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Philosophy and Theology

Volume 31, Issue 1/2, 2019

Grace Mariette Agolia
Pages 223-249

Words into Silence

This essay explores Karl Rahner’s use of silence throughout his writings in relation to central themes of his theology. First, in his reflections about encountering the silent mystery of God in prayer, Rahner discovers that this painful silence may indeed be sacramental of God’s abiding nearness, inviting us to greater faith, hope, and love. Second, Rahner engages the transcendental character of this relationship between grace and freedom through the silence that permeates the existential divine-human dialogue. Third, Rahner’s meditations on Jesus, the silent Word, reveal how Jesus’s surrender in freedom to God’s silence enables our own response to God and participation in Jesus’s salvific “death-into-resurrection.” Fourth, Rahner elucidates the role of silence in ordinary mysticism; patient forbearance, bold proclamation, and love of neighbor are all opportunities for experiencing the grace of the Holy Spirit in everyday life. Finally, these themes converge in Rahner’s thoughts about the importance of silence in the spirituality of the theologian.

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