Silence and the Word

One of the books I am currently reading is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, written while he taught in an underground seminary during the Nazi period in Germany.  In it Bonhoeffer talks about many matters related to Christian community,  as well as the role of personal prayer.

Bonhoeffer addresses what he perceives to be a “negative attitude toward silence which sees it as a disparagement of God’s revelation in the Word.”  His response seeing silence as “a mystical desire to get beyond the Word” misinterprets silence.  He writes

This [view] is to miss the essential relationship of silence to the Word.  Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God.  We are silent before hearing the Word because our thoughts are already directed to the Word, as a child is quiet when he enters his father’s room.  We are silent after hearing the Word because the Word is still speaking and dwelling within us.  We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to God.  We keep silence solely for the sake of the Word, and therefore not to show disregard for the Word but rather to honor and receive it.

He goes on to describe Christian silence as “humble stillness, that may be interrupted at any time for the sake of humility.  it is silence in conjunction with the Word.”

Bonhoeffer’s words are a reminder that the Word matters, but so also does the stillness that allows the Word to speak to us, to know what it is that God’s Word has to say to us individually.