Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Silence at Mass

Happy Tuesday to you all.

It's "New Translation Tuesday" once again. I've been doing some checking of parish web sites and parish on-line bulletins and am finding that catechetical material concerning the forthcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum is continuing to surface. And this is a good thing. We need to be doing everything we can to prepare the people for the changes about to come. Liturgy Training Publications here in the Archdiocese of Chicago has published a series of pamphlets designed to instruct Catholics about the upcoming changes. You can find those materials here. Fr. Paul Turner is the author of these texts. He provides a wonderful balance in the areas of history, liturgical theology, and pastoral practice. Fr. Turner authored WLP's popular resource for priests and those ministering in the sphere of Christian initiation: Celebrating Initiation: A Guide for Priests.

With a possible April date for the reception of the recognitio, we are working hard to finish the work on both the revised and new musical settings of the Mass. Our fine team of editors has been hard at work for you, the singing and praying Church.

I did want to share my experience at Mass this past Sunday at Saint James, because it relates to the opportunities the upcoming changes will offer to parishes. The liturgy committee (a board on which I volunteer), has been spending quite a bit of time studying the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. We have been focusing our attention on the introductory rites. When we looked at the vision of those documents and compared that vision to our pastoral practice, we found some areas that needed improvement. Our introductory rites have seemed rushed and kind of mechanical in the past, as if we are trying to move through them to get to the "real stuff." Well, this past Sunday saw a marked difference. Before Mass, our great music director told us that we would be experiencing more silence during the introductory rites. He told us that when Father invited us to call to mind our sins, there would be a longer period of silence for us to ponder that reality. He also told us that once Father said "Let us pray" before the opening prayer, we would be given a period of silence to focus on what we were bringing to the liturgy in our hearts and minds. Then Father would collect all of that in the Opening Prayer, also known as the "Collect."

We were told that silence can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable at Mass. When there is silence, sometimes we think that someone has forgotten to do or say something. We all chuckled at this, since it rang so true. We were then asked to enter a period of silence and were also told that during that silence, the first candle of the Advent wreath would be lighted. After a few moments, one of the sisters on our parish staff ceremoniously approached the wreath and lit the first candle. No words, no blessing; just the simple lighting of that first candle. In my own heart, I knew that Advent had begun. We then rose and joined in singing the opening hymn.

Once the hymn ended, Father chanted the sign of the cross, to which we chanted our "Amen." He also chanted the greeting. I thought it was wonderful; it sounded Catholic. After the introductory to the penitential rite, we did enter into silence. To be honest, I was more preoccupied with how long the silence would be (O, that liturgist inside me!) than in calling to mind my sins. I know this won't happen next week because, in fact, the amount of silence felt "just right" to me. The same thing happened after "Let us pray." Folks, the silence into which we entered was deliberate and "heavy." This was a good direction for us, praise God.

These are the kinds of intentional changes to bring us in line with the Church's vision for liturgy that I hope the introduction to the new translation will engender. I am so looking forward to the Second Sunday of Advent at St. James. Even though this introductory rite may seem to some to be "traditional" or, God forbid "conservative," we still maintained a high spirit of engagement in the rite. Our closing song was Soon and Very Soon. We lifted the roof off the place! It was as Catholic a moment as the introductory rites had been.

O come, Emmanuel

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Chironomo said...

The Introductory Rite you describe is hardly traditional (or "traditional" as you say), and I'm not sure what a "conservative" Introductory Rite would even be. It sounds more like a reverent or even, God forbid, an "effective" Introductory Rite. It's amazing what happens when the Priests do what is written in red.

anne said...

One of the gifts of Vatican II is the rediscovery of the value of silence, an ancient tradition. In the early centuries of the church, people celebrated with words, song and stillness. They learned to be silent at certain times to hear God speaking to them. Silence also was a huge part of liturgical celebrations in monestaries. The practice was lost in the middle ages and revived by the Second Vatican Council.

It is a misconception that "progressives" do not value tradition.

Anonymous said...


Even though this introductory rite may seem to some to be "traditional" or, God forbid "conservative," we still maintained a high spirit of engagement in the rite.

Even though...God forbid...we still maintained....???

It's difficult to hear these as words strongly in support of tradition...

anne said...

hi Anon...not my quote but Chironomo's