Bonhoeffer on Silence

“There is an indifferent or even negative attitude toward silence which sees in it a disparagement of God’s revelation in the Word. Silence is misunderstood as a solemn gesture, as a mystical desire to get beyond the Word. Silence is no longer seen in its essential relationship to the Word, as the simple act of the individual who falls silent under the Word of God. We are silent before hearing the Word because our thoughts are already focused on the Word, as children are quiet when they enter their father’s room. We are silent after hearing the Word because the Word is still speaking and living and dwelling within us. We are silent early in the morning because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to bed because the last word also belongs to God. We remain silent solely for the sake of the Word, not thereby to dishonor the Word but rather to honor and receive it properly. In the end, silence means nothing other than waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing. But everybody knows this is something that needs to be learned in these days when idle talk has gained the upper hand. Real silence, real stillness, really holding one’s tongue, comes only as the sober consequence of spiritual silence.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 5, 84-85


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