I still remember the first phrase I heard from the onset of my days in the Seminary, “magnum silencium!” (great silence). Silence is the mechanism through which the divine presence is experienced in the heart and mind of a person.
In my seminary days, we were encouraged to observe moments of silence in the morning before heading out to pursue the day’s undertakings and at night as we got ready for bed. But the two most profound moments to observe great silence were at church before Mass and a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
Arriving some minutes earlier to sit quietly in the house of God to listen and speak to God alone is a healthy spiritual practice. Silence has always been the bedrock for discernment. Anyone seeking to discern and figure out something in their personal, family, professional, and spiritual life may resort to silence. I encourage you to come to spend some quiet time in conversation with God before Mass commences or make time to sit alone before the Blessed Sacrament.
The Bible is inundated with instances when God entered human stories in silence. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), and “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”( Hab.2:20) are spectacular calls for us to learn to be silent before the Lord.
Living in a noisy and information-saturated world of today where our phones, computers, TV, radio sets, social media, and the like compete for our attention all the time, even during our sleep and meal times, where else can we experience the power of silence except in the quietness of the house of God?
Silence keeps her great spiritual benefits for those who are intentional at observing it. Think about the beautiful image of the Holy Saturday Easter Virgil, at the beginning when the church is partially dark, the Paschal Candle enters the church and illumines the whole room with the profound light of the risen Lord. This is what silence before Mass can bring to us. It also clears all the noise in our hearts and minds and prepare us to see the light and joy of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass we have come to be partakers of.
In his book, “The Power of Silence,” Robert Cardinal Sarah, intimates, ” God carries us, and we live with him at every moment by keeping silence. Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being. If we do not cultivate this silence, how can we find God?
I can imagine the profound experience of God’s presence we will all begin to realize if we can create together the spiritual atmosphere for silence in our parish. What if we created a culture of 20 minutes of great silence before Mass?
Let us be guided by the understanding that we come to the mass to encounter the Lord in our worship, and I think a gesture of silence from each of us to all who are present will prepare us for it.
And by the way, parents with little children must not feel bad when a child cries or makes noise; for that is always a joyful noise to the Lord, and we welcome it. Coming to Mass with your children is more honorable to us than you can imagine