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Sacred Silence in the Liturgy May 25, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, Latin Mass.

New Theological Movement has a post up regarding an aspect of the Liturgy of Mass that is often sadly lacking in many celebrations – Sacred Silence.   According the the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, there are numerous times during the Mass when silence is to be observed.  These include but are not limited to, after each reading (to reflect on its meaning), after the sermon/homily, and after receiving Communion.  In most of our Catholic churches today, these periods of silence are either non-existent or very truncated.  Venerable Pope John Paull II wrote in Spiritus et Sponsa:

An aspect which it is necessary to cultivate with greater attention within our communities is the experience of silence. […] The liturgy, among its various moments and signs, cannot obscure that of silence.

Then Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) stated:

Let us become always more clearly conscious that the liturgy also implies silence. To God who speaks we respond singing and praying, but the greatest mystery, which goes beyond all words, calls us also to be silent. It must undoubtedly be a full silence, more than an absence of words and action. We expect from the liturgy that it provide for us the positive silence in which we find ourselves

One aspect of the changes introduced by Vatican II that I think has been misinterpreted, or misapplied, is the idea of ‘active participation.’  With the Extraordinary Form of Mass, the people do not make all the responses that are used in the Novus Ordo.  There was an idea to add these responses to encourage ‘active participation.’  But, this view misses the point in the sense that, there are many forms of active participation, and simply repeating by rote responses one has made 3000 times may not be the fullest form of participation.  There has been a tendency among some to denigrate the ‘lack of participation’ by the faithful in the Extraordinary Form, but if one attending the Extraordinary Form is praying intently to God, trying to prepare oneself to receive the Blessed Sacrament and expressing one’s great wonder at receiving such a Gift, is this not an active participation?  Even sitting in total silence and simply trying to hear God is a very concious act of participation. 

I know some priests read this blog, so I ask in charity for them to consider the amount of silence in the Masses they celebrate.  Yes, I know all priests are very pressed for time, with many large parishes having one Mass following the other in short order on Sunday, but adding 3-4 minutes to Mass to incorporate these periods of silence may be something worth considering, even prayerful contemplation, to determine if it can be done.  The instructions from the GIRM are not just general rules, but are guidelines for intended to optimize the worship experience of all involved.  These periods can also add a certain gravity, to create tension, if you will, as the Mass builds towards its great Summit, the Eucharist.  Silence can add a sense of the Sacred, which is something so missing in some of the Masses celebrated today. 

And let us all continue to pray for our priests, that they may be inspired by the Holy Spirit to challenge us and lead us to a greater piety and understanding of our Faith.

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