Wednesday, March 12, 2014

LMS on Silence in the Mass

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales is continuing with its series of videos presented by its chairman, Dr. Joseph Shaw. This week they posted one on silence in the sacred liturgy.

I think the silent Canon was the most impressive feature of my early experiences with the usus antiquior at St. Benedict's, the FSSP parish in Chesapeake VA. At first, I kept my nose in the red booklet, looking up to see where the priest was, taking my cue from the gestures performed and what words I could hear. We tended to sit towards the back, so that we could follow those who presumably knew better and sat at the front of the nave. By the time of the Canon, I had no idea what was going on. It's like, "Okay...what the heck?" It reminds us that the sacrament is a work of grace for our salvation directed by God through our Church with Christ at her head. The Canon especially is not meant to teach us, at least at its primary level.

I argue that the silent Canon is also more effective at eliminating the closed community of believers, something the Holy Father criticizes in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Everyone can participate in the humble prayer and petition made by the priest to the Lord on their own level, whereas the newer liturgical rites require greater intelligence and willingness to speak up at all times. It's quite middle-class.

What I am particularly concerned about is my own personal approach to the Holy Mass. I realize that when I serve at the altar of the Lord my participation is markedly different than when I am in the congregation, since I have a particular role of service to the priest in persona Christi. But how does one enter into the mystery without being overwhelmed to the point of forgetting their duties at the altar?

I wonder if the answer lies in prayer and fasting so that personal devotion to the Eucharist increases as sin in one's life decreases. One should be as well-prepared as possible to receive Holy Communion. A solid preparatory prayer for the sacrament comes from St. Josemaria Escriva: "I wish, Lord, to receive you with the same humility and devotion that your most holy mother received you, with the fervor of the saints." St. Francis de Sales's chapter on communicating in Introduction to the Devout Life also comes in handy. And one cannot become a mystic without first becoming an ascetic.

And the sacrament should lead to an increase in charity. How does the silent canon contribute to this particularly?

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