September 2019 Print

The Science of Silence

by a Benedictine monk

On Easter morning, St. Mary Magdalene thought that Jesus Christ was a gardener. Our Lord is very present in our life, but we treat Him as a gardener because we are concerned about the material aspects of life. In a certain way, this blinds our intelligence rendering it incapable to know God and the things of God. Silence will free our intelligence to contemplate truth. “The Truth will set you free…” It is in this spirit of truth that God is to be found and once He has been encountered, we can discover different aspects of natural truth that He Himself has created.

The Catholic clergy and religious have been very active in contributing to scientific discoveries. A few examples of some Benedictine monks that have made significant contributions to science are amongst many others: Fr. Andrew Gordon (+1751) who apparently made the first electric motor; Fr. A. Jedlik (+1895) is considered to be the discoverer of the dynamo; Fr. Fixlmillner (+1791), was one of the first astronomers to compute the orbit of Uranus. For the past 1,500 years, Benedictines have been well known for their agricultural methods, their technical advances of ironworking and woodworking, and their construction of a great variety of monasteries with very advanced technology for their time. We could ask ourselves: “How do they grasp such material thoughts in the cloister?”

St. Gregory, explaining the life of St. Benedict, gives us an answer. While contemplating God’s beauty in the middle of the night, St. Benedict had a vision of the created universe under a single ray of light. St. Gregory explains: “All creation is bound to appear small to a soul that sees the Creator. Once it beholds a little of His light, it finds all creatures small indeed. The light of holy contemplation enlarges and expands the mind in God until it stands above the world. In fact, the soul that sees Him rises even above itself, and as it is drawn upward in His light all its inner powers unfold. Then, when it looks down from above, it sees how small everything is, that was before, beyond its grasp.” Through his knowledge of God, St. Benedict was able to see all of creation in a simple glance. He understood the place of the creature within creation, enabling him to be more perfectly detached from creatures. Seeing the created universe in this new light, helps the soul to understand created things in a holy way according to the divine plan.

Once man has contemplated the beauty of God, it is much easier for him to discover truth concerning nature. A monk once wrote that contemplation is when the soul becomes immobile in admiration before something that is more beautiful than itself. In Psalm 45 we are told “Be still and see that I am God.” He who contemplates is capable of seeing nature in its true perspective before God. He understands that nature flows out from God and will lead us back to God. This wisdom will enable him to grasp the meaning of his own life with respect to God, freeing him from the illusions of pride. The contemplative soul observes the effects of creation and is able to determine the cause of these effects. Being peaceful and silent interiorly, he is able to discover more readily many hidden mysteries of nature. Technical advancement, the laws of physics and of nature in general are not invented by man, but rather discovered by him. To discover a reality we must be still interiorly in order to make the necessary observations.

The technical advances in today’s world are truly amazing, and seem to be reserved for men quiet enough in mind in order to peacefully observe the rules of creation. These laws have always been in place, but only recently discovered by clever men. There is, however, a discovery infinitely more valuable that man can make only by a gift from God. The most important discovery that man can make is to understand that God does exist, that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and that He loves us. When we understand that He really does not need us, but that we need Him, we have surpassed all material knowledge because we have entered into the supernatural realm.

We are continually surrounded by God’s beauty and truth, but it is very rare that we recognize it. Like St. Mary Magdalene, in our materialism we treat our Lord Jesus Christ like a gardener and He very patiently calls us by name. He gives us all of creation as a gift and asks us to use it with respect and love according to His plan. Just as St. Benedict looked upon creation under a single ray of light, we too are invited to look upon creation from the point of view of God. When the soul has learned to listen and to see God in every event of his life, he can observe nature and discover the mysteries of science that God has placed therein. The religious soul and the scientist share the common factor of being able to observe and discover God’s truth in creation. The art of recognizing this beauty is contemplation, enabling the soul, through silence to discover science.