Perhaps you’ve seen the reports on the interview of Cardinal Sarah (prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship) about, among other things, silence. Lots of wise words, such as this:
Under the pretext of making access to God easy, some wanted everything in the liturgy to be immediately intelligible, rational, horizontal and human. But in acting that way, we run the risk of reducing the sacred mystery to good feelings. Under the pretext of pedagogy, some priests indulge in endless commentaries that are flat-footed and mundane. Are these pastors afraid that silence in the presence of the Most High might disconcert the faithful? Do they think that the Holy Spirit is incapable of opening hearts to the divine Mysteries by pouring out on them the light of spiritual grace?
I’d like to think that this was more of a problem 30 years ago than now – but I don’t have an overview of the whole church around the world either. I don’t have an accurate sense of how many priests are still overly didactic and chatty, who distract from the rite and call attention to themselves in their casual presidential style. I hope more and more priests are able to let the reformed liturgy, in all its simple dignity, speak for itself, so that it will unobtrusively lead us to God in Christ, and to fellowship with all those who are in Christ.
I wonder about this from the cardinal, though:
Vatican Council II stresses that silence is a privileged means of promoting the participation of the people of God in the liturgy.
As Martin Stuflesser commented on Facebook, one would sure like to see a source citation. The Council did uphold silence, to be sure, but not as a privileged means of participation, and never at the expense of external participation in word and song.
And then there is this:
How can we enter into this interior disposition except by turning physically, all together, priest and faithful, toward the Lord who comes, toward the East symbolized by the apse where the cross is enthroned?
How? Maybe by turning to the Lord who comes who is present in the priest, the Word, the assembly, and especially the consecrated elements? It’s hard to see why facing East is a better way of turning toward the Lord than is facing the Bread and Wine, as we gather around the altar. You can’t really see the elements if the priest is in the way.
I mean, really. Early Christians apparently faced east when they prayed in private, but I don’t know anyone who does today. When I was growing up, we all knelt on the living room floor, leaning on the furniture, facing all the walls in all directions. It was the furthest thought from our piety that we should all face East. I suspect it’s the same with most all Christians prayer in private today.
Let’s be honest: we don’t see East as a sign of Christ who is coming today. But surely we do see Christ in the altar, the community, consecrated elements, the ordained minister? Let’s think more about that.
But on the value of silence in the liturgy: this monk likes what the cardinal says.