Unless we revitalize our liturgical worship, no other aspect of a New Evangelization will have any lasting effect.
Dan Burke wrote at the National Catholic Register:
The Devil’s War On Silence in Mass
A consistent thread in the resulting dialogue from my post “The Devil’s War On Silence” was on the common problem of the disturbing absence of silence in Mass. This is clearly a challenge that is very familiar to the majority of faithful Catholics.
Frequently, the noise assaults us right when we enter the church — from the choir, the parishioners and other sources. This despite the fact that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) clearly outlines the critical importance and specific instructions for the place of sacred silence in the Mass:
“Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times,” the GIRM says. “Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.
Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (#45)
The most important portion of this instruction is contained clearly and elegantly in the last line, and it’s worthy of repetition: We need silence “so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” Here we have the wisdom of the Church, as the Holy Spirit leads us to eschew all human priorities outside of God and to draw our hearts to the reality of this sacred encounter. The Mass finds its ultimate purpose in the condescension of God to meet with us and nourish us — and for us to respond in a manner worthy of this gift of all gifts.
It stands to reason that our behavior at Mass will be proportionally devout to the degree we believe this meeting of heaven an earth is actually happening. In contrast, those that see the Mass as a kind of religious social gathering — and harbor disbelief or lack proper instruction — will see no need for such formality, and will act accordingly.
What Is the Answer?
Those who do know the proper reality should lead by example and teach it in a way that is focused first on the reality of God present, and then on how we should respond. This cannot be done in a spirit of condescending traditionalism that worships tradition (as did the Pharisees). Instead, it must be done in a spirit of love that recognizes the power of liturgical tradition to aid and order the heart of the believer toward offering just praise to our most merciful and deserving God.
Those who are not called or able to teach (Note: almost no one in the Church falls into this category) should emulate the behavior they desire, but without the negativity often flowing freely from those who worship at the altar of traditionalism. Yes, we must live out our love for God in our reverent worship and love those who have yet to know the benefit of sound formation or maturity. For those who turn others away from God by their bad attitudes will be judged by a higher standard than those who know far less or who have yet to effectively live out what they know. Need convincing? Take a look at Matthew 18:21-25 for a glimpse at Jesus’ perspective on the wrong approach to this kind of situation.
So What Does the Devil Have to Do With All of This?
You can read the rest there.
In his Spirit in the Liturgy, Joseph Card. Ratzinger wrote of liturgical silence:
We are realizing more and more clearly that silence is part of the liturgy. We respond, by singing and praying, to the God who addresses us, but the greater mystery, surpassing all words, summons us to silence. It must, of course, be a silence with content, not just the absence of speech and action. We should expect the liturgy to give us a positive stillness that will restore us. Such stillness will not be just a pause, in which a thousand thoughts and desires assault us, but a time of recollection, giving us an inward peace, allowing us to draw breath and rediscover the one thing necessary, which we have forgotten. That is why silence cannot be simply “made”, organized as if it were one activity among many. It is no accident that on all sides people are seeking techniques of meditation, a spirituality for emptying the mind. One of man’s deepest needs is making its presence felt, a need that is manifestly not being met in our present form of the liturgy. For silence to be fruitful, as we have already said, it must not be just a pause in the action of the liturgy. No, it must be an integral part of the liturgical event.
There is an old adage in theatre: Everything is nothing. If the whole set is red, you stop looking at it. If the volume is nothing but loud, you stop listening. If there is constant noise, sound, something to hear and process, you tune out.
However, there is a greater purpose to silence in liturgical worship. There is apophatic dimension of worship which must be fostered. We need to be able to experience mystery between the signs, just as Moses had a glimpse of God through the crack in the rock.
Meanwhile, remember what Screwtape said about silence and noise:
Music and silence – how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell – though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express – no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise – Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile – Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress. Meanwhile you, disgusting little -
[Here the MS. breaks off and is resumed in a different hand.]
This is what Screwtape in his rage accidentally transforms himself into a giant centipede. Nasty.
If the Mass you attend regularly has little or no silence… you need to make a change. A Mass that has no silence in it, that is constantly at you to pay attention to something in an invasive way, to force you into the wrong sort of “active participation”, is sort of like a giant demonic centipede crawling its way into your head.
BTW… did you know that John Cleese did an audiobook reading of The Screwtape Letters? Marvelous.