The Role of Silence in a Mass

This was an insert in the bulletin for July 24, 2016. 

 

I said in the homily last weekend that I would put something on silence in the next bulletin. I found this on the Eternal Word Television Network website.

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: What is the role of silence in a Mass? When should there be silence? — J.C., Perth, Australia

A: Silence has a very important role to play in the celebration as indicated by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 45. "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 [to] 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."

To this we would add that silence should also be observed after Mass until one is outside the Church building, both for respect toward the Blessed Sacrament, and toward those members of the faithful who wish to prolong their thanksgiving after Mass.

The specific periods of silence recommended in the GIRM encourage a general atmosphere of interior and exterior silence for all the participants at Mass.

This silence should be sought while listening to the readings, the homily, or the proclamation of the Eucharistic and other priestly prayers. This helps quiet our imagination, our worries and our toils so as to join our hearts to the prayers and be fully attentive to whatever the Holy Spirit should inspire in us. Thus silence at Mass is an active, not a passive disposition.

This form of interior silence does not impede, and indeed favors, full and active participation in those parts of the celebration where the community is united in acclamation and song, for each person is more fully aware of what he or she is doing.

Our modern world is starved of silence and Holy Mass should be a privileged moment to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and, through worship and participation in Christ's eternal sacrifice, become capable of giving an eternal value to these same daily and transitory activities.

To help achieve this, we should foment by all available means the spirit of attentive and active silence in our celebrations and refrain from importing the world's clamor and clatter into their midst.

This week I will begin to ask the Musicians to start a period of silence after the communion hymn. I taught the Sanctuary song for 2 years in Totus Tuus and I am happy to hear that it has made its way to Ellsworth and Kanopolis. I plan to continue to the use the Sanctuary song at youth masses. But I want to follow the Church’s recommendation that a period of silence be observed after we have received communion. Thank you for your attention.

God bless you. –Fr. Joshua Werth