Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Silence



While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven from Thy royal throne. -- (Ps.92. 1). The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself. V.: Glory be to the Father . . While all things...
This is the Introit for the Mass of the Sunday of the Christmas Octave, which I believe should be preserved for the feast of the Holy Family in order to emphasize the aspect of silence in the life of the Holy Family, a family only possible through the Incarnation, which the text so richly describes.

The deacon preached at Mass on this topic of silence on Sunday, and I've been pondering it. There is silence and then there is the absence of sound, or so great an absence anyways that we humans don't pay any attention to it. I don't believe they are necessarily the same. One can go around and speak minimally, but not be silent. One can fail to engage God in the interior of one's heart, and one can also fail to speak or interact (even without much or any talking) with others so that we might build relationships upon love.
Silence, to paraphrase the previous pontiff, cannot be manufactured in the sacred liturgy. It must be naturally occurring. In the newer form of the Mass, the silent periods are basically stopping points, places where we want the priest to get on with it. The silent Canon is the greatest example of silence in the liturgy. It is a plunge into the deep. One recognizes how helpless one is without the divine assistance, without grace and love. Even when it is overlaid with a sung Sanctus, I believe it is far more effective than speaking the entire Canon aloud, since the music lifts us towards Heaven in an ethereal way.

Enough on issues liturgical. We must have silence in our lives so we can respond to the call of Our Lord. If we are busy and distracted, how can we hear Him? How can we pray? Time in Eucharistic adoration or doing silent work seems to be a good way to spend time in silence, meditating upon some mystery and responding to God. There are times for vocal prayer such as in the Rosary, which is a good way to engage in vocal prayer with one another.

Silence marks the birth of Our Lord and also His Passion. What other word can there be in the presence of the Incarnate Logos?  Us humans can only respond in silent awe as we come to adore Him as seen in the example of the shepherds. I think we imitate this in the older form of the Mass as we genuflect at the words Et incarnatus est... in the Credo and at Et Verbum caro factum est in the Prologue to the Gospel of John. For the angels, they can sing, "Gloria in excelsis Deo..." as they are above us, being fully spiritual and constantly in praise and adoration of God in Heaven.

Our Lady and St. John did not utter a word at the foot of the Cross, and Our Lord only spoke as necessary, especially in prayer, in order to further reveal Himself and His mission (actually, His being and His deeds are intimately united. See Introduction to Christianity by Ratzinger.). He declared that He came to testify to the Truth, and He prayed upon the Cross. But mostly the talking was left to Pontius Pilate and to the crowds. This silence demonstrates not passiveness, but an active response to the will of God the Father in Heaven.

This is a response each of us are called to make in our own lives through our faith.


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