Into Great Silence [2005]

For 162 minutes the outside world is invited to get a rare glimpse into the life of the reclusive Chartreuse Monks. We are immersed into their order, discipline, and silence. There is no soundtrack in this movie except for the noise of the monks as they go about their daily lives. Instead we are left with our own inner dialogue as we are slowly lulled into the rhythm of their routines.

I didn’t quite know how to watch this movie. There is no real plot. There is no sound. We are simply ushered into their lives through the beauty of the mountains, their grounds and their home, built in the 11th century. Everything they do has been done in the exact same way for centuries. There is a methodical routine to their lives – they pray at designated hours even in the middle of the night, they mainly eat alone, and they spend hours reading.

At first I was intrigued by the simplicity of their life but I couldn’t get my brain to shut off. I had a million questions. What is the point of what they do? How does it serve mankind? Isn’t it selfish to keep all they have learned about God to themselves? Why would someone in 2007 join a monastery? Are they running from something? Does their mind wander when they pray? Do they get lonely? Can they change their minds and leave? How do they get medical care if they aren’t allowed to interact with seculars? Do they mind losing their identity? Do they get irritated with each other, even though they only see each other for weekly meals and walks in the woods? Why do the beautiful grounds and surrounding seem like a prison?

I tried ponder their ways and let myself be open to the experience. I just got antsier and my mind was still whirling.

With an hour left to go my brain started to slow down and I began to see their life in a different way. Everything they do is centered on God. The goal of everything is to help them better understand who he is. The simplicity of their lives, even their sameness is all to reflect who he is. I realized that their lifestyle of silence is worship.

Then I found myself asking different questions. How do you get to that place of surrendering to God’s presence? What is God trying to tell me now that I can’t hear because my life is too noisy? Do I want God that intimately connected to my life? Do I live my life like I do? What things do I need to abandon because they are just noise?

With about twenty minutes left in the film I finally just surrendered to it. I found myself at an odd place of calm and peace. I had no more questions, I just watched. My mind was at ease.

It reminded me of a silent retreat I went on in grad school. I only had to be silent for 8 hours. It took me about 6 hours to stop trying to control it, one hour to relax and stop talking. How said that it took me seven hours to shut up and listen to God. But that is how long my mind kept wandering, I keep being distracted by my surroundings, and I kept thinking of things to say. I only spent about 20 minutes resting in God’s presence. I was bathed in his love and the holy spirit ministered to me. It was amazing. it felt like hours but it wasn’t. I was so rested when I was done, and I only gave him 20 minutes. Imagine if I could do more.

I need to make a point of practicing the spiritual discipline of silence before God to experience more of his presence in my hurried existance. How much more would I enjoy of life when I approach things from a rested, non-fragmented place that is saturated with God’s presence. Imagine serving from a place of overflow instead of deficit, when I giving from the abundance that God gives to me instead of relying on the fumes.

I just feel its important for us to stay connected to what God is doing among us now. He is speaking to us and inviting us to be part of what he is doing in the world. We can’t stay secluded forever. God has a called us through the great commandment and the great commission to reach out into all the world with his love to tell them the good news of what he has done. But we have to make sure we’re taking the time to hear his voice.


About Marti

After a year-long sabbatical in Southern California I am returning to Ohio to try and resume my life. Who knew you went home again to start living.

Posted on April 5, 2007, in Pop Culture, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I really want to see this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – insightful as always.

    I am fond of a book called “In This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden. It is a fictional account of a successful career woman in the 1940s/1950s who leaves it all behind her to join a Benedictine convent; the people around her, and she herself, ask many of the questions you pose about cloistered life.

    You wrote about how the movie eventually put you “in an odd place of calm and peace.” This is what happens to me when I read this book. I am very quiet (hard for me to do – hee hee) for many days after reading it.


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