Thursday, January 11, 2018
SILENCE! PLEASE...PRETTY PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE WITH A CHERRY ON TOP....
This past Wednesday at Pope Francis' audience where His Holiness is having a series of classes on the Mass, Pope Francis suggested adding contrived silence to the Mass in all the places that I was taught to do so in my seminary education in the 1970's. It is laudable, but misses the mark as far as this most humble priest is concerned.
By the mid 1970's many progressive liturgists began to hear the complaints of those who remembered quite well the ancient form of the Mass recently suppressed for the majority of the Church throughout the world, that the new and "improved" Mass has too much talk, is too verbal and too sing songy.
So it was recommended by these liturgists at national workshops that parishes add some silence to the Mass. But where and how long?
Initially it was long periods of silence after the "Let Us Pray" of the Collect; after the first reading, after the Psalm, after the second reading and then after the homily, and after Holy Communion. It was a contrived silence and usually people were sitting rather than kneeling in prayer.
And it was long--sometimes one minute to two minutes to three. It was boring and the laity and the priests began to become unpleasantly annoyed by it. So the length of time was shortened to about as long as it takes to say an Hail Mary for the readings and an Our Father for after the homily and Holy Communion.
Of course there was no consistency from parish to parish. Some had silence others didn't. Some had long silences and others had short.
IT WAS ALL CONTRIVED SILENCE AND WHILE PEOPLE WERE SITTING AND MOST LAITY THOUGHT SOMEONE HAD FORGOTTEN TO MOVE ON WITH THE NEXT PART OF THE MASS!
This happens at major Masses at St. Peter's either outside or inside begun by Pope Benedict and continued by Pope Francis. I experienced the outside several times over the last four years. And yes, after the homily and after Holy Communion, commentators for several languages comes on and says we are going to have some silence so that the congregation won't think someone is sick or has forgotten to do something. And yes, it is long and it is too long and it is much too long and we all were getting antsy!
But with the recently suppressed Ancient Mass, silence was built into actual liturgical prayer and thus was seen as integral rather than contrived. While there were other points of silence, the Grand Silence was the praying of the Roman Canon--with all of its quiet sign language only interrupted by the bells (suppressed by many in the new and "improved" Mass) and the occasional raising of the priestly voice during the Canon.
And everyone in the congregation was kneeling for this Grand Silence and it was awesome. A sense of entering into the sacred of the sacred was occurring and it produced reverence and fear of the Lord.
Today's silence in the new and "improved" Mass is contrived and boring and there is no sense of awe but rather annoyance or wondering when will this ever end!