GILH 201-203: Silence

We come to the end of GILH’s lengthy Chapter III with three numbered sections on sacred silence. Let’s note that liturgical silence is not merely the absence of sound, but implies an interior reverence. Silence is also identified as a response to the liturgical experience.

201. It is a general principle that care should be taken in liturgical services to see that “at the proper times all observe a reverent silence.” [SC 30.] An opportunity for silence should therefore be provided in the celebration of the liturgy of the hours.

When are the ideal times for reflective silence in the LH? Here they are:

202. In order to receive in our hearts the full sound of the voice of the Holy Spirit and to unite our personal prayer more closely with the word of God and the public voice of the Church, it is permissible, as occasion offers and prudence suggests, to have an interval of silence. It may come either after the repetition of the antiphon at the end of the psalm, in the traditional way, especially if the psalm-prayer is to be said after the pause (see GILH 112), or after the short or longer readings, either before or after the responsory.

A caution is added, something subjective and pastoral, depending on the needs and experience of a particular faith community:

Care must be taken to avoid the kind of silence that would disturb the structure of the office or annoy and weary those taking part.

And a sensible bit of reassurance:

203. In individual recitation there is even greater freedom to pause in meditation on some text that moves the spirit; the office does not on this account lose its public character.

Silence is often described as a response to an aspect of liturgy. The GILH aligns with this point. I wonder about the possibility of using silence to permit a community or individual to enter more deeply into the prayer experience. I’m thinking of the use of silence before the psalm or canticle as well as after it. Silence is not only a reaction to experience, but it can also serve as a frame for liturgy.

On that note, I leave you in blogging silence for the rest of the day.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to GILH 201-203: Silence

  1. Diana says:

    Liturgical silence is a communal action, not just, as you said, absence of sound. It’s more akin to the minute of silence secular assemblies observe during memorials of a national crisis. It’s not passive but quite active in its intent.

    Liturgical silence is also stillness. Often during the Eucharist, we believe we’re observing silence at the appointed times, but there is often some other distracting activity going on–finding the page in the Sacramentary, putting away the vessels after Communion. Whenever the ritual cals for silence, I believe you can rightfully add “stillness” to the directive.

  2. Todd says:

    Thanks, Diana, for your usual keen insight. I think you nail it on “stillness,” which adds just the right aspect to the discussion.

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