The Orthodox Roman Catholic

Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever. Creed of St Athanasius

"SACRUM SILENTUM" (SACRED SILENCE)


The most viable test of the ostensible reverence and efficacy of any Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ought to be "sacrum silentium",  be it the "Novus Ordo Missae" (New Order of the Mass) or the "Missa Latina Tridentina" (the Tridentine Latin Mass).   Indeed, this truly verifiable sign of efficacious prayer in the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be seen, most visibly, in the deportment of the congregation of Catholic worshippers themselves:  their attentiveness, their participation, and their reverence in prayers.  And what, more than anything else, obstructs these pillars of all efficacious prayer: attention, participation, and reverence of the congregation at Mass than the lack of "sacrum silentium."
           
This necessity for "sacrum silentium" is particularly obvious when one looks at Christ's most powerful parable on efficacious prayer in Holy Scripture: the pharisee and the publican praying in the temple.   The babbling words by the pharisee's declaratory and impetratory prayer before God, as to his own sinlessness and goodness, with many words of self-adulation to fill up the silence of the temple; and, in contrast, the contrite and unadulterated silence of the publican, beating his breast and begging God for mercy in the total silence of his repentant heart, only clarifies further the compelling necessity


The most viable test of the ostensible reverence and efficacy of any Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ought to be "sacrum silentium",  be it the "Novus Ordo Missae" (New Order of the Mass) or the "Missa Latina Tridentina" (the Tridentine Latin Mass).   Indeed, this truly verifiable sign of efficacious prayer in the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be seen, most visibly, in the deportment of the congregation of Catholic worshippers themselves:  their attentiveness, their participation, and their reverence in prayers.  And what, more than anything else, obstructs these pillars of all efficacious prayer: attention, participation, and reverence of the congregation at Mass than the lack of "sacrum silentium."
           
This necessity for "sacrum silentium" is particularly obvious when one looks at Christ's most powerful parable on efficacious prayer in Holy Scripture: the pharisee and the publican praying in the temple.   The babbling words by the pharisee's declaratory and impetratory prayer before God, as to his own sinlessness and goodness, with many words of self-adulation to fill up the silence of the temple; and, in contrast, the contrite and unadulterated silence of the publican, beating his breast and begging God for mercy in the total silence of his repentant heart, only clarifies further the compelling necessity of "sacrum silentium" for all efficacious prayer before Almighty God.

Efficacious prayer comes, invariably, from the silence of one's heart and allows not for the noise of the world with its pedestrian and trivial conversations that shatter this sacred stillness.  Listen to the noise level at a typical "Novus Ordo Missae" since Vatican II with the constant shuffling and unnecessary movement, the idle talking and frivolous conversations of congregants--before, during (kiss of peace) and immediately after the Mass--with the self-congratulations of participants and friends, the incessant invasion of the sanctuary, back and forth, by laity, lectors, extraordinary eucharistic ministers, ushers, greeters etc., and finally, the cacophonic rock music, embellished by guitars, drums, pianos, and even cymbals that precipitate the consequent disruption of the priest's attentiveness in prayer along with his congregation; and one can see certainly the persona of the "Novus Ordo Missae" and how literally everything seems to thwart the "sacrum silentium" and all reverent attempts at attentiveness and participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Consider for a moment, the utter peace and tranquility of the "Missa Latina Tridentina."  Actually, all that one can hear is the occasional "Dominus vobiscum" (the Lord be with you) and "Et cum spiritu tuo" (And with your spirit) in muted voice both by priest and server at periodic intervals during the mass.  From the whispered prayers at the foot of the altar, when Mass begins, to the silent praying of the priest's recital of the Last Gospel at the very end,  nothing seems to assault the congregants or priest's participation from being totally attentive and reverent, nothing at all, even the beautiful "accapella" chants of the Gregorian melodies, interspersed here and there at salient moments,  that seem to waft their way heavenward with a sacred stillness all their own.


Nothing more verifies the rectitude of praying in "sacrum silentium" and without distraction than the many times in Holy Scripture when Our Dear Lord departed so frequently into the desert to pray alone in order to be at total peace with His Heavenly Father.   Certainly, there is no room for dissenting from this truth of "sacrum silentium" when one considers how Our Divine Teacher cleansed the Temple, His Father's House, from all mundane and ephemeral activities.  And lastly, the utter rapture of Mary at our Lord's feet, so deep in prayer, in contrast to Martha, her sister, who could not pull herself away from her busy work to drink deep of Our Lord's spring of eternal grace  amidst the sacred silence of His apartness amplifies once more this profound truth of "sacrum silentium" at prayer.


In conclusion, there is not a greater truth for those who have given themselves to the community life of a religious than "sacrum silentium" so they can be at one with the Lord as often as possible as they pursue the road to perfection through the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.   The truthfulness of proper respect for silence merits much acclaim also for those who wish to live any kind of life of prayer, for silence is a 'sine qua non.' 


Here are three sixteenth century regulations of a British court that promoted for even seculars the quieting of the tongue and the wisdom of silence:


                   
                    "Read distinctly.
                      Pray devoutly.
                      Sigh deeply.
                      Suffer patiently.
                      Make yourselves lowly.
                      Give not sentence hastily.
                      Speak but seldom, and that truly.
                      Prevent your speech discreetly.
                      Observe Ten diligently.  (*1)
                      Flee from Seven mightily.  (*2)
                      Guide Five circumspectly.  (*3)
                      Resist temptation strongly.
                      Break that off quickly.
                      Weep bitterly.
                      Have compassion tenderly.
                      Do good deeds lustily.
                      Love heartily.
                      Love hopefully.
                      Love faithfully.
                      Love God only.
                      Love all others for Him charitably.
                      Love in adversity.
                      Love in prosperity.
                      Think always on Love, which is nothing
                                but God Himself.
                      Thus Love bringeth the Lover to Love,
                                  which is God Himself."

(*1) Commandments  (*2) Capital Sins   (*3) Senses