Monday, June 23, 2008

Prayerful silence or waiting?

This is not unrelated to the previous post.

There is a lot of talk by liturgists about silence in the liturgy today, the need to "create" silence.

I try to follow what might be defined as best practice by modern liturgists, and introduce silence after the "Oremus" before the prayers, introduce it in the bidding prayers before the "Lord hear us", occasionally use the option of silent offertory prayers. I used to have a much longer period of silence after Holy Communion but recently I have started to think that what I think is prayerful silence is for most people simply waiting, waiting for me to do something.

A former Abbot of Caldey once expressed surprise that a group of university students had asked, “Father when do the monks actually pray?” His surprise was because they had spent a week living alongside, working, attending the Office and Mass with the monks.

I think there is a real problem many people have with integration of personal and liturgical prayer. It is perhaps easier with the use of the Missal of John XXIII and its silent Canon or the Byzantine rites when the Canon is in silence, the Royal doors closed and the veil drawn, and prayerful hush descends on the congregation.
Pope Benedict in his book "The Spirit of the Liturgy" suggested experimenting with silence during the Eucharistic Prayer and the author suggested there was crisis with the Canon of the Mass. I do think here the modern liturgy is very seriously lacking because it depends on creating silence, which is always going to be artificial, and totally dependant on the whim, or personal interpretation of the rubrics, of the celebrant.

There is, perhaps, deeper problem, a crisis with prayer itself. We have lost the custom of silent prayer. The Catholic custom of saying prayers for a particular intention is steadily withering and vocal prayer has become f0r most people something quite Protestant under the influence of Charismaticism: Lord, we just want to bring before you...
I think this is really at the heart of the debate about participatio actuosa.

Just out of interest how do most lay people pray the Eucharistic Prayer? On the rare occasions I attend Mass rather than celebrate it, I try to ignore what the priest is saying, apart from the consecration, and try to continue the thoughts of the Sanctus or the Trisagion, or just inwardly cry out, "Holy, Holy....".


John Paul said...

I find that because the priest is facing me I want to look at what he's doing and somehow the words (apart from the consecration) actually become irrelevent. I also get annoyed now as a lot of priests like to use those mass for kids prayers which I find patronising and yet I have to keep telling myself 'I'm at mass' and try not to bother. Also mostly Mass for me now is extreamely hard; I want to be a priest and yet I sort of threw away my chance at it. I go now really out of duty rather than a want to.

Your point about silence being created rather than being apart of the liturgy is something I've never considered before, but 'key' all the same.

gemoftheocean said...

Personally, I listen intensely to what the priest is saying. I've always considered Mass to be a public prayer. I've always found it interesting that when protestants pray, they seem to take a "just me and Jesus" attitude. At Mass I've taken a "me and Jesus and all these other people too" attitude. It has always struck me, and gladdened my heart to see that at Communion time that just before Catholics receive Communion, there is a *very* narrow range of expression on the face of people receiving, regardless of age or social condition/status.

As regards "silence" if I do not assist with Communion, it's after I receive Communion. I, personally don't "need" the "waiting" post Communion after the priest has cleaned the vessels ... but I understand the priest might. :-D

As regards how one follows the Mass, I've always been interested in follow ALL the prayers of the Mass, either by responding when the people are given a response, or silently following along with the priests prayers. I really don't like it when the offertory song is sung OVER the offertory. I believe there are entire congregations, CLUELESS about what prayers are said there. And frankly, our pastor, does not, I believe actually say the prayers he's supposed to, because if he is, it's news to me, I don't see how he can given the rush he takes. If he does, he's rattlingly them off mentally. I know for a fact, the servers wouldn't get verbal cues as they should. [A retired pastor said the Mass last night, and I'm happy when he does it as he "says the black, does the red" so everything is spot on as it should be done.]

BTW, when I have occasion to attend eastern Rite services *everything* is heard and the people are very into responding when they should. The only "silent" part is right at the very beginning when the priest has the prayers of cutting the bread to be used for Communion.

It is interesting you bring up this topic. Over the weekend I was reading Mediator Dei", Pius XIIs encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy. It's too lengthy to quote in depth here, but he does go into delineating in what way the people take part in also offering up the sacrifice. [In a different character than the priest, to be sure, but they do it all the same.] If I were doing private devotions, I don't see how I could be chipping in my bit at that.

Paragraphs 89-93 are especially relevant I think. And I quote these next paragraphs in full. [my emphasis.]

"104. Let the faithful, therefore, consider to what a high dignity they are raised by the sacrament of baptism. They should not think it enough to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice with that general intention which befits members of Christ and children of the Church, but let them further, in keeping with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, be most closely united with the High Priest and His earthly minister, at the time the consecration of the divine Victim is enacted, and at that time especially when those solemn words are pronounced, "By Him and with Him and in Him is to Thee, God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory for ever and ever";[101] to these words in fact the people answer, "Amen." Nor should Christians forget to offer themselves, their cares, their sorrows, their distress and their necessities in union with their divine Savior upon the cross.

105. Therefore, they are to be praised who, with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the "Roman Missal," so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant."

Pius XII is one of my favorite popes.

Adulio said...


I don't think Pius XII's encyclical can be summoned as an approval for the way "active participation" in the Novus Ordo is handled nowadays.

And it is also the case, that people now go to mass and mouth off everything and still don't what the Sacrifice of the Mass is all about in essence. It is a myth that one even needs a missal to follow mass, because this turns into a whole farce of flapping pages to and fro and looking up, down, up, down to see where the priest is at.

St. Peter Julian Emyard's way of following mass is very efficacious and can be viewed here

gemoftheocean said...

Ottaviani: Meditation in keeping with what's going on at the sacrifice of the Mass is not out of place, the encyclical says as much, but it also says that those who can follow the missal, *should.* It states that people have different talents, and that all aren't capable of following the missal. For me to be off in a dream world would be coasting. No prayer I could make up would be better than the Eucharistic prayer being offered.

Pius XII's message is easily extended to the NO Mass, and he meant it to be the ideal for TLM too.

In the US we call it "getting your head in the game."

Father Mark said...

At the monastery of nuns where I used to be chaplain I would cantillate the words of consecration and the Per Ipsum (according to the melody given in the editiones typicae),and recite the rest of the Canon rather quietly in a subdued tone of voice. I started this after reading "The Spirit of the Liturgy" for the first time. It certainly fosters another way of entering into the Holy Mysteries.

I also asked the nuns to ring the bells at the Epiclesis and Elevation. The sacristan agreed to do it on Sundays and solemnities only. "Sanctimoniales can be frightfully complicated creatures, God love them," said he, smiling sympathetically.

GOR said...

I agree, Father, about the 'created silences'. They always seem forced to me. "Now let's meditate on the reading we've just heard...". I'm more likely to be thinking of the mangling of Hebrew names by the reader (don't people prepare the reading ahead of time and check on the proper pronunciation...?).

Also, as you don't know how long the silence will last, it is not conducive to reflection. Too long and people get fidgety - too short and reflection is interrupted.

As our pastor uses some Eucharistic Prayers which are not in my Missal (and probably not approved texts...) I have taken to following the Roman Canon in Latin during the Consecration. The Hanc igitur, Quam oblationem etc. remind me of how things used to be...

Anonymous said...

Last week I attended a Mass that was reverent and correct, traditional in many respects. The Ordinary Form was used, but the celebrant faced liturgical east. The Roman Canon was used. There were no ad-libbed interpolations, no altar girls, no deformed puppets.

Yet my wife and I -- who normally attend the Extraordinary Form -- came away troubled. The problem was that the celebrant -- speaking the Eucharistic Prayer aloud -- made it an expression of his personal devotion, speaking with exaggerated piety, with pregnant pauses and self-conscious emphasis. I don't wish to be hard on a sincere, well-meaning man, especially as he has taught me the value of the silent canon.

Jesus Christ himself is the principal actor at every mass, yet he submerges his personality to the appearance of a white translucent wafer and a cup of pale wine. Shouldn't the priest who celebrates by his authority follow his example?

The Church is wise. Knowing that even good priests can be silly fellows of poor judgment, she formerly insisted on rubrics that protected celebrants from their fallen weaknesses.


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