The eighth chapter of The Compassion of the Father is an essay entitled “The Theology of Language and the Language of Theology.” In it Father Boris Bobrinskoy begins by noting that this is not simply a play on words, but rather a serious reflection on the theological nature of language which is rooted in the speech of God, but also in the relationship between word and silence.

the theology of the Word must be founded first on the mystery – simultaneously unfathomable and revealed – of the eternal generation of the Son, the Word of God, inseparable from the Spirit. For it is not possible to think of the Son engendered by the Father without thinking, at the same time, of the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the resting of the Spirit on the Son.

St Ignatius of Antioch, in the second century, wrote, “The Word proceeded from the silence of the Father.” Likewise, his contemporary, St Irenaeus of Lyons, wrote, “The Father is the invisible of the Son and the Son is the visible of the Father.” Here we have two basic functions of human nature – and therefore divine – which are the word and the image, hearing and seeing. There is a reciprocal relationship between the visible and the invisible, between the image and the prototype, between the word and silence. This fundamental relationship penetrates into the mystery of the word. Not only does the word arise from silence, but it also contains silence and sends us back to the abyss of the mystery of God, beyond all understanding and all words. Silence constitutes the necessary transcendence of the word and its essential reference. The word is not word if it does not refer to a reality beyond itself. That is as true for the symbol as it is for the icon.

In the Prologue to his Gospel, St John writes, “No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son who is close to the Father, who has made Him known” (Jn 1:18). Here we have the silence of the Father, who carries the Son in His eternal bosom and who “speaks” Him in the eternal generation, as Psalm 2 suggests, “You are my son, today have I fathered you” (Ps 2:7). He speaks an eternal word, a word of love, and a word that engenders endlessly. Beyond the word that the Father is, there is the interiority of fatherly silence in the Son Himself: “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30). The creative word of the Word wells up, too, from the silence of the Father and carries out the Trinitarian plan of creation in the Holy Spirit. Through the revealing words of the Word, God enters into a dialogue with the creature. The dialogue that is established introduces into the ineffable mystery of vision and communion, beyond all language. Thus the word of God must germinate in the silence of our hearts, in the deepest recesses of our inwardness. There is a link here between the initial and ultimate silence of the trinitarian mystery and the tomb of Christ, that is, death and resurrection. According to the words of Christ: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds” (Jn 12:24). (133-135)

This creative activity is not something that He does from without, but rather from within.

The creative Word keeps the creature in stable well being, not through the outside force of a dues ex machine, but from the inside. At the foundation, the indivisible core of created things, are the logoi, the reasons for beings, which are contained altogether in the Logos. Philaret of Moscow said: “All creatures are balanced upon the creative word of God, as if upon a diamond bridge: above them is the abyss of divine infinitude, below them that of their own primordial nothingness.” The word of God is active to the highest degree in a human being created in the image of God. Isaac of Syria said, “God created man through the Word; the angels He created in silence.” The word creates a bond of friendship and establishes a capacity for a common language between the human being and God, a language well beyond our awareness and our intellectual perception. Created in the image of God, the human being’s ultimate vocation is to the resemblance inscribed in the first dynamism of human life. (135)

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