Silence

Dear Reader,

Our dormitory chapel

We had a professor of Byzantine (Greek) chant come and give a seminar on this particular form of chant (as opposed to, say, Gregorian and Ambrosian chant). One of the most interesting things he said was:

“Silence is the height of worship.”

I agree entirely. What he said afterward was:

“Chant is a concession to human weakness.”

My immediate first thought was: “If chant is a concession, what does that make Kumbaya?”

As some might perceive, even if you’re not Catholic, there is a lot of debate today about reforming the practice of our Catholic worship (or “liturgy”). While I agree with those who think a lot of bungling led to the formation of the current form of the liturgy in the 70s and that it needs more reworking, I think that one of the best changes to the new Mass was that it explicitly called for more moments of silence.

The world would be better off if people took the time to begin each day in silent love of God for at least a few minutes.

God the Son is eternally begotten from the Father in the silence of eternity,

He was begotten at Bethlehem in silence,

and the only way He can be born in our hearts is in a spirit of silence.

 

Yours in Christ,

Br. James Dominic, OP

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  1. #1 by Dominic Holtz, O.P. on October 28, 2010 - 1:52 pm

    “While I agree with those who think a lot of bungling led to the formation of the current form of the liturgy in the 70s and that it needs more reworking, I think that one of the best changes to the new Mass was that it explicitly called for more moments of silence.”

    Brother, I presume in this that you are unaware of the far more frequent moments of silence in the classic form of the Mass, most notably (but by no means confined to) the silent recitation of the Canon. The plenitude of this silence is stunning! Said differently, the explicit use of silence in worship is *not* a special feature of the New Order of Mass/ordinary form, and if anything the amount and prominence of silence has been *reduced* by the reform.

    Pax,
    fr Dominic

    • #2 by stmichael71 on October 28, 2010 - 2:59 pm

      No, I know that well. I agree with you. I said that the new Rite “explicitly called for more moments of silence” – in other words, the new rubrics called for more moments even than the old Mass of 1962. The culture destroyed most of the other places of silence within the New Mass rather than explicit legislation against those moments of silence. I agree, though, that the non-silent canon is the biggest omission of silence in the new rite.

  2. #3 by Dominic Holtz, O.P. on October 29, 2010 - 1:33 am

    I’ll meet you half way here. It is true that the calling for a “moment of silence” (as a thing unto itself) was something new in the (now) ordinary form, and in that sense the reformed/revised order of Mass explicitly calls for more “moments of silence.” (In the classic rite, the priest himself was called to silent meditation after the reception of the Sacrament, e.g.) However, if by “calling to silence” we mean requiring that something be said or done *secreto* (i.e. silently), then the claim that the new rubrics called for more moments of silence is *not* true.

    On the one hand, the contribution of the new Order of Mass was to highlight common, prayerful, wordless silence as a thing unto itself, a part of prayer, and worthy of inclusion in the Mass. On the other hand, these moments of silence contrast with the *intrinsic* (i.e. not attributable to the culture of the 70s) verbal/audible character of nearly everything else. The unhappy effect of this general increase in the new Order of audible prayers (and here’s where culture comes in) is that the few moments of silent/inaudible prayer for the priest are often omitted by the priest himself (e.g. the prayers before and after reading the Gospel, the prayer before the priest’s reception of Communion, the prayer for the ablution, etc.) or else said aloud. The Preparation, which allows the option, was unhappily until recently (and in some places even now) always said aloud *or* oddly the priest says *nothing* instead of the silent/inaudible recitation of the prayers. In these ways, the culture of instant and immediate access has undermined and confused the deployment of silence in the new Order, but this has been made all the easier by the *exceptional* as opposed to regular use of silence in the ordinary form.

    My two cents.

    • #4 by stmichael71 on October 29, 2010 - 12:37 pm

      You’ve not met me half-way, but the entire length of the way! In short, that’s exactly what I meant and I agree with you entirely. Apart from the cultural and rubrical bungling that went into the new rite of the Mass, at least they had explicit moments of silence called for in the rubrics. That’s all I meant. Everything else about the omission of most “sub secreto” prayers and the canon aloud, etc., as well as the cultural dimension, was assumed.

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