative Word and His loving Spirit. Man’s greatest dignity is in having a soul that is the breath of God, the sigh of God’s heart. The Holy Spirit, breathed into man to make him a uniquely living spirit.
  5. In touch with God’s silence found in unspoiled nature, man begins to become a contemplative.
  6. Leave all noise behind. Be silent and know that I am your God.
  7. How silently a giant sequoia grows over the centuries, stretching its head toward its maker, in praise and adoration. The butterfly moves about in its beautiful silence telling us humans of the God of silence.
  8. We have forgotten that simple rhythm that God has planted within all of us that is the one with the silent rhythm found in nature.
  9. St Augustine explains: “Enter into yourself; it is in then interior man where Truth is found.” When man in silence hears God’s silence through faith, he allows God to accomplish in the secret of his heart His great work of divinizing love.
  10. One who knows that he is loved by the Holy of Holies radiates a peaceful serenity towards others that is recognized as silent joy.
  11. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes to the Ephesians: “Anyone who is really possessed of the word of Jesus can listen to His silence and thus be perfect; so that he may act through his words and known by his silence.”
  12. When one cannot put prayer into word, the Holy Spirit expresses our plea in silence and God who knows everything in our hearts understands perfectly. (St. Paul to the Romans-edited)
  13. God calls us to a silence if the heart where all artificiality crumbles, and spiritual graces are released through the uncreated energies if God.
  14. Silence takes place on different levels. Man learns to bring an exterior silence into his body, his speech, his walk, his gestures and composure radiating a deep centering interiority.
  15. Interior silence of the soul involves the interior faculties of memory, understanding and will. A deeper silence of the mind is a gift from God’s Spirit. St. Paul describes the fruit of such silence as: joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians)
  16. Our silence and solitude must be a living experience early in the morning and again in the evening.
  17. We are afraid of silence because we are afraid of self-knowledge. It is an inner state of humility and poverty. “My sacrifice is this broken spirit. You will not scorn this crushed and broken heart.” (Ps 51:17)
  18. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.”
    (Luke 1:38) [The silence of the Incarnation]
  19. The Paradox of Silence
    1. When we withdraw from noise and our own control over our lives and enter into a waiting silence before God and listen to His Word, we transition from darkness to light.
    2. As we persevere in silence, it is because of God’s great transcendence living within us that we are filled with an inner silence, the most intense manner of man communicating with God.
    3. Thomas Merton captures the paradox of emptying silence: It is a desire for nothing for self. It is pure love, pure freedom. Love that is free of everything is not held down by anything or special relationship. It is a sharing through the Holy Spirit of the infinite charity of God.
    4. Darkness and silence are the realms of the Father within the contemplative. He is the uncreated Ground of being, the abyss of mystery. To understand the basic paradox of hearing in silence, the Word spoken by God, of seeing by not seeing, of darkness that is light, of “luminous darkness,” “sober inebriation” (to quote St. Gregory of Nyssa) is a transition from knowledge to love, to turn within and accept his humility, poverty, and, in faith, accept God’s healing love.

From Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of Teresa of Calcutta

  1. In order to possess God, we must allow Him to possess our soul in silent resignation.
  2. In the silence of the heart, God speaks, therefore be a willing listener and a joyful giver.
  3. On September 10, 2946, she had a decisive mystical encounter with Christi; a second calling which she kept veiled in silence.
  4. For over 50 years, she felt emptiness, darkness, abandonment and silence in prayer.
  5. She learned to understand the suffering of Christ’s Passion and could only accept living silently the mystery of the Cross that Christ was calling her to share.
  6. She made a vow to Jesus “to refuse Him nothing.” Her questioning of the purpose of her pain and darkness was now silence in the act of supreme obedience to God’s will.
  7. “I have loved Him blindly, totally, only. I will let Him have a free Hand with me.” Only in such faith could Mother Teresa know that Jesus was there, but keeping silent.
  8. She insisted on the virtue of silence for all her nuns: To envelop in silence God’s work within her soul, as Mary had at the Annunciation, “Keeping all these things in her heart.”
  9. Not only had Mother Teresa kept a sacred silence to conceal her inner sufferings, she felt that God was doing the same.
  10. The will of the Father was that terrible silence and loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross He was completely alone. If we are true followers of Christ, we too must experience the loneliness of Christ.
  11. In silence and humility, Teresa surrendered totally to the call: “Come by my light.” It was the light and the love of Jesus Himself that radiated from her in the midst of her own darkness and had such an impact on others.

From A Search for Solitude (The Journals of Thomas Merton)

  1. My prayer for solitude is answered when my will is moved by your Spirit to reach out and find You in solitude. That desire for interior solitude cannot be acquired without a certain degree of exterior solitude. For each one is called to union with You.
  2. You have called my into this silence to be grateful for what silence I have and to use it by desiring more.
  3. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Full of Thy mercy. And I, who am nothing, have been placed here in silence to behold it and to praise Thee.
  4. This solitude confirms my call to solitude. The more I am in it, the more I love it. One day it will possess me entirely and no one will ever see me again.
  5. In the silence of my heart I know that the only desire that counts is to give yourself completely to God, with Christ on the Cross, in renunciation of all human desires and aspirations, and live for God alone in sacrifice.
  6. The truth is formed in silence and work and suffering, with which we become true. But, we soon become restless and turn aside from that silence that disturbs us (the silence in which His work can best be done). Silence then is an adoration of His Truth. Work is an expression of our humility, and suffering is born of the love that seeks one thing alone. That God’s will be done.
  7. The beautiful silence of the words on every side: How simple it is to find God in solitude. To offer God my company, my love and receive from Him his mercy. My silence becomes a unity and a prayer and is part of the whole world’s silence building a Temple of God.

To be at peace and poor and silent in the world, where the mystery of iniquity is at work and where there is no other revelation. It must certainly be the heart of a great spiritual battle that is fought in silence.

From The Spirit of the Liturgy (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

  1. The great mystery of the Consecration, surpassing all words, summons us to silence; a silence of content, a time of recollection, giving us an inward peace, allowing us to draw breath and unite with Christ in prayer.
  2. Shared silence is merging our time with His own, placing ourselves before the Lord, asking Him to transform us.
  3. During the Consecration, for a moment the world is silent; everything is silent and in that silence we touch the eternal.
  4. For one beat of the heart, we step out of time into God’s being-with-us.
  5. Before the Blessed Sacrament, we adore the Sacred Presence in silence.
  6. After Communion, the Holy Spirit dwells in our soul and speaks to our mind and heart in silence.

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