Hello, Silence, My Old Friend

Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
edited May 1 in Ecclesiantics
Under Length of Service, I get the impression that people are rushing through a very important part of the service; namely the periods of silence. There are several places were silence can be an effective tool in the service. At the time of confession; before the prayer of the day; after the readings; after the homily; during the petitions of the church, before the Benediction, to name a few.

I was taught that I should give about a one minute pause during the prayer of the day, the readings and after the sermon. I would pause about five seconds after each petition in the general prayer.

But if one paused everywhere one can pause in a service, it is amazing how much silence there would be during the liturgy.

But is that a bad thing? I recall when Elijah heard the voice of God, not in the earthquake, not in the rush of wind, but in the still small voice--the silence.

Is silence an enemy of the liturgy, or can it be a friend of the service? I think I have already cast my vote in this discussion.

Comments

  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    edited May 1
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    But is that a bad thing?

    Usually, yes.

    There is a difference between genuine, meditative, hesychastic silence, which is beneficial to us, and the sort of contrived silence that people try to insert into the liturgical worship of God.

    The former affords us the meditative, hesychastic emptying of our thoughts and sitting in the divine presence, conforming our hearts to the energies of God; the latter is an obtrusive and distracting intrusion into the corporate worship of God by his people. When the priest says, 'Let us pray', then for goodness' sake let him get on with the prayer. Saying the words and then standing around for half a minute in silence is an utterly useless distraction and just makes it appear as though the priest has lost the page he needs for the prayer.

    True silence - of the variety that allows us to still our hearts and enter into the divine energies - needs to be allowed its own time and space, apart from the requirements of the corporate, liturgical worship of God by his people. And the liturgical worship of God by his people ought not to be broken, interrupted, and disrupted by artificial and disruptive insertions of periods of silence where they simply do not belong.

    There's a lay hesychastic community that I visited for Epiphany and Theophany this year, and intend to visit again for the Exaltation of the Cross and my nameday in September, and they seem to have struck the right balance. They pray the monastic offices in full each day, to which all guests are invited to attend, but they know that the Divine Office has its own beauty and integrity which ought not to be tampered with. At the same time, they are Palamites, and they know from direct experience the value of silent meditation and the stilling of the heart, so for half an hour before each service, the community will gather for hesychastic meditation. It is through this that they enter more fully into communion with the Holy Trinity and with their sisters and brothers around the world. But one thing you won't find is artificial periods of silence inserted where they don't belong in the Mass and the Divine Office.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Risking the wrath of Cyprian...

    I don't mind a small silence after a sermon. Gives me a moment to recall and ponder it, and collect my thoughts.

    I like a pause in churches when they say they 'remember the sick' or 'remember the dead' as that gives me a chance to name those I know in the silence of my heart.

    However I agree some silences are contrived, and forced, and much like anything forced I think it makes Baby Jesus and his Blesséd Mother cry.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    Climacus wrote: »

    I don't mind a small silence after a sermon. Gives me a moment to recall and ponder and collect my thoughts.

    I like a pause in churches when they say they 'remember the sick' or 'remember the dead' as that gives me a chance to name those I know in the silence of my heart.

    Yes, those are the best two times.

  • ISTM that the 'standard' (!) Western rite Eucharist/Mass/Lord's Supper has at least three places at which silence for a few moments is appropriate, to wit:

    1. After the sermon/homily;
    2. During the prayers for the sick or departed;
    3. After Communion (we usually sing a short hymn or song during the ablutions, after which the ministers sit down quietly for a short while before the Post-Communion prayer).

    There are, of course, other forms of service where longer periods of silence are called for. We used to have a monthly Taize Prayer, with two periods of silence - 5 minutes, and 10 minutes - and Benediction (or Exposition) is another that comes to mind.

    IMHO, 10-15 minutes silence in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament seems just right, and is best NOT filled with the maunderings of a priest who loves the sound of his own unctuous voice...
    :angry:

    IJ


  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    I can see where Cyprian is coming from, and agree that without a context of silence in private prayer, liturgical silence can seem forced and unreal. But whether or not we appreciate the latter depends I think partly on tradition and partly on personality. Orthodox worship perhaps is more kataphatic than apophatic, and loves to pile prayer upon prayer, phrase upon phrase. The western tradition, at least in its monastic form, tends to be more austere and reticent.

    I take issue with Cyprian's comment that the bidding 'let us pray' should be followed immediately by words from the priest. Especially in the context of the (western) Collect of the day, which is a prayer specifically designed to focus the random and varied prayers of the assembly. If you don't allow people to pray in silence before summing them up in the formal words, you've missed half the point of the prayer. IMHO.

    Also I agree with Climacus about the value of silence after the sermon (or scripture readings), and during the intercession (especially if it is not a formal, familiar text). Silence in the moments after communion can be very powerful too.
  • angloid wrote: »

    I take issue with Cyprian's comment that the bidding 'let us pray' should be followed immediately by words from the priest. Especially in the context of the (western) Collect of the day, which is a prayer specifically designed to focus the random and varied prayers of the assembly. If you don't allow people to pray in silence before summing them up in the formal words, you've missed half the point of the prayer. IMHO.

    Yes, so often the words 'Let us pray' are followed immediately by the Collect, without any time for re-Collection...

    Memo to self, if leading worship - allow time!

    IJ
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    Forced silences are bad, but so is treating worship as a military display. There is no reason not to allow the congregation time to reflect at key points, especially after the sermon or during the intercessions unless you take the attitude that only clergy are allowed to have a brain. In which case you may depart to the furthest corner of Hades.
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    Please forgive my somewhat strident tone above. I think I might have been somewhat disparaging of the customs that others hold dear and find beneficial.

    I confess that I still find excessive silences in liturgical worship where they seem out of place to be difficult, but neither that nor wine having been taken serves as an excuse for rudeness.

    I'm sorry.
  • I'll add my voice to those saying that a short period of silence to allow the congregation to add their own personal prayers to the intercessions is entirely appropriate, and I'll say that this is most appropriately held after the corporate prayers are read.

    To be honest, that's the only place I'd always want one.

    Sometimes a silence to reflect on the sermon can be appropriate, and sometimes not so much. It depends a lot on the sermon.

    Silences after the readings generally sound to me as though someone has forgotten what comes next, and are followed by pointed glares at the organist.
  • kmannkmann Shipmate
    I usually preach in the pulpit, and that leaves some time for silence from when I end my homily to when I get back to the sanctuary, or the choir, and I think that is usually enough.
  • If the prayers of the people have been quite long, a silence at the end of them I dislike.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    In most liturgies I am aware of, there will be a notation to allow for silence. The silences don't have to be too long. 60 minutes at the most to no more than a slight pause between the petitions.
  • Minutes? Or seconds?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Oops Seconds
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    I can see where Cyprian is coming from, and agree that without a context of silence in private prayer, liturgical silence can seem forced and unreal. But whether or not we appreciate the latter depends I think partly on tradition and partly on personality. Orthodox worship perhaps is more kataphatic than apophatic, and loves to pile prayer upon prayer, phrase upon phrase. The western tradition, at least in its monastic form, tends to be more austere and reticent.

    I think that's a fair assessment, for the most part. I think, though, that your description of western worship is perhaps true specifically of the Roman Rite, yet that is not the extent of western worship. Even Western Orthodox worship in its Gallican form, is still very much not reminiscent of the sober austerity of the Roman Rite and its derivatives.

    I suppose I'm viewing such periods of silence through the prism of the experience of the rite used in my church (perhaps that is what we are all doing?), and with which I'm increasingly falling in love. It perhaps requires experience of the rite to know that such periods of silence simply would not fit. They would be interruptions to the flow of the worship. However, I recognise that this isn't universally the case in all rites.

    The sober moments in our rite are those very few that are spoken rather than sung. It shifts the atmosphere and dynamic very strikingly, and calls us back to reflection and any sincerity that might have been lost due to distraction, but does not interrupt the flow of the worship in the way that introduced silence would.

    Perhaps, then, any positive and beneficial value of silence, as well as its negative and distracting effects, are contextual.
    Forced silences are bad, but so is treating worship as a military display. There is no reason not to allow the congregation time to reflect at key points, especially after the sermon or during the intercessions unless you take the attitude that only clergy are allowed to have a brain. In which case you may depart to the furthest corner of Hades.

    I think this confirms my reasoning above.

    What Anglicans and perhaps others customary refer to as "the intercessions" taking the form of spoken prayers, in our rite takes the form of the Litany of St Martin. I struggle to think of any way to introduce silence without it breaking up the prayer in a way that seems stilted. In addition, it would be unnecessary, for there is something about the chanting of the petitions that allows for the entering into the prayer with reflection and composure. There is nothing regimented or military-style about it - it's just the prayer of the heart brought into a communal offering, with it own natural rhythm and flow. No need to tamper with it by chopping it up with silence.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    I used to be in a small group with several ordained women of different faiths. They all told me that they were taught in seminary to inwardly recite the Lord's Prayer as a way to determine the length of any moments of silence they wanted to have.

    I tried that once in a different setting, and after about "hallowed be the name" a woman yelled AMEN! :)
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Ha ha ha. Wonderful.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    Cyprian

    There is a form of intercessory prayer where silence has to be included. Its form is something like this:
    • Invitation to pray for topic
    • silence
    • words pulling prayer together e.g. "Lord hear us"
    • and responses e.g. "Lord graciously hear us"
    • repeat for next topic

    If the silence is not given actually no space for prayer is actually provided.

    Jengie
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I'll add my voice to those saying that a short period of silence to allow the congregation to add their own personal prayers to the intercessions is entirely appropriate, and I'll say that this is most appropriately held after the corporate prayers are read.

    To be honest, that's the only place I'd always want one.
    At our place, a short (maybe 30 seconds?) period of silence is also provided for at the prayer of confession (which for us comes early in the service). My experience is that silence at this point to allow for personal confession seems to be becoming more common among our tribe, and it works very well.

  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    A couple of impressive silences I've known, difficult to tell when they should end. Nottingham, outside the Town Hall, the week after Hillsborough. Massive crowd (replacing a planned Quaker vigil as Outreach - most of the Friends went somewhere else). When the Mayor ended it after two minutes, I had the strong impression it could have gone on much longer.
    And in school assembly, where I thought it better to introduce silence for children's own prayers rather than impose set words on a mixed bunch of religions. I didn't impose postures, just suggested silence (all too often used as punishment in schools), and the children could go into a deep quiet it was hard to read when to end. Very surprising at first.
    (But spoiled on one occasion by a member of staff bursting out of her room because she had observed one boy with his eyes open and his hands not together, and ordering him loudly to conform.)
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    Some priests (especially visiting ones) love to make everyone wait in silence once communion is over, everyone is back in place, and there is no music going on. This can be nice, but some priests like for this silence to be quite long. This can be torture for those who insist on kneeling after returning to their pews from communion until standing for the Prayer After Communion, especially if their knees have seen better days.
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    I suppose that, for me, a liturgy with no apophatic space is like constantly breathing in. It becomes rapidly suffocating. For those to whom the liturgical equivalent of circular breathing comes naturally, I can see that it really wouldn't be a problem, and the need for separate silence would come as an imposition. But do spare a thought for those of us waiting with baited breath for space to release.
  • teddybearteddybear Shipmate
    edited May 8
    Then of course you have the “Old” Latin Low Mass, which was almost entirely in silence or close to it.
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    teddybear wrote: »
    Then of course you have the “Old” Latin Low Mass, which was almost entirely in silence or close to it.

    For anyone who knows - how many RC in pre-Vatican II days who had gone through catechism/religious ed really knew what prayers the priest would be praying in silence at each part of the Mass? When I went to an Extraordinary Form Mass with a Missal to follow everything, I thought I knew where the priest was in the prayers only to find time and again that the priest was way ahead of me (based on how quickly he got to the next "in saecula saeculorum" or "Oremus"). Maybe someone who brought their hymnal to the extraordinary form every Sunday would eventually learn all the little hints as to where the priest was at any given time - but were pre Vatican II Catholics in the pews expected to do this at all? Or were they supposed to focus on their own prayers?
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    Very few people would have followed word for word the texts of the Latin Mass. Just before Vatican2 there was introduced the 'Dialogue Mass' where the whole congregation would be invited to participate verbally in the 'Judica me,'Confiteor' Kyrie.Gloria, etc but as far as the Canon of the Mass (said in silence) was concerned people would read at their own pace or simply remember 1.Prayer for the loving,2.consecration, 3 Prayer for the Dead. A bell was rung before the consecration,when the priest put his hands over the offerings and that would alert people that the consecration was about to take place.
    At a Sung Mass the choir would usually be singing the Sanctus and then after the consecration the Benedictus and this would cover much of the period devoted to the Canon of the Mass.
    Just as the Byzantine rite has the iconostasis which veils the happening at the altar because there are so holy,the Roman Mass had the silent Canon which was supposed to emphasise the great sanctity of the occasion.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    I think that it must have been a Freudian slip when I mentioned the 'Prayer for the Loving' it should be the 'Prayer for the Living' At the same time we should remember that it is our Lord's supreme command that we attempt to love God and to love our neighbour.
  • At My Work Place, the motto seems to be KEEP IT MOVING. The last sentence of the sermon is "We will now stand and say the Nicene Creed found in your bulletin, or on page blah blah blah..." No pause whatsoever.
    Also, it makes me sad that the names of those we are asked to pray for is said without pause. This is just wrong. I did offer a suggestion (there are lay readers who do the Prayers of the people) that a few seconds would be nice, between names, and was told that the same list was printed in the bulletin in "announcements". I wanted to ask "Then why do we bother to say them out loud?" but stifled it as I'm on thin ice, anyway.

    Silence is lovely. Let's have some of it.

  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited August 5
    (Sorry changed my mind)
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    keep words of intercessions short and silences between them long
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 6
    What might be called the typical Western Rite Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion does of itself offer quite a number of places where even just a few moments of silence might be profitably observed. Leo suggests one part of the service, but there are others.

    This topic seems to crop up quite frequently - maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something?

    IJ
  • I have led intercessions with a short bidding sentence and then a (timed) minute of silence, and introduced them as such. They were the least popular thing I did.

    The five usual Sunday prayers in the liturgy for the Church of England are:
    1. the universal church
    2. bishops and church leaders
    3. leaders of the world
    4. the natural world
    5. anyone in need (sick and dead)

    For example - We pray for our world, for the areas suffering from natural or man made disasters ...
    We pray for anyone in need, remembering those we have been asked to pray for in the notice sheet and those we hold in our hearts ...
    I like silence and avoiding shopping lists, because I always miss someone.
  • I guess that, whatever form your intercessions may take, it's a good thing to go at a reasonable pace, giving peeps at least a chance to reflect on what is being prayed for before the customary response.

    IJ
  • My late Godfather had a thing about people - lay and ordained - "gabbling" (as he put it) their way through the service. A favourite comment if he felt the intercessions were unduly rushed was to enquire of the person responsibe the time of the train they were aiming for.

    Nice guy with a well-developed sense of humour: the day after the announcement of an ABofC he thought not a good idea he said the candidate should be remembered in our prayers ... short pause ... then launched into the old BCP prayer for clergy "Almighty and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels..." :grin:
  • Mr SmiffMr Smiff Shipmate
    I think part of what I appreciate (and try to do when I'm leading worship) is not just the longer times of silence, but just small pauses between different parts of the service; just a moment for people maybe to reflect on what's happened/been said/been read and re-orientate themselves for the next part of the service. Eg one of my pet hates is when the minister (or whoever's leading the service) says, "Let us pray" and immediately launches into the prayer; I need a moment to get into "prayer mode", if you see what I mean. Also, I think it's useful to leave a moment's pause after each scripture reading rather than hurry on to the next.

    Of course, you can take this too far and it can become long, drawn out and irritating, or it can look like you've forgotten what comes next. But just a moment's pause before going on to the next thing I think can just help slow things down enough to make it a tiny bit more meaningful (hopefully).

    In terms of longer times of silence, I realised that in our (Baptist) service, we did a lot of talking about God with the sermon as the dominant piece, but perhaps not enough talking and listening to God. So I introduced a time of "guided silence" which we call "Personal Prayers". Here, I'll suggest things that people might want to pray for (normally along the lines of praise/thanks, confession, prayer for ourselves, prayer for others) but then give people a decent chunk of silence for them to pray whatever they feel they need to, or just to be still before God. It sounds really naff and cheesy written down, but a) we have quite a high tolerance of naff and cheesy, and b) I do think it's been helpful to a lot of people just to have that chance to stop and be still in what is normally a very busy church.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    What might be called the typical Western Rite Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion does of itself offer quite a number of places where even just a few moments of silence might be profitably observed. Leo suggests one part of the service, but there are others.

    This topic seems to crop up quite frequently - maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something?

    IJ

    Agree. Should be silence after OT & epistle, sermon and communion
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Mr Smiff wrote: »
    one of my pet hates is when the minister (or whoever's leading the service) says, "Let us pray" and immediately launches into the prayer

    they're terrified that people will start to kneel
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    ISTM that the 'standard' (!) Western rite Eucharist/Mass/Lord's Supper has at least three places at which silence for a few moments is appropriate, to wit:

    1. After the sermon/homily;
    2. During the prayers for the sick or departed;
    3. After Communion (we usually sing a short hymn or song during the ablutions, after which the ministers sit down quietly for a short while before the Post-Communion prayer).
    I’ll add a possible fourth place. I think I’ve mentioned this elsewhere recently, but we typically include a short period of silence in connection with the confession, which in my tribe occurs early in the service, where the Confiteor is typically said in the Novus Ordo Mass. The confession is typically phrased in the first person plural (“we”), so the silence allows time for individual confession.

  • Yes, indeed. I'd forgotten about my earlier post!

    IJ
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    And I obviously didn’t catch that the “elsewhere” I’d mentioned silence at the confession recently was actually in this thread.

    Oh well. Guess I need a drink.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Leo wrote: »
    Mr Smiff wrote: »
    one of my pet hates is when the minister (or whoever's leading the service) says, "Let us pray" and immediately launches into the prayer

    they're terrified that people will start to kneel

    More likely sit, these days.
  • Mr SmiffMr Smiff Shipmate
    edited August 7
    Leo wrote: »
    Mr Smiff wrote: »
    one of my pet hates is when the minister (or whoever's leading the service) says, "Let us pray" and immediately launches into the prayer

    they're terrified that people will start to kneel

    If that happened in our place, there’d probably be outrage from some (though it’d be fine with me)!

    But seriously, I just think some churches and some ministers/priests/worship leaders are terrified of silence. It’s as if every moment must be filled with noise of some description, or... who knows what might happen? God might have something to say!

    And I get the impression these are often the churches that speak most about “wanting God to move” and “wanting to hear from the Spirit”, which strikes me as slightly ironic; the Very Bad part of me imagines the Spirit saying, “yes... if I could... just... yes, that’s very nice, but if I... mmm, yes, He is, but... I think we may have sung this chorus a few times, perhaps we could... oh... could I just get a word in edgew... never mind, I’ll be here whenever you’re ready.”

    But that might just be me being very bad.

  • :grin: @Mr Smiff - and, yes, it was exactly those people, the ones who cannot leave enough silence between prayers to breathe, let alone pray or listen.
  • Mr Smiff wrote: »
    I think part of what I appreciate (and try to do when I'm leading worship) is not just the longer times of silence, but just small pauses between different parts of the service; just a moment for people maybe to reflect on what's happened/been said/been read and re-orientate themselves for the next part of the service. Eg one of my pet hates is when the minister (or whoever's leading the service) says, "Let us pray" and immediately launches into the prayer; I need a moment to get into "prayer mode", if you see what I mean. Also, I think it's useful to leave a moment's pause after each scripture reading rather than hurry on to the next.

    Of course, you can take this too far and it can become long, drawn out and irritating, or it can look like you've forgotten what comes next. But just a moment's pause before going on to the next thing I think can just help slow things down enough to make it a tiny bit more meaningful (hopefully).

    In terms of longer times of silence, I realised that in our (Baptist) service, we did a lot of talking about God with the sermon as the dominant piece, but perhaps not enough talking and listening to God. So I introduced a time of "guided silence" which we call "Personal Prayers". Here, I'll suggest things that people might want to pray for (normally along the lines of praise/thanks, confession, prayer for ourselves, prayer for others) but then give people a decent chunk of silence for them to pray whatever they feel they need to, or just to be still before God. It sounds really naff and cheesy written down, but a) we have quite a high tolerance of naff and cheesy, and b) I do think it's been helpful to a lot of people just to have that chance to stop and be still in what is normally a very busy church.

    Seems to work in our Baptist church too
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    So much of our prayer and religious services involve us talking to God (or to each other). I very much like silent time when I can listen to what God might be saying to me.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Maybe a different thread, but how do you discern God in the silence?

    I wouldn't be sure if it were God or my own thoughts... Or does God speak in thoughts?
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    Climacus wrote: »
    Maybe a different thread, but how do you discern God in the silence?

    I wouldn't be sure if it were God or my own thoughts... Or does God speak in thoughts?

    That is a good question. We've discussed this in a few threads over the years. I don't want to start a long tangent, so I'll say a few thIngs here.

    Worship services consist primarily of the words of humans. Silence gives room for thoughts (words in your own head). I think God can use both for our own spiritual good. God can also infuse our spiritual practices with God's own messages for us.

    Our part is to listen. I personally find this easier to do without the words of others in the way.

    But different people will have different, and equally valid experiences.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Thanks sabine; insightful and helpful.
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