Why does God love silence so much?


#1

I’m very curious why God love silence so much. He did not make Mozart or Bach soundtracks the normal background to our lives on Earth. Music is going on almost all the time in movies, setting themes, developing moods, but God’s choice for the norm of creation is silence.

We have some background noises, like the wind rustling through the leaves or the gurgle of water if we’re near a river or waterfall. The crashing of waves, the pealing of thunder, the chirping of birds. God certainly likes sound and uses it in creation, in very interesting ways, to bring Himself glory.

Yet these background noises are sometimes here and sometimes not. There is no norm of noise, unless you live in the big city, which is different. But in the world as God designed it, the rule of nature is silence.

This leads me to think about the Scripture, “Be still and know that I am God,” and the fascinating truth that God is most marvelously discovered in the silence of our hearts.

The Catholic mystics found Him there. They entered into recollection and passed from it into contemplation, and from there even into union. These are states of ever deepening interior silence.

God can, and sometimes has, spoken to humans in an audible voice. When Jesus Christ was born, the heavens opened and a great crowd of angels was seen and heard, singing God’s glory. Yet the normal way in which God speaks to us, and the way He reaches us especially when we enter more deeply into unity with Him, is through silence.

Spiritual silence, silence of the heart, and exterior silence of the ears are God’s preferred medium to unite with us, both in the order of nature and in the order of the spirit. What does this mean? Why does God love silence so much?

I think a fragment of the answer may lie in humility. It is hard work, and requires self-annihilation, to reach God in the silence. It’s not a dramatic, flashy way of receiving unity with Him, like Paul’s vision on the way to Damascus. It forces us to get away from our five senses, and while self-abandonment is the best thing for us, it is one of the hardest things to do. It is putting God first.

I think another piece of the answer lies in faith. When we are surrounded by silence, we are called to deeper faith, for we cannot just trust what we see or hear.

Another fragment of the answer may lie in accessibility. When we aren’t listening to music, to audible noises or to our own thoughts, but are simply resting in focus on God alone, we aren’t moving through a medium. It is only Him and us. This is the best part of the answer I can think of, that God created the world in such a way that it might help us to get away from ourselves and reach Him where He is, in unity without putting ourselves first and without distractions, without any medium of sound or anything else between Him and us.

Ironically, that silence which appears to separate us from God is the doorway to achieving the deepest unity with Him. That's the main answer I can think of to answer for myself, in part, this question. Does anyone else have thoughts on the matter?


#2

Well, I do. Silence frightens me, largely because it is a reminder of death (life is never completely silent; at least you can hear your body breathe and your muscles move). Maybe that connection is necessary, in that beyond Death lies Eternity, where GOD lives.

ICXC NIKA.


#3

Father Larry Richards, in his CD "Truth" responds to this by advising that the Saints always apporached God with "speak God, I am listening", not "shut up God, I am talking", the point being, silence allows us to hear God in our hearts, souls and thoughts. To much noise, distracts us from hearing God.
And when you think about it, it is very hard to find quiet spaces in our environment, even in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Silence is one of the beauty's of spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.


#4

[quote="GEddie, post:2, topic:176865"]
Well, I do. Silence frightens me, largely because it is a reminder of death

[/quote]

Interesting. I've never thought of that before.

[quote="GEddie, post:2, topic:176865"]
life is never completely silent; at least you can hear your body breathe and your muscles move

[/quote]

You can lose track of them either in deep meditation or when you just aren't paying attention to them. We're so used to those sounds that they're easy to tune out completely.


#5

My guess is that it's because then there's no distractions, so that God can have more one-on-one time with us. For example, whenever I pray the rosary at home, my dad might be asleep with the tv on, and even with a towel stuffed under my door there's still a distraction. Or my dog might be sleeping on my bed, and then suddenly jump up in the middle of the Glory Be, and I lose focus. And everybody has things like this. To just be in nature, perhaps looking at the stars in silence, or walking through the woods, is one way to be alone with God. It's so hard to do though! Closest I've ever been to that silence is Adoration. Once it was just my mother and I, after we came in the attendant left, maybe to go to the bathroom, and how incredible!:heaven:


#6

When I read this I realized how much I have missed it. My own fault. And I hate to say it, too much CAF (it is “noise,” after all)!

Spiritual silence for me is a quiet imagination and intellect. I don’t analyze experience or imagine what God is like. Silence of the heart for me are those moments I forget my longings as I stare into the black abyss, so to speak (I don’t stare really). Exterior silence of the ears for me is when I don’t hear myself talk out loud or in my head. I just sit.

And thanks for the post. "Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child on its mother’s knee, so is my soul within me (Psalm 131:2)


#7

hmm good question!

The first thing I thought of is that silence helps us to remember to listen for God’s voice, and it also helps us to hear Him better. It’s like that stillness where only God speaks - not loudly, but quietly…


#8

I love the deep silence at St. Andrew's Abbey where I am an oblate. The presence of God is so strong in the deep quiet that it feels as if I am breathing under water. I treasure leaving this worldly place and drowning in the peace that is there... I believe that God must love it too; being alone with me.


#9

Peace to you all.
Being silence at peace with myself and with God.
I love silence I could feel Gods presence ever closer. I can drown outside noise quite simply, in my silence to be with God.


#10

All I know is that when it is silent, I can concentrate on prayers. When I mean silent, I mean no 'man made' noises, like cars, air conditioners, lawn mowers, airplanes, etc.

Now, when there are birds singing and wind blowing, or it may be raining, it makes my prayer life more fulfilling, and I don't know why. I suppose it's because the noise comes from God, whereas music, technology, etc.. comes from man. Yet, when children are playing and laughing it is calming to me too. But when adults are laughing and yelling, it really breaks my concentration.

Strange...:confused:


#11

I, for one, have never experienced true silence, and I doubt anyone on this forum has either so it seems a bit presumptious to suggest that God loves silence when we don't even know what silence is. The late composer John Cage recognized that music can be made from ambient sounds:

*What may not be generally understood about John is that he is an extremely accomplished musician who has, however, realized that we do not know how to listen. Conventional music, as well as conventional speech, have given us prejudiced ears, so that we treat all utterances which do not follow their rules as static, or insignificant noise. There was a time when painters, and people in general, saw landscape as visual static - mere background. John is calling our attention to sonic landscape, or soundscape, which simultaneously involves a project for cleaning the ears of the musically educated public.

As painters once framed "mere" landscape, John is using the ritual of the concert hall to frame silence and spontaneous sound, which we shall in due course find as beautiful as sky, hills, and forests. Imagine, then, the sonic equivalent of those places in national parks usually called Inspiration Point where tourists from Kansas exclaim at the view, "Oh, it's just like a picture!"* (Alan Watts, In My Own Way: An Autobiography)


#12

[quote="Snerticus, post:10, topic:176865"]
All I know is that when it is silent, I can concentrate on prayers. When I mean silent, I mean no 'man made' noises, like cars, air conditioners, lawn mowers, airplanes, etc.

Now, when there are birds singing and wind blowing, or it may be raining, it makes my prayer life more fulfilling, and I don't know why. I suppose it's because the noise comes from God, whereas music, technology, etc.. comes from man. Yet, when children are playing and laughing it is calming to me too. But when adults are laughing and yelling, it really breaks my concentration.

Strange...:confused:

[/quote]

The children thing makes sense to me. As I imagine you are no longer a child, your mind recieves those sounds as a kind of "nature" and "peace" outside of your life. Whereas, the laughing of adults is more of a "people" sound that must be responded to.

Or maybe, just as innocence makes ones eyes bigger (look at a portrait of our LORD) maybe the sounds of innocence are in themselves calmer.

Or it could be just that grown persons laugh louder:):)!

ICXC NIKA!


#13

Maybe not on the forum, but ask anybody who has been deaf and had their ears restored about “true silence.”

It’s not necessary anyhow. Often religious types will close their eyes to enter into prayer; but I have never known any one to plug their ears in order to do so.

Ambrose Bierce described Death as “darkness and silence.” That makes sense to me; and so I don’t find either beautiful or “Godly.”

ICXC NIKA


#14

[quote="Epistemes, post:11, topic:176865"]
I, for one, have never experienced true silence, and I doubt anyone on this forum has either so it seems a bit presumptious to suggest that God loves silence when we don't even know what silence is. The late composer John Cage recognized that music can be made from ambient sounds:

*What may not be generally understood about John is that he is an extremely accomplished musician who has, however, realized that we do not know how to listen. Conventional music, as well as conventional speech, have given us prejudiced ears, so that we treat all utterances which do not follow their rules as static, or insignificant noise. There was a time when painters, and people in general, saw landscape as visual static - mere background. John is calling our attention to sonic landscape, or soundscape, which simultaneously involves a project for cleaning the ears of the musically educated public.

As painters once framed "mere" landscape, John is using the ritual of the concert hall to frame silence and spontaneous sound, which we shall in due course find as beautiful as sky, hills, and forests. Imagine, then, the sonic equivalent of those places in national parks usually called Inspiration Point where tourists from Kansas exclaim at the view, "Oh, it's just like a picture!"* (Alan Watts, In My Own Way: An Autobiography)

[/quote]

I am sorry that you have never experienced silence...


#15

We know from the Catholic mystics that God is most intimately found in the silence, and we also have the experience that silence is the norm of creation. He didn’t put some elegant musical background all around our lives on Earth, like we do in our movie soundtracks. He made silence the norm, and running water, wind in the leaves, birds chirping etc. are the aberration. So it’s evident both from the norm of the created order, which is silence, and the teachings of the Catholic mystics that God loves silence. I’ve just been wondering why :).

I see there as something beautiful about the silence too, but the nature of this truth is far beyond my understanding. So I wonder what others think about it, what insights they might share.


#16

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:15, topic:176865"]
We know from the Catholic mystics that God is most intimately found in the silence, and we also have the experience that silence is the norm of creation. He didn't put some elegant musical background all around our lives on Earth, like we do in our movie soundtracks. He made silence the norm, and running water, wind in the leaves, birds chirping etc. are the aberration. So it's evident both from the norm of the created order, which is silence, and the teachings of the Catholic mystics that God loves silence. I've just been wondering why :).

I see there as something beautiful about the silence too, but the nature of this truth is far beyond my understanding. So I wonder what others think about it, what insights they might share.

[/quote]

I disagree with your presentation of this topic.

To say that "God loves silence" is to suggest that God somehow values silence more than that which is not silence, but we know from Revelation and from these same mystics that God values all of His creation and recognizes it all as good. What we know from these mystics is not that God "loves" silence, but that the human person is capable of finding God in stillness and in solitude. I am skeptical to say it is the only way to find God, though, for as Charles Ives says in a poem:

Music is one of the many ways God has of beating in on man --

his lifes, his deaths, his hope, his everything --

an inner something, a spiritual storm,

a something else that stirs man

in all of his parts [and] consciousness

Furthermore, sound is nothing more than a series of pressure waves. The human ear and brain work together as a miraculous transducer that turns these pressure waves into sound, just a television receiver turns invisible high frequency signals into pictures. Without at least one pair of ears present there is no sound or music, just pressure waves. Since God does not have ears, what is there for him to transduce?

I also object that the created order bespeaks of silence. I imagine the expanding universe is actually quite loud from the right vantage point. Furthermore, how can running water, chirping birds, and beating hearts be the aberration when they have become the rule?

No, God is found in the stillness of the human mind and heart, not in something called "silence." "Silence" is only a prerequisite since we are psycho-somatically affected by sound, distracted by that which is alien to us; however, since I think, as I mentioned in my earlier post, that "silence" will never be known by many of us (for how can you escape the sound of your own heartbeat or the ringing in your ears?), we must revise our definition of what it is that God "loves" and that is

*Whoever walks without blame, doing what is right, speaking truth from the heart;

Who does not slander a neighbor, does no harm to another, never defames a friend;

Who disdains the wicked, but honors those who fear the LORD; Who keeps an oath despite the cost,
lends no money at interest, accepts no bribe against the innocent. * (Psalm 15:2-5)


#17

[quote="Epistemes, post:16, topic:176865"]
I disagree with your presentation of this topic.

To say that "God loves silence" is to suggest that God somehow values silence more than that which is not silence, but we know from Revelation and from these same mystics that God values all of His creation and recognizes it all as good. What we know from these mystics is not that God "loves" silence, but that the human person is capable of finding God in stillness and in solitude.

[/quote]

True, I don't think the OP meant that God loves silence. A more precise phrase would be 'why does God want us to love silence so much?'.

I for one, have noticed the hustle and bustle of our world today that makes silence near impossible. "Be still and know that I am God" in today's world simply means, IMO and experience, settle down, chill out, turn off all your distractions, and concentrate on Me.

It makes my spiritual life so much more fulfilling if I do those things. But in truth, finding the time and actually doing those things is a lot easier said than done, especially in today's tech world. The only thing we can do is try our best. As we develop spiritually, it will become easier to 'turn off' the world while attempting to get in touch with God.

God Bless,
Snert


#18

Well Epistemes, I fully admit I could be wrong. And I agree that God loves sound as well. He made both sound and quiet! What it is God loves about sound is deserving of its own topic :). When God made creation, He said, “It is good,” and God loves what is good.


#19

By the way, it’s interesting that 99.9999999 . . . % of the universe is space, and no sound waves can travel in space. On the other hand, the sun, which to me is the most glorious symbol of God for the human race, is musical!

[quote=BBC News]‘Pipe organ’ plays above the Sun

Immense coils of hot, electrified gas in the Sun’s atmosphere behave like a musical instrument, scientists say.

These “coronal loops” carry acoustic waves in much the same way that sound is carried through a pipe organ.

Solar explosions called micro-flares generate sound booms which are then propagated along the coronal loops.

“The effect is much like plucking a guitar string,” Professor Robert von Fay-Siebenbuergen told BBC News at the National Astronomy Meeting in Preston.

The corona is an atmosphere of hot, electrically-charged gas - or plasma - that surrounds the Sun. The temperature of the corona should drop the further one moves from the Sun.

But, in fact, the coronal temperature is up to 300 times hotter than the Sun’s visible surface, or photosphere. And no one can explain why.

Fiery fountains

The coronal loops arch hundreds of thousands of kilometres above the Sun’s surface like huge fiery fountains, and are generated by the Sun’s magnetic field.

As solar plasma travels from the photosphere into the loops, it is heated from about 6,000 Kelvin (5,700C) to upwards of one million Kelvin.

Solar explosions called micro-flares can release energy equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs.

These blasts can send immensely powerful acoustic waves hurtling through the loops at tens of kilometres per second, creating cosmic “organ music”.

“These loops can be up to 100 million kilometres long and guide waves and oscillations in a similar way to a pipe organ,” said Dr Youra Taroyan, from the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC) at the University of Sheffield.

The sound booms decay in less than an hour and dissipate in the very hot solar corona.
[/quote]

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6574059.stm

The sun also doesn’t just play any old music. It creates booms that sound like organ music, which is the instrument played in Catholic churches!

I certainly think God loves music, but I think He loves silence too. The mystics will encourage a Christian to get away from sources of noise and in silence center ourselves in recollection. Entering ourselves in recollection creates interior silence, which is where God is most beautifully found.

I may have used the wrong word when I said sounds are an “aberration.” On the ocean, they are the norm. Waves make sound, and they cover most of the surface of the Earth! When you walk into a part of nature where man hasn’t really intruded, though, like mountains, a desert or plains country, it is silent. And about the whole “heartbeat” thing, our mind is designed in such a way that we tune that out almost all the time. If I’m sitting in my room meditating, I can hear nothing simply because I’m so used to the sounds of traffic outside. Technically, my body registers the sound, but I personally don’t hear it. It’s like God has designed the body to be able to create silence for itself when it can’t find a really quiet location :). And to some extent, this is always taking place.

Anyway . . . it’s just neat to me that so many large land masses where humans roam are very quiet and it’s in the interior part of the soul, in spiritual silence, that God is found. He can, of course, speak to us in an audible voice or other means, but the mystics say He is found most intimately deep in the quiet of the heart.

This quiet of the heart is IMO reflected in the silence that fills so much of the Earth.

And I know, there are lots of different terrains where this is not normal, like forests, jungles and the ocean. That is a good point. I think we could understand it better if we understood what both sound and quiet mean to God. Even in such environments as that, though, or the big city, God has created us in such a way that we can create our own silence by tuning out normal sounds.

I think it’s a very interesting issue, why God loves silence so much, myself :).


#20

Wow, reading through the posts on this thread triggered a memory and I had to share.

I heard that when movies are made a lot goes into the music so that it triggers our emotions to “feel” almost as if we are experiencing what is going on in the movie. They went on to explain that in scary movies they play sounds that if one were to listen to them with out any accompaniment you could almost not hear the sound and in some cases you could not even hear it at all. The same goes for other emotions. Composers are aware of these sound that we can hear and do not even realize we hear. I think of God as whispering into our very being in ways we are not even aware of. So maybe it is not really silence. Maybe we are just learning to hear the “sounds” that God speaks to us in. If we get really good at hearing Him we may be able to still hear Him no matter how “noisy” the world is around us.

Just a few thoughts I had to share.:blush:

Thank you for sharring yours:)


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.