"Behold the silence: allow the Lord to speak one word in us, that He is"

I have been watching the film Into Great Silence, about the Carthusian monastery in the French Alps.

Its a very beautiful film with great depth- I’m sure many here have seen it.

There is a quotation in the film:

“Behold the silence: allow the Lord to speak one word in us, that He is”

I have been trying to find where this is from, but google only tags back to the film.

Is it from the Bible? If not, does anyone know where this is a quotation from please?

thank you for any assistance

I have this movie, I forgot that I bought it some time ago and never watched it. Thank you for the reminder, I’ll have to pull it out now.


I have that DVD also…it is awesome. I have loaned it to like-minded friends and one of them bought it for herself. It is like going on a retreat just to watch it.

I do not know where that quote is from, but I’d guess St. Bruno, the founder of the Carthusians.(maybe).

Here is a favorite quote of mine that is very similar to the one you wrote above:

“The Father spoke one WORD, which WORD was His Son, this WORD He speaks ever in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul.”

…St. John of the Cross

Hi Liza,

It is a documentary that the director was allowed to make. It comes with a story behind it that is quite interesting to read. The literature that comes with it tells all about the making of this documentary.

Yes, I know, I own it. I just have not watched it yet.


I’m not sure where that exact quote originated, but there is a great quote from the Bible that is similar:

“Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

God bless.

I agree, what a great film. I loved it!

I think this quote reflects contemplative simplicity in prayer. Words (spoken or interior thoughts) become a hindrance the closer we come to the infused.

As a side note, “The Cloud of Unknowing” speaks of this simplicity as the goal of the contemplative pray-er . . . our prayer reduced to a single syllable (ie. God or sin) that encompasses a lifetime of meaning for the individual praying in such a way.

And as Dorothy mentioned “Word” has another meaning too: Christ Himself . . . experienced by the contemplative without the need for “words” . . . in simple loving attentiveness and awareness . . . silence. (St. John of the Cross)

Dave :slight_smile:

I can’t answer where this quote came from, but it reminds me of the OT scene where Moses asked God for His Name, and God replied “I Am Who Am”. I think the original thought behind it probably comes from that.

I continue to be struck by the contemplative aspects of this.

There may come a point in time in which our vocal prayer, devotions and meditation - with its emphasis on reasoning and reflection - no longer nourishes us. We are left in a state of blind yearning . . . of intuitive knowing . . . of non-conceptual loving. Words, spiritual thoughts and introspection hinder the deep union we grasp for. Our prayer longs for “be-ing” rather than “do-ing.” To know God as He truly is . . . in profound, interior silence. Presence. Experiential knowledge . . . not abstraction. A union by participation in His love.

This, I believe, is wonderfully captured in the OP’s quote:

And another take on this same contemplative realization . . .

[quote=Cloud of Unknowing/Book of Privy Counseling]See that nothing remains in your conscious mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God (what he is like in himself or in his works) and keep only the simple awareness that **he is **as he is. Let him be thus, I pray you, and force him not to be otherwise. Search into him no further, but rest in this faith as on solid ground. This awareness, stripped of ideas and deliberately bound and anchored in faith, shall leave your thought and affection in emptiness except for a naked thought and blind feeling of your own being. It will feel as if your whole desire cried out to God and said: “That which I am I offer to you, O Lord, without looking to any quality of your being but only to the fact that **you are **as your are; this, and nothing more.”

Dave :slight_smile:


What you said in your first paragraph is something that a lot of people go through and, without spiritual direction, do not get into silent prayer and listening to the Lord. They are not aware that the Lord is calling them to deeper prayer, and that they need to let go of their imagination, words, etc. Perhaps not entirely letting go, but beginning to learn how to listen to and rest in the Lord.

Also, thank you for what you wrote from “The Cloud of Unknowing”.

So true Dorothy! And what you say is the great lament of St. John of the Cross . . . that soul’s never come to realize that God calls all of us to contemplative prayer. If we just learn to listen!

I was thinking about how the Carmelite’s treat the progression in prayer that leads us, God willing, to contemplation. Some modern authors (Susan Muto in particular) have described the ascetic and mystical aspects of St. Teresa’s concept of the mansions. The mystical side is concerned with our way of prayer . . . and how it slowly, almost imperceptibly proceeds toward interior silence. If we don’t resist!

As Susan Muto describes, mansion 1 pertains to vocal prayer and mansion 2 to meditation. Mansion 3 covers the whole gamut of simplified prayer encapsulated in “The Cloud of Unknowing” quote. This way of prayer goes by many names . . . active recollection, acquired contemplation, the prayer of simplicity, the prayer of heart. Brief aspirations (or mono-syllabic prayer) become our norm until it becomes an habitual sense of presence . . . prayer that is continuous; almost like breathing . . . the way of Brother Lawrence and his “Practice of the Presence of God.” Simplified prayer like this, of course, pre-disposes us for even deeper prayer . . . the infused contemplation of mansion 4 and beyond.

Our spiritual state when we’re living this simplifed prayer (and on the cusp of infused prayer) directly relates to what St. John of the Cross teaches about the active night of spirit in Book 3 of “The Ascent of Mount Carmel.” This is when we learn to detach ourselves from the seductive pull of our thoughts and feelings . . . which, like a cancer, seek to pull us away from the more interior way of prayer God is calling us to. Our sense of “self” . . . through indulging the thoughts and feelings that run through our mind keeps us firmly rooted where we are at . . . instead of accepting God’s subtle invitation to us. This, in St. John’s teaching, is how we resist and deny His grace. And thus, our struggle in the active night of spirit to minimize resistence through progressive interior detachment is closely aligned to his teaching on the passive night of sense (Book 1 of Dark Night) . . . when God takes over in this work to bring us to the silence he so much wants to give.

Letting go and resisting the temptation to “do” rather than “be” is the art of spiritual detachment, imo. And this letting go is what “The Cloud of Unknowing” is all about. It is an extremely practical guide and a wonderful complement to the Carmelite masters. St. John’s “Ascent” shows what to do and why . . . “The Cloud” shows us how to do it.

My best to you,

I like the 1 Kings 19 verse similar to this:

  • And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. *

That is one of my favorite quotes from the Old Testament. It is often used by the Carmelites who have Our Blessed Mother and Elijah as their models.

thank you to every one for their responses.

I will try and find if St Bruno’s writing’s are available in book form as I suspect you may be right Dorothy, and the quote may come from him.

Interesting discussion in the posts above.

The quotation resonated with me in a slightly different way:

“Behold the silence: allow the Lord to speak one word in us, that He is”

I’m in a bit of an arid phase at the moment.

So for me the “silence” in the quotation is perhaps a negative quality- ie the silence in my heart (where previously a burning sense of faith was)- as opposed to the silence of contemplative prayer.

And so the remainder of the quotation is very hopeful to me- ie I read it as :

if I would only faithfully contemplate the reality of God’s existence, the enormity of the reality “that He is” will prevail.

The use of the word “allow” in the quotation is interesting- it implies that there needs to be an act of will. Sometimes faith is an act of will.

T S Eliot writes beautifully about this in The Dry Salvages, contrasting the moments when he apprehend the reality of God with the much more prevelant experience he encountered of spiritual dryness and commending:

“and the rest is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action”

Alternatively I do see now that the “allow” is the opening of the door caused by willed silence within ourselves in the contemplative tradition noted by other posters in this thread. Ie, if we are quiet God will speak in our hearts?

I havent explained it very well, but in essence I think the quotation also speaks very powerfully to those struggling with faith or encountering “arid times”.

As noted above I suspect that I have misread the quote from its original intention, but it resonates for me in this way nevertheless at the moment :slight_smile:

Sovegna Vos,

You may want to join this group I belong to on Yahoo:


They may help you in finding St. Bruno’s writings.


^ thank you.

You’re very welcome. :slight_smile:

Hi Sovegna vos -

You expressed yourself very well! And parts of what you said really resonated with me so, for better or worse, I post one more time :slight_smile:

Airidity is very much a part of all this. And as our Saints teach us, the important thing is to discern the cause of our dryness. Is it due to our lukewarmess, weakness or even sin? Or is it due to God changing something in us? Your words, perhaps, point to the latter.

One of the many thing God does in us (passively) is to change and deepen our way of prayer . . . and this comes with much airidity and interior suffering. One the one hand, we might sense an attraction or pull toward silence and solitude . . . on the other hand, we might be fearful or even repulsed by it. The reason? It is new and brings (for the moment) none of the satisfaction, fervor and consolation of our “old” way. We might even think we are wasting time . . . indulging mere idleness.

Despite how this sounds, it is all normal and good! A sign God is doing much good in us.

If this speaks to you in any way, please read St. John of the Cross’ famous “three signs” for discernment (Book 1, Chapter 9 of Dark Night) and our proper conduct at such times (Book 1, Chapter 10 of Dark Night):


Maybe it will provide helpful encouragement!

Dave :slight_smile:

"Behold the silence: allow the Lord to speak one word in us, that He is:

I tried to find where this may have come from but found nothing.

It may be from a Carthusian and quoted in their rule of life or some other area in their world.


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