At our Confirmation Mass a couple of months ago, Bishop Rhoades spoke to our 8th graders about sacred silence, and how it is an important component of our worship at Mass. Our culture is usually uncomfortable with silence, and I know that those moments of silence in Mass can be particularly nerve-wracking for parents with fidgety young children! But I hope that we embrace these moments of silence as an opportunity to be in deeper communion with the Lord by entering more deeply into the various parts of the Mass.
In general, if we’re having a moment of silence during the Mass and you’re getting a little antsy, I’d recommend asking yourself, “why are we having silence right now?” That question can help us allow that moment of silence to be fruitful. Here are Christ the King, here are some times that you’ll typically experience silence during Sunday Mass:
- Before Mass: During the introduction, the Lector will invite everyone to observe a moment of silence to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Mass. This gives us all a chance to recollect ourselves so that we are in a prayerful frame of mind as we begin the Mass.
- Before the Penitential Act: The priest says “Let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries” and then leaves a minute of silence before the deacon begins the penitential act (“Lord have mercy”, etc.) This allows us to call to mind our own sins and ask for God’s mercy so that we can celebrate the rest of the Mass without these hanging over our head.
- Before the Opening Prayer: When the priest says “Let us pray”, he means it! We’ll typically allow a little bit of silence at this point so that you can say your own prayer asking God to help you enter fully into the Mass. It’s after this moment of silence that the priest will say the opening prayer (the “collect”) that unites all of these individual prayers into one.
- After the Readings: As our lectors finish proclaiming the readings, they pause for a moment after saying “The Word of the Lord” before returning to their seats. This allows everyone a moment to reflect on the reading they just heard.
- Before Communion: There is some silence before the priest receives Communion and begins distributing the Blessed Sacrament. This allows everyone a moment to prayerfully prepare to receive the Sacrament with reverence.
- After Communion: Fr. Geoff and I will typically leave some silence after distributing Communion before saying the Prayer after Communion. This acknowledges what an important thing just happened and allows us to thank Jesus for allowing us to receive His Body and Blood.
I don’t think most of us have nearly enough silence in our lives, so hopefully these moments of silence during the Mass can offer us a little refuge from the noise of our world and allow us to participate more fully in the celebration of the Mass.