At his general audience on Wednesday, January 10th, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass. Taking up the Gloria and the Collect, he made reference to the GIRM’s instruction for the presider to observe a brief moment of silence ahead of the Collect, which led him to some further reflections on the nature of silence in liturgy.
The need for and observation of silence has been a key reason cited by advocates for the Extraordinary Form. Often, this is contrasted with some versions of the Ordinary Form and/or with the culture at-large. Cardinal Sarah’s recent book on the topic comes to mind. The emphasis on silence is more or less polemical against “full, active, and conscious participation” and the perceived interpretations of that phrase to mean only vocal participation.
Of course, the OF itself explicitly makes room for a good bit of contemplative silence in the liturgy, whether or not it is well-observed. My sense is that in many parishes–certainly not all–we have become accustomed to the pace of liturgy such that if there is time for contemplative silence, we think that someone has forgotten something and we begin to look around.
I wonder if this is one of the places of common ground to be sought among liturgical advocates of various stripes and those who are less connected to the liturgical life of the Church. Of course, there is much to be hashed out in terms of what we mean by “silence,” when and how silence happens, and just how polemical we see the matter.
Pope Francis goes on to emphasize that silence has different aims at different points in the liturgy, but that ahead of the Collect, the silence gives us the opportunity to gather ourselves, what we bring to the liturgy and to offer our silent intentions. Thus, then, the Collect actually collects all of these into one (this is also Bruce Morrill’s point in the post linked above).
At many parishes, I have seen time offered at the end of the General Intercessions for each to offer intentions in silence. Observing the space for precisely this kind of silence at the beginning of the Mass, ahead of the Collect, would alleviate the other time during the Prayer of the Faithful, which always strikes me as odd as because those prayers are specifically petitions that apply to all of us.
The pope says that when we don’t observe this silence, we “risk neglecting the recollection of the soul” (Zenit’s translation).