The Silence of God during the Passion

This volume is a great example of biblical meditation as Daniel looks behind the words on the pages of the different gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, examining them through the lens of a particular concern — At first sight [the Father’s silence]during the Passion has something troubling or even shocking about it since it seems the silence of absence. It may seem troubling, but we need to pass over this first impression; when we consider it a little more closely, approaching it in prayer, the silence is revealed as extremely rich, of surprising beauty, of such depth of humble love as to turn our ideas upside down, and we become immersed in the silence of contemplation and adoration.

The theme is explored in 9 passages or under 9 headings. 1. The way Jesus talks about his coming death, avoiding mentioning his Father as having a role. 2. The parable of the vinedressers, as found in all three synoptic gospels – ‘perhaps,’ the father says, ‘they will respect my son.’ 3. Gethsemane, where, though Jesus addresses the Father, the Father does not openly reply. 4. Before the Sanhedrin, where, in a subtlety of the text referring back to Leviticus 24, we find a door open, provided by the Father, for the Sanhedrin to reconsider. 5. Before Pilate, where scarcely noticeably, God again intervenes to offer a way at as he visits Pilate’s wife in a dream. 6. The person of Simon of Cyrene, a fatherly figure, helping Jesus bear his cross. 7. On the cross itself, where Jesus is granted the comfort of the ‘penitent thief.’ 8. In the actions of another individual, Joseph of Arimathea, caring for Jesus’ broken body. 9. In Psalm 22.

I would say this book is a profound theological statement about the Cross. Perhaps I shouldn’t pick out particular passages in a very consistent, strong work, and in fact, when I think about it, I can’t really, although I have found parts 6 and 7 notably excellent! This is probably along with 3 or 4 others, the most strongly recommended of Daniel’s books.

God’s silence during the Passion is his silence before men, to be sure, and particularly before Christ in his perfect and total humanity, but it is not this alone; there is much more; it is also the Father’s silence before the Son, which is to say, it is a silence instinct within the inexpressible mystery of the Trinity . . . It is here that the silence is transfigured; it comes before us as infinitely more profound than the silences of earth. It is a silence beyond words and beyond all silence, a silence of unfathomable depth, that of Trinitarian intimacy. Who am I to speak of this? What could I say? Nothing, except that, since in God everything is love, including his silence, it cannot be other than a silence of love, the silence of the Father’s ineffable love for the Son . . .

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