Last week I gave some thoughts on music in the Mass but there was one BIG printing error.
After looking at what needs to sung at Mass I ended the paragraph by saying: ”So we should see the music in the Mass as four hymns.” It should have read, “So we should NOT see the music in the Mass as four hymns.”
This week I want to say something about silence in the celebration of Mass. Silence is a precious part of our life. Silence can speak powerfully. It is an important part of any communication. Silence is essential if we are to live fully relaxed and fulfilled lives. We often find ourselves saying “I can’t hear myself think” We fill our day with sounds and noise from the moment we awake till our head hits the pillow. Thus we deny ourselves the experience of times of silence. The Bishops of England and Wales in their 2005 document on “Celebrating the Mass” wrote: “It is particularly important to allow for silence as a part of the dialogue between God and the community of faith. It allows for the voice of the Holy Spirit to be heard in the hearts of the people of God and to enable them to unite personal prayer more closely with the word of God and the public voice of the Church” Within the Liturgy silence is not merely the absence of words, a pause or an interlude. We can see silence as a stillness, a quieting of spirits; it enables us to hear, assimilate, and respond.
For example we should have silence within the Penitential rite, and again after the priest says, “Let us pray” at the Collect. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says of the Liturgy of the Word that it should be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation and so any sort of haste should be avoided. It then suggests “ it is appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared.”
Ideally there could be short periods of silence after the First and Second readings and after the Homily given by the priest. After communion a few moments of silence helps us to praise and pray to God in our hearts.
For us at St Thomas I think there is a challenging paragraph in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. It reads, “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.” Is there any way we could respond to this recommendation? I would be interested to hear you reactions and suggestions.