Cardinal Sarah, in his book, The Power of Silence, writes, “Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost.” In a similar vein, the philosopher Kierkegaard writes, “If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I would reply: Create silence! The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today.” Interestingly enough, he lived during the early 1800’s; it is hard to imagine there being much noise during that point in history. There was no radio, television, cell phones, internet, video games, constant access to music, and many other things that we have that fill our world with noise. What would he say about our society today?
The technology we have is certainly useful. However, a negative consequence is that we are constantly distracted or filled with noise. As a result, we have a hard time sensing God’s activity in us and hearing how He speaks. God does not speak to us in an audible voice, but in the silence of our hearts. In silence, we are able to discern and listen to what God is saying to us. Without silence, we become out of tune with ourselves, others around us, and God himself. Even if we are not listening to heavy metal music, activities like watching TV or listening to the radio playing in the background, or even constant conversation can disrupt our silence. For silence to be broken, it is not always a matter of having exterior silence, but interior silence as well. Constantly thinking about or reading the news, living in worry, or being distracted by more superficial matters can interrupt our interior silence as well. We don’t have to get rid of everything and start living like hermits, but there is a good balance to strive for, and most of us (myself included!) have to find ways to get more exterior and interior silence in our lives.
I think it is important for us to always be searching for ways to include more silence in our lives. However, the concrete suggestion I want to focus on is entering into the silence of the Mass. There are not many moments of pure silence, but it is important to capitalize on the moments we do have. One significant moment is after the homily, the priest will usually sit down. Some priests sit down for a few seconds, but others sit down for longer periods of silence. Regardless of how long the period is, we should avoid the tendency to anxiously wait for the apparently awkward silence to be over. Instead, we should enter into the silence. To do that, maybe we would reflect on something that stood out to us during the homily. If there isn’t something for us to reflect on or not enough time to, then it is helpful to sit still in the silence and simply be.
Communion is a good time to enter the spirit of silence, reflection, and prayer as well. During the distribution we do have music, but it is supposed to cultivate a prayerful and reflective spirit. After receiving communion, I think it helps to close one’s eyes. Otherwise, we can be distracted by watching other people receive communion or what the priest is doing. It is also good to avoid thinking about what we will do after Mass, like what we are going to eat for dinner, who we are going to see, what movie we are going to watch, etc. There is a precious window of time where Jesus is present in the Eucharist and inside us in a particularly powerful way. We should meditate on his silent presence within us and speak to him there. Also, there is a moment where the priest sits down for a brief period of silence after he purifies the vessels and clears the altar. That is the time for the priest (and everyone) to continue to pray and reflect in silence. Depending on the priest, that pause will be longer or shorter. Remember, the goal of silence is to help us hear and know God! With that in mind, it makes it easier to enter to silence, whether that be in the Mass or apart from the Mass.