Listen to the Silence

Vigil Mass

Let all mortal flesh keep silent, standing there in fear and trembling, let all things of earth vanish from our thoughts; for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Christ our God, is about to be sacrificed and to be given as food to the faithful. Before Him choirs of Angels go, clothed with power and dominion, with faces veiled, chanting the hymn, Alleluia. __ St. James Liturgy, 4th Century.

What is the value of silence? It is nothing, it is emptiness, it communicates nothing and yet by abiding in it we gain all, we find fullness and learn everything we must know; God Alone. It is the desire of the Church that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be observed and participated in with a certain type of spiritual quiet. The instruction for the Missal requires that a period of silence be observed after the hearing of the Gospel and also after the reception of the Eucharist. It allows us to quiet our spirits and meditate on the moment. We do not obtain this stillness in a conversation with our friends or in the waving and holding of hands in Mass. Nor do we find it by smiling at all our friends that we spot in church. It is found in interior solitude. The exterior stillness is only a help and a symbol to aid the soul who wishes to enter that moment. The St. James Liturgy, the oldest existing liturgy known to us, knew the value of the silence of which I speak, as you can quickly see from the excerpt above.

Silence is the ultimate reverence. It is the humility and homage that Christ should demand of us. And if He doesn’t, we should demand it of ourselves. It is an expression of true dignity, respect and worship. How dare I make a sound lest I miss His whispers within my soul?  “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language He best hears is silent love.” (St. John of the Cross)

As a dog shows his love by lying silently at the feet of his master, so too should a soul lay in quiet expectation for the slightest movement that His Lord might make: for whatever the Lord demands, that we should faithfully, willfully and lovingly fulfill. It is how we come to a complete reliance on God while ridding our minds of any consideration of self.  “The most generous choices, especially the persevering, are the fruit of profound and prolonged union with God in prayerful silence.” (Pope John Paul II)

Silence informs our prayers. We cannot possibly pray as we ought if we do not allow God to speak to us and our prayers become merely a list of personal requests and demands. “God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen. And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart, and God listens. And this listening and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be….” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

We live in a noisy and busy world where we find it difficult to find time to be alone with God and feel continuously oppressed by the demands of our lives. Somehow, we need to make room for the benefit of both our minds and our souls. “Let us allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by St. Joseph’s silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

May we all find at least an hour during our week, especially during Mass, where our souls might have an opportunity to plumb its depths to that stillness, that quiet spot within our souls, where God abides, God speaks and we silently listen.

8 thoughts on “Listen to the Silence

  1. Silence, especially after Communion, is a blessed time. And silence is why Eucharistic Adoration is so necessary. Sitting in silence before the Real Presence is something I crave as an antidote to a very busy life.


  2. So….why do we need music or singing at all times during Mass? A piano being played softly after receiving the Holy Eucharist is still a distraction as I try to give thanks to God for His grace. It’s hard to concentrate with any type of noise in the background. “Silence is golden”, an old adage, echos what you wrote above.
    I’m just saying….since you are the new emperor in town, why don’t you ban all music at Mass except for those magnificant Gregorian chants of my youth?


    • Betty, you know already that if it were up to me it would be all that we would have except, as you say, during the old high Mass of the truly Extraordinary Mass of the 1962 Missal. Unfortunately, even if it were decreed by the Pope, we have lost all the wonderful Scholas and the priests who are capable of celebrating the Mass. It is going to take a very long time I’m afraid for the old Mass Rite to be more available unless we can make ammends with the SSPX. Even then, it all depends on where you live. Though the Pope has now made it a point of preference for the priest without needing permission from their Bishops, some Bishops have recently stopped some of their younger priests from celebrating Mass this way though it is keeping with the new ruling from the Pope. We, I am afraid, will just suffer for the poor Masses we must endure. Offer them up to God as a type of penance.


  3. I’d settle for a Schola or two at my parish. It is uplighting when those wonderful voices raise their voices in divine praise and worship. My niece was in one at Franciscian University in Steubenville. The Church Teaches Forum held annually during July in Louisville, KY, always has scholas during Mass.
    My problem with the tinkling ivory keys is that I feel as if I’ve been transported to a piano bar, complete with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other. May God forgive me.


    • Precisely the image my wife and I have often used. Folks standing in line to get to the punch bowl, nodding hello to one another. Piano is still not an instrument that is supposed to be used in the Church but my parish has a piano player that is is reminiscent of a jazz influenced piano bar. Add to that the use of electric guitars and conga drums and the like and we feel like we’re at a beach party.


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