GIRM 56: Silence

Silence is one of the most important virtues for worship. Note it is the first major topic to merit attention in the GIRM’s treatment on the Liturgy of the Word. Before readings. Before music. Before prayers. Before anything priestly.

56. The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to favor meditation, and so any kind of haste such as hinders recollection is clearly to be avoided. In the course of it, brief periods of silence are also appropriate, accommodated to the assembled congregation; by means of these, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily.[General Introduction to the Lectionary 28]

What isn’t worthy of comment here?

  • Avoid any semblance of haste
  • Even brief moments of silence are important.
  • Silence should be accommodated to the faith community, and I would presume the community in turn is gently apprenticed in the practice of silence. I find that with children, it can be helpful to give them two or three possible things to do during their periods of silence. Many catechists have found that five or six-year-olds can appreciate and draw great benefit from silent prayer.
  • Silence before the first reading: how many of us practice this?
  • My only criticism in this section is that the psalm should also be framed with silence–it is considered a musical interpretation of the inspired word of God.

A bishop could urge his clergy and laity to take a whole year to examine silence, how to do it, and what fruits to expect from it.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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