Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Out Loud (2)

I got distracted in the course of the last post onto what actually proved quite a useful topic. But I'd like to return to what I wanted to write about, and what seems to be under discussion right now. It concerns silence in the Mass.

What is clear is that the Catholic world is divided into three parts on this issue: (a) those who like a lot of silence at Mass (b) those who don't and (c) those who don't care much one way or the other. So much is obvious, and it also crosses the OF/EF divide. For instance, in the OF context there is actually quite a lot said about silence. Thus, from the (current) General Instruction on the Roman Missal:

32. The nature of the “presidential” texts demands that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen with attention.[44] Thus, while the priest is speaking these texts, there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent.

45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times.[54] Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.

51. Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession.

54. Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally.

56. The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting 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.[60]

[66] After the homily a brief period of silence is appropriately observed.

[71 Bidding Prayers] The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful.[68]

The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence.

[78 Canon] The Eucharistic Prayer demands that all listen to it with reverence and in silence.

84. The priest prepares himself by a prayer, said quietly, that he may fruitfully receive Christ’s Body and Blood. The faithful do the same, praying silently.

[147 Canon again] The people, for their part, should associate themselves with the priest in faith and in silence.

164. [Postcommunion] Afterwards, the priest may return to the chair. A sacred silence may now be observed for some period of time, or a Psalm or another canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung (cf. no. 88).

271. After the purification of the chalice, the priest should observe some moments of silence, after which he says the prayer after Communion.

Now what is clear is that silence in the OF is being used in a completely different way than it is in the EF. In the OF, with the exception of the offertory, the action of the Mass is interrupted to permit people to be silent together. Everything stops to let people pray in their own way, if I can put it like that.
This has one or two problems: 
• What does one do during these periods of silence? Make up prayers? Try and be contemplative for a moment? Think about things?
• And for how long? Any time I've started praying during these periods, I've only just got going when the priest calls us back to the sacred action again. A long and sufficient period for one person is not enough, or too much for another. Those of you who have stayed in a monastery where the Pater Noster is said silently except for the last couplet will know how hard it is to time two people's silent prayers together.
• Some people actively do not want to keep silence before and after Mass. This has been an issue in several parishes where I have served. Choirs, sacristans, servers, welcomers, all bustle before Mass, and this naturally raises the volume and encourages children to run around, deaf people to chat loudly &c &c. Appeals do not work, in my experience, except for a week or two.

Then, there is the issue of the offertory prayers:
• When I was first ordained and serving my first curacy in Crawley, one day, within a fortnight of my arrival, I had just celebrated Mass according to my intended custom, saying the offertory prayers quietly, when a woman stormed into the sacristy and shook her finger at me accusing me of being personally responsible for the lapsation of all the young people. 'You're driving them out!' she stormed. This was quite a shock for a young and uncertain priest, and though I never believed her, I never have had the confidence since to start saying them quietly again, except when there is music. The same lady subsequently became quite a supporter of mine, once she saw that basically we were on the same side.
• Fr Hunwicke deals sensibly with the actual OF rubrics argument here.
• Some people genuinely want to hear the offertory prayers. I have often experienced offertory hymns cut short so that the priest can say the prayers out loud. And if there is incense, then there is an uncomfortable silence when precisely music is desirable.

Now to the Extraordinary Form.
The silence is something different at an EF Mass. There isn't a sense of all being quiet together for a set measure of time, priest and people, but rather the priest getting on with something and the people doing something related, but different. This has led to accusations that the EF actively excludes the people. Is this fair?
Maybe one might take the imperfect analogy of a football match. Are the crowd actually involved in what is going on? Absolutely they are! In a real sense they are what the match is all about. The players don't just do it to amuse themselves, though they might enjoy a kick-about from time to time. The crowd are absolutely of the essence, though their participation is of a different kind to that of the players. The crowd never touch the ball, but are absolutely engrossed in the skilful play of the two teams. And, from a practical point of view, the two teams appear to entirely ignore the crowd and, again, from the perspective of the game and the league tables, it would not make a great deal of difference if the crowd were there or not. And still the game is all about the crowd.

At the extraordinary form, does the use of substantial slabs of silence actually exclude the congregation from participation?
I think that the answer has to be both yes and no. As at the football match, the crowd have to be kept on the terraces behind the barriers precisely to let the game proceed properly, there have to be barriers of one sort or another because of the nature of what happens at Mass. Some of the barriers are to do with dress, others to do with the layout of the church. These apply to football games, too [vestments/football strip (shirts, shorts, boots &c) & sanctuary/nave (pitch/terraces)]. In the context of the EF, you might add to this the use of a liturgical language, orientation and, yes, silence. When the priest is busy on something important, like when a footballer is taking a penalty, he needs silence to underline the importance of the action and also to aid concentration.

Sometimes the accusation is made that silence actually robs an activity of its meaning. 'I couldn't hear what was going on, so, as far as I was concerned, it was meaningless'. I remember a woman attending an EF Mass many years ago; the first she had been to in 25 years. She wanted to be polite, so she said afterwards, when asked how she found it 'Well, I'm sure it was very nice for the priest'. This rather underlines the cerebrelization (sorry!) of the Mass that has taken place. Is there really no way that communication can occur other than through speech? I should be very disappointed if that were true.

I think that, maybe, there is something here that deals with the differences between the sexes. It is a frequent complaint of women about their menfolk that 'he never speaks to me'. It's true. Men often don't speak much, especially about important things, and about feelings, and they often find that when something difficult is concerned, silence is preferable. This can drive some women mad, and, according to that extraordinarily insightful programme on marriage done a couple of years ago by Bob Geldof, the most frequently cited reason for a woman to seek a divorce. Women talk about their feeling much more readily than men do. Men do not frequently discuss the nature of their friendships with each other; at the pub, they will talk about cars, football, girls, whatever, but rarely about something really important. It doesn't imply even for a moment that men don't think that things are important, simply that some things pass beyond words, and it doesn't feel right to let it all hang out, as it were. Mens' friendships are often very enduring and can be very close, but the important stuff all passes unspoken of; there is even a feeling that it can spoil the relationship if it is ever mentioned. Cars are a safer topic. And men can also be intimidated by women's driving need to know everything, to have it all out in the open. It simply isn't the way men work. This is often expressed as men's inarticulacy, as opposed to women's ability to express clearly.

Almost all the objections to silence at Mass while there is action going on (whether at the EF or the OF) come from women. Somehow, men seem to 'get it' more readily. It is well within the male comfort space, but not for all women.

Consider two lovers. Generally it is the woman who needs to be told often that she is loved. She finds it reassuring and edifying of the relationship. If, however, she is attentive, she will learn to 'read' the man and even if he never realizes just how important this communication is for her, she will come to understand and appreciate him from a thousand other little things. A man is often baffled by why a woman wants to be told that she is loved. 'Why on earth would I have married her, then, if I didn't?' But when she gets it, she really gets it. This, too, has been my experience with women and the EF. Once they get the point of the silence, the articulate inarticulacy, they generally take to it more than men do. It's just a bit harder getting there.

Is this, perhaps, what Cardinal Heenan meant when he commented that the New Mass would not appeal to men as much as it would to women?

Out Loud at the EF?

There are several possible approaches to this. I remember a priest at the Oratory who thought that the whole Mass should be as quiet as possible. When the Mass was moved from the Little Oratory to the High Altar, and the direction issued that the microphone was to be turned on for the prayers at the foot of the altar, he felt so strongly about this that he would no longer celebrate a public Mass in the EF. In a church as large as the London Oratory, the wsss wsss wsss dialogue between priest and server was inaudible even at the altar rails, let alone down the church.

And then I remember a priest at a London church, now dead, who said everything either right aloud or in a stage whisper that was almost louder.

Is there a mid-point? Virtus, after all, stat in media. That's a pun. You'll get it in a minute.

In my own church, I keep the neck microphone (media, geddit?) turned on throughout Mass, and then proceed with the Mass either aloud or in the lower voice as directed by the rubrics. This means that the quiet bits are on the edge of audibility, so can be heard by those who really want to follow carefully, or can be tuned out by those who don't. Some don't approve of this, but I cite as my authority none less than Blessed John XXIII who, at his coronation did just this; the microphone was on the altar, but it was kept switched on throughout the canon, and you can clearly hear it if you try. This, presumably, must have been also the practice of Pope Pius XII.

I am far from thinking that this is all to be said on this issue. I may have more, and I may want to retract some of what I have written. I'd be interested in your views.


Anonymous said...

Though, as you acknowledge, no analogy can ever be precise, I found your football-match analogy very useful and instructive. I may even deploy it myself!

Anonymous said...

"Men can also be intimidated by women's driving". I think it's more a matter of exasperated than intimidated.

Oh sorry, I've just realised the sentence carries on … :-)

Anonymous said...

I do not like silence at all in a Eucharistic rite. It strikes me as an absence rather than a gain.

I would suggest there is an issue with Low Mass in the EF. Although by far the most often celebrated form I fear I have to view Low Mass as an abuse. When the rite is celebrated properly there are very few periods of silence. The celebrant is often reading something different from what is being sung but I have no problem with that, noting a similar practice in Byzantine liturgy.

In the EF the celebrant used three 'voices' the low, mid and loud which fitted in with what was going on around him. My understanding is that the 'silent' anaphora grew out of the practice of the celebrant continuing quietly whilst the singing of the Sanctus took place. Rather like the Byzantine practice when the singing was complete the celebrant's voice was raised again.

Your mention of the London Oratory reminds me of High OF there in the 1980s. The anaphora was sung aloud following the chant of the Ordo Missae in Cantu of Solesmes. Burn me at the stake for saying so but I think that is a beautiful and, IMHO, better practice. Rather sad the LO has adopted a change of fashion on that I feel.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to sound like a broken record, but I think we would all do well to re-read the relevant passage of Pope Benedict's "Spirit of the Liturgy". Unfortunately I have lent out my copy, but as far as I remember, the then-Cardinal makes the point that you, Father, are addressing more cautiously in the post: the silence at the EF is a filled silence, filled with the common prayer of the faithful uniting themselves to the priestly prayer of the alter Christus, whereas the silence proposed in the OF is an empty silence, where most people (and nearly always including the celebrant) appear only to be waiting until it's over, because there is no liturgical action going on. It is, as it were, a brief intermission of personal prayer into the public prayer of the Church.

I am fully aware of the limitations of personal experience, but I must say that mine corroborates what the Holy Father said: in the OF, I often discover my attention having completely wandered away from the canon prayed aloud by the priest (this is especially bad if EP II is used, since there, the consecration comes immediately so that you have no time to be prepared for it, and then it's already over and the droning on - if I may use this somewhat flippant term - is uninterrupted). This never happens to me in the EF, where I actively pray the canon with the priest. So for me, the EF wins hands-down in terms of actuosa participatio.

Adulio said...

The problem with silence at the OF (as how the London or Birmingham Oratory do it for their "High Mass") is that it is rather artificial. The periods of inactivity, like the priest waiting for the Sanctus to finish before beginning the canon, is noticeable.

One of the inherent problems of the OF is that any place for silence is eliminated.

I would have to ask "old believer" what exactly is so abusive about Low Mass? Granted that it is celebrated far too much on Sundays, I can't see how the silence in this form of the traditional rite, detracts from the spirit of the liturgy.

gemoftheocean said...

"The silence is something different at an EF Mass. There isn't a sense of all being quiet together for a set measure of time, priest and people, but rather the priest getting on with something and the people doing something related, but different. This has led to accusations that the EF actively excludes the people. Is this fair?"

Yes. :-D

Again, Mediator Dei said so. IF one is capable of following then one SHOULD. Hard to follow if you can't HEAR. Especially important as the priest has his back to you most of the time. Those without literacy, or skill in Latin or otherwise incapable get to zone out in their own private devotion world.

It seems to me "private devotion world" should be BEFORE MASS, AFTER MASS, and in those tiny, weensie small bits of time so alloted. In the OF during the collection, if the priest has the presence of mind to sit while the money is clinking in and the choir is hammering away at the offertory song. Ditto the little bit where I silently add my intention during the prayer of the faithful, or bidding prayers as you call them. Ditto the space after Communion. I don't mind it as long as it doesn't go on too long. More than a minute, and frankly, I get antsy. The priest may well need that spot for person prayer and thanksgiving. The people also have plenty of time for thanksgiving and meditation during communion time. His call.

I REALLY hate parishes which do NOT have missalettes. It is precisely those parishes where the priests tend to go off the rails with inventive liturgies and "improved" text. Even churches that have them where the singing is done over the offertory I highly suspect and in fact KNOW in some instances they are simply NOT DOING the offertory prayers AT ALL. I've been serving the Mass ever since Fr. S. was "retired" and the pastor and deacon have now stepped in at the Mass I assist at. The priest has been sitting on his duff while the deacon can't decide which way and when *this particular week* he wants to pour the wine and/or water in, before the priest is even at the altar, or does he half-***ed pour water/wine for him after the offertory gifts are brought up. He keeps doing it differently.

I as server haven't been able to hear cues for the "people's responses" during the offertory. I know what's supposed to be said, and if the pastor is saying the prayers AT ALL it's news to me.

MAKING the priest say these prayers in an audible voice keeps them all "honest."

I'm hesitant to train new servers because the pastor has gotten snippy with the kids on occasion. I can't very well tell him that "the kids are afraid of you, because you insulted X to his face and NEVER GIVE the cues the same way, and of course X is afraid of making a mistake and having you yell at him." I know him well enough to know he'd go ballistic, but it's the God's truth. If it was just the retired pastor going to do that Mass, all would be well. He does Mass "as written."

For sure I want to hear the Eucharistic prayer. The priest does have the added role of being present as Alter Christus in a special way that the people don't. But as far as I can recall, other than the agony in the garden and when there were times that Jesus went off alone to pray ... that was prayer of a private, not public nature. In other words, when I look at you at Mass you ARE standing in for Jesus in a personal way...and I want to hear what you have to say!

One can argue about rood screens and iconostasises all one wants, but I don't think that lends itself for intimacy on the part of the people. There's a reason that Jesus did the first Mass within the context of a meal. Church worship does differ from temple worship. Things do organically evolve.

I wonder is some of this cultural. The English (and Irish for all I know) seem to have a love of privacy. Perhaps it comes from living in cramped quarters in respect to the amount of people per square mile? As far as I can tell it seems to be within natural character to close things off and compartmentalize a bit more? This last paragraph is idle speculation on my part so let me know if I'm totally off the mark here.

Granted I was young when the Latin Mass went out, but the Latin Mass I was used to was the dialogue Mass. IT was understood from our catechism classes in school that we were to use a missal and learn the simple short responses first, and that it was expected that over time we'd learn and know the unchangeable parts of the Mass.


gemoftheocean said...

:-D BTW, though I'd agree that men are more reticent about saying "I love you" and women don't always pick up the cue that the man is saying "I love you" when he takes out the trash without being asked....we wish you'd "get it" and say "I love you" out loud without a gun pointed to the head. :-D

The Blessed Mother doesn't get tired of the 53 times "I love you" in the rosary.

God's a man. He only needs to hear "I love you 10 times."


gemoftheocean said...

okay, 7 times...the 10 being for large values of 7.


Anonymous said...

The 5 most ominous words in the English language must be "we need to talk", particularly if uttered by one's wife immediately before sleep after a long day!

One of the best words in any language is "Chirichetto" (pronounced Kiri-ketto) which as you know is Italian for alter boy, as servers used to be known.

When I was an alter boy myself in the dim mists of time at St Anne's, everyone was very clear about exactly the precise moments to ring the bells and to pour the water and wine.

Less clear was who would win the inevitable race to the sacristy at the end of mass to prepare the cruets for the next mass, the primary goal being a surreptitious swig of the communion wine by the victor!

Of course it paid not to get caught by Father Kenny as this was guaranteed to strain his affability, but he was usually outside the church puffing a Benson & Hedges while saying goodbye to his parishoners, leaving the coast clear.

gemoftheocean said...

Andrew, Italian boy servers are girls who were "altered" into boys?

Who knew?! ;-D

The servers in our sacristy tend to want to swipe incense and play with fire more than swig the altar wine ... which is high enough in alcoholic content for them to say "ewwww!"


Ttony said...

The football analogy is brilliant: well done!

I want to post soon about serving the first public EF Mass of a Merton 08 graduate, and how silence, or perhaps Silence, became part of why it worked.

Silence, perhaps, isn't an end, or even a means: it's a characteristic.

But I would want to think a lot longer about this: active silence versus passive silence; directed silence versus coincidental silence; kneeling silence versus sitting silence (versus standing silence); intended silence versus unintended silence.

And most importantly, three dimensional versus three dimensional silence.

Two excellent posts, Father.

Anonymous said...

It's a fair cop Karen - where's the spellchecker when you really need it!

Regarding the post-mass activities of altar boys in my day, all I can say is that there were quite a few boys of Irish ethnicity at St Anne's, myself included.

As Barry Humphries once said, the Irish and the Australians have a great many things in common, most notably "guileless bonhommie and gross intemperance".

Couldn't have said it better myself :-)

Pastor in Monte said...

Yup, Karen; Andrew, I and, most importantly, Fr Kenny were all from an Irish background, so incense was a pretty rare occurrence. In fact I cannot remember it at Mass at all until we had an ordination from our parish. But I still think of the dregs of wine in a cruet as 'altar servers privilege' and avert my eyes to this day. The quantities are tiny and the pleasure given great.
And other effects you never know. From that little parish of about 600 Mass-goers were produced 13 priestly vocations between 1965 and 1995. I'm number 12.

Anonymous said...

A fear of silence is usually a sign of immaturity (and I don't mean that at all pejoritavely) and, whilst there would be no wish to exclude those who find silence difficult, there would be a desire to move them to a place where they found it helpful. How would we do this?

gemoftheocean said...

Joseph, it isn't a "fear" of silence. It's being ANNOYED at silence because those of use who WANT to get their head in the game by following the priests prayers are left hanging willy nilly.

In this respect I'd FAR rather attend a Byzantine Rite Mass, because though his back is also to us, the priest at least proclaims the words of the consecration not in his own little trance, but loud enough for "us peasants" to hear. Thereby cutting us in, rather than out.

Anonymous said...


The mass isn't primarily meant to be understood by the congregation, it's purpose is not didactic. It's the sacrifice of God the Son offered to God the Father. Anyone's presence is purely accidental.

That said, if people WANT to follow what's being said, that's perfectly possible with a Latin/English St Andrew's missal.

gemoftheocean said...

Anon, you can't be serious.

It's not the TLM I object to, but some TLM proponents seem to have some mighty elitist notions, they seem to think following the Mass is for a select few.... now just how you're supposed to follow and have your head in the game when you can't see/hear what the priest is doing is the mystery.

Good thing the Lord didn't have a "silent canon" at the last supper.

[waiting for the shoe to drop and someone to say "...but you weren't there, how do you know it *wasn't* a silent canon...." Perhaps if it's really not all that important to be there I should just watch EWTN with the sound turned down and have UPS deliver.....]

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, and anon, thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

"Good thing the Lord didn't have a "silent canon" at the last supper."


That's an irrelevant remark.

You know it too.

gemoftheocean said...

Anon: by what stretch of the imagination is it an "irreverent remark?" I merely point out that if Jesus Christ had done a silent canon we'd all be CLUELESS, as should be intuitively obvious to the most casual of observers!

Pastor in Monte said...

I think we'd better call this a difference of opinion and leave it here for now! Thanks to all who participated.

gemoftheocean said...

It wouldn't have been so bad had I not misread anon's last comment! "never type without your contacts in, never type without your contacts in...."

[Okay, so are you going to mumble the Canon a little louder now, or just do MWF and alternate Sundays in an audible voice if at all?]

Pastor in Monte said...

That's absolutely the last comment: I won't publish any more on this topic.