My friend Fr. Ray Blake, P.P of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has posted something about silence in the Mass.
Here it is with my emphases and comments.
I had a discussion with a group of priests recently on silence in the liturgy. We all thought it was necessary but for the most part absent, certainly at Sunday Mass. [Not if it’s a TLM.] Most of the priest suggested adding pauses in the Liturgy, even to the point of saying, “We are going to have 30 seconds of silence before …”. I couldn’t help reflecting that imposed silence was used as a punishment in schools when I was a child. In the Liturgy one priest’s silence becomes a whole congregations waiting. [Bingo!]
I must admit to personal problem I have of integrating personal prayer with liturgical prayer. I think it all hinges around silence, and yes, a problem with actuoso participatio. I suspect in the minds of most people there is little integration between private prayer and liturgical prayer, at best the liturgy is a form of lectio divina but isn’t really what most Catholics would identify as “prayer”. It is a problem, a very serious one. Personal prayer for most people under a certain age is silence. Sitting on one’s own, meditating, silent reading or reflection has replaced family Rosary, Litanies, the Angelus [Great observation.] and all those things which where the mainstay of Catholic prayer and although they are not liturgical, they certainly are corporate and vocal and therefore akin to the liturgy.
My friend Fr Michael Hollings used to tell the story of the shock of the Abbot of Caldey who had a group of 6th Formers staying in the monastery for a week, they joined the monks for the Liturgy and everything else, at the end of the week one lad asked the Abbot, “When do the monks actually pray?” The same question surely can be asked in most parishes: When does prayer actually take place? The readings can be read in a non-didactic prayerful way, there sermon can be preached to speak more of God than the preacher, [Amen.] intercessions can be announced in such a way that the lead us to prayer, we can use the preferred silent option for the Offertory, all this should lead to Church gathering for the most profound prayer of all, the Canon or the Eucharistic Prayer but as the Pope says in the Spirit of the Liturgy “the Eucharistic Prayer is in crisis”, his suggestion is not only a re-orientation of the Mass but also a return to the silent Canon or even silence but a with few key words as subject headings for prayer.
I have a suspicion that in ancient times, when silent reading and probably silent prayer were unknown, that the Canon was quite a noisy affair with everyone quietly vocalising their own prayer along with the priest.
One of the things that caused comment during the Papal visit was the quality of the silence at the Masses one of factor that was not commented on at the time was the Pope’s use of Latin for the Eucharistic Prayers. The use of Latin has a tendency to veil the liturgy, its incomprehensibility helps the liturgy become a sort of focused silence. There is a good article by Fr Christopher Smith over at Chant Cafe on the use of Latin.
So… how was your parish’s Sunday Mass?