A Gesture of Silence (Fr. Andrew)
A Gesture of Silence
I still remember the first phrase I heard from the onset of my days in the Seminary, "Magnum Silencium!" (i.e. Great Silence!). The “Great Silence” refers to the quiet moment we observe in order to hear no other voice but that of God who speaks to the individual in the silence of the heart.
In the seminary, we were encouraged to observe the “Great Silence" at rising, before heading out to pursue the day's undertakings; then after night prayer as we got ready for bed. But the two most profound moments to observe the “great silence,” that was almost drilled into our heads, were at church before mass, and a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
Towards that end, we were urged to come to the church some minutes earlier to sit in the quietness of the house of God to hear and to speak to God alone. Today, I miss and yearn for such moments.
The Holy Bible is awash with instances when God entered human stories in silence. The Psalmist says, "Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10). The prophet Habakkuk said, "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!"(Hab.2:20).
Silence is the bedrock for discernment; it keeps her great spiritual benefits for those who are intentional at observing it. In his book, "The Power of Silence," Robert Cardinal Sarah, intimates, “God carries us, and we live with him at every moment by keeping silence. Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being. If we do not cultivate this silence, how can we find God?" If we have to discern and figure out anything in our personal, family, professional and spiritual life then we need silence.
In our noisy, information-saturated world of today, everything - phones, computers, TV and radio sets, and social media- competes for our attention even during our sleep and meal times. But we need to create some sacrosanct moments for ourselves, and I think showing up at Mass a bit early to sit in silence in the church can be profoundly soothing?
Think about the beautiful image of the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil when in an almost dark church at the beginning of the celebration, the Paschal Candle enters the church and illumines the whole room with the light of the risen Lord. Similarly, silence before mass can clear the noise in our hearts and minds and still us to see Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass, we have come to be partakers of.
Imagine the profound experience of God's presence we will all begin to realize if we can create together the spiritual atmosphere for "Magnum Silencium" here in Holy Spirit parish. What if we created a culture of silence before mass with a dim light in the room to remind us of that unique moment? I think the dim room will signal to everyone entering the church to observe silence right at the door. The full light can come on 5 minutes before Mass starts. We come to Mass to encounter the Lord in our worship, and a gesture of silence from each of us can prepare us for this great encounter. This indeed is unique Catholic practice.