Sunday, July 30, 2017

Silence During the Eucharist

I have read only parts of Cardinal Sarah's book on silence, so my thoughts this afternoon on this are tentative. I would also have to review Joseph Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy.

Let us distinguish between interior silence, which is recollection or the result of recollection, from exterior silence. Interior silence is a necessary condition for "active participation"; another condition which is needed for the perfection of active participation would be charity.

Would it be correct to claim that it is the position of Ratzinger, Sarah, Latin traditionalists and those who would pursue a reform of the reform that moments of exterior silence are an essential feature of the Roman-rite Eucharist? But perhaps even Roman-rite "renovators" would not disagree. (Examples at Pray, Tell: Where has all the silence gone?, A Silent Reality, Seeking Sacred Silence, Cardinal Sarah on Silence, Read Cardinal Sarah Accurately)

Rather, the problem with the "renovators," besides their failure to preserve the integrity of the Roman rite and use of all of the propers and a "few" other issues, is their advocacy of contemporary worship music, as well as their acceptance of an erroneous sentimentalism in liturgical praxis, especially in its oral or verbal dimension (culminating in the casualness which some take to be a mark of the turn to the horizontal), which destroy interior recollection.

What then of the Byzantine rite? It may give the impression that the singing of the Divine Liturgy is almost continuous. There may be some pauses in the singing, or after the readings, occasions of exterior silence. But these are short and not as pronounced as they are in the Roman rite? The practice of keeping a silent temple for the purpose of recollection and preparation is generally observed in Byzantine communities, something that has been lost in many Latin parishes in the United States.

Does all that singing constitute a form of "busy-ness" which perturbs interior recollection? Does continuous singing fatigue the mind? I think preservation of interior silence can be aided by pauses or longer transitions between sung texts if necessary. But if we become trained in frequent vocal (not in a loud voice but in the manner that Fr. Gabriel Bunge claims is ancient) and sung prayer (something that tends to be neglected in the United States at least) may it be that we can slowly become used to the entirety of the Divine Liturgy as prayer as well? (It seems to me that at home, private prayer should often be vocal or spoken as well as being silent when necessary, but prayer in common should be sung as much as possible.)

Not that the more sophisticated lovers of the Roman liturgical tradition are saying this, but some populists may claim that silence is needed for "private prayer" or "thanksgiving" as if the Eucharist were not a prayer or THE act of Thanksgiving. I would even claim that the adaptations and changes that the "renovators" seek to spread vitiate the Eucharist as prayer.There may be an
existential or spiritual need for private prayer if the liturgy is unintelligible (being in a language with which one is not fluent) and thus not accessible in itself as prayer. But that should be an indication of a problem with liturgical praxis.

What of the use of silence in other rites of the Church? Are there any such native breaks of exterior silence which are not Latinizations or consequences of persecution and a minimization of the liturgy?

Psalm 134