Silence in the EF

I have heard and read several comments about the silence and/or inaudible words from the priest in the EF being a reason why some do not like to attend it. Some have said that it is difficult to follow, takes away from the laity the ability to fully participate in the Mass and makes them feel as though they are just spectators.

My family and I attended a Solemn High Mass today in honor of The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated by our new bishop and I would like to share with you a part of his homily. He addressed the issue of silence in the EF saying that the Mass is Christ’s own sacrifice, not ours. It was only His to offer and the priest remains in silent prayer during the Mass because he alone represents Christ. Of course he elaborated a bit more, but that was the gist.

It was beautifully said, and I just wanted to share.

Thanks for sharing, Mom. How fortunate that your Bishop sings the High Mass! :slight_smile:

I too thank you for sharing part of this homily with us :slight_smile: I really love the silence in the EF; it lets me focus in a way that I can’t at a NO Mass (well, it’s harder, anyway). And I agree that it is a big stumbling block for those who are unfamiliar with Latin Masses.

I realize you are paraphrasing here, but I’m not sure I can agree with the sentiment your bishop seems to be expressing. Consider, just as two obvious examples: “Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem salutaris,” and “Orate, fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat.”

Whether or not one can say that “the Mass” is Christ’s sacrifice, whatever, that means, I don’t think one can deny that a sacrifice of the people, as collected in the Church, takes place. I understand it’s popular in some circles to try to put uber-emphasis on God in the Mass at the expense of claiming that the people have any importance, but truly it’s the traditional Mass itself that loses out when we ignore the concepts expressed in “offerimus” and “vestrum sacrificium.” It’s a form of historical revisionism, really.

EDIT: or perhaps I should say that it’s a predictable overreaction in conceptualization.

What is “EF”, and what silence are you talking about?


EF = Extraordinary Form or Traditional Latin Mass using the 1962 Missal. There are a lot more periods of silence in it then in the OF, Ordinary Form, or Mass of Pope Paul VI which most Latin rite Catholics now attend.

For decades, we’ve had a false idea of active participation foisted upon us. We’ve been given to understand that if we’re not singing hymns, or saying things, or carrying things, or entering into the sanctuary, that we’re idle spectators and not really taking part in the liturgy. But the reality is that most of these things are just distractions. The essence of active participation is interior. If you are attending to the liturgy in an attitude of recollection, and uniting your prayers with those of the priest, you are engaging in active participation, even though on the outside, it looks like you are doing nothing.

Personally, I think nothing could be more appropriate for the canon of the Mass, and particularly the Holy Sacrifice itself, than silence. Silence is the language of God. In silence, we encounter mystery: things are taking place in the silence that are beyond the reach of our senses. We are really and truly at Calvary in the Mass; I think of the silence during the canon as the expectant hush that falls over Calvary as the Savior breathes His last.

When the priest starts praying silently during the canon, my own practice is just to set my missal aside until after the consecration and attend to the altar. It doesn’t matter that I can’t follow what he is saying, because he’s not addressing me anyway, and I can still unite my prayers to his even though I don’t know exactly what he is saying at a given moment.

The Ecclesia Dei booklet Missal contains the following quote from Pope St. Pius X: The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him in the name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feeling which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass. Don’t pray at Holy Mass, but pray the Holy Mass.

I, of course, attempt to obey this instruction. I suspect it would be easier to do if the canon were audible.

Do you not find it hard to dedicate your entire heart, your entire mind and your entire soul "even though I don’t know exactly what he is saying at a given moment?" Certainly, our interior disposition is what is of utmost importance but it seems a bit novel to entertain the notion that one can commit themselves completely internally while totally neglecting the external.

A couple may know that their spouse has the utmost love for them, but it would be nice to hear it every now and then, don’t you think?

thank you. it is beautiful. i do too like the silence in the Church. the wisdom of the EF priests does not go unoticed. want to learn about the Church, the EF priests are the best. i told my aunt the other day about a parish not too far from her house but which nobody knows about it. she did go. she told me she was impressed by the priest and the people, the families and the children. she had not seen one for so many years, she did not remember what one would look like.

Throughout the entire Mass, there are external signs, such as placement of the missal on the Epistle or Gospel side of the Altar, wear the priest stands, hand gestures, ringing of the Bells (once or three times), audible phrases he says out loud, etc. that tell you exactly where you are at in The Mass at all times. If you pay attention to all of these while reading along in your Missal, you fully participate in The Mass and you get great enjoyment and satisfaction out of doing such. The silence is a conducive environment for you to be able to do this. The Traditional Latin Mass is the closest we will ever get to Heaven while on earth.

very true. the holy father has criticized the overly participation of the people in teh Mass, even to the point of competing with the priest for a place in the Altar. this alone says that something is really wrong. with the free Mass of all anyone is can dictate what is going to be in the next Mass. we never know what we are going to get in the next sunday. just one more addiction to the Mass started this year in my part of the world. the priest at the end of the Mass, he simply sits down and the women finishes up. the woman drinks the remaing wine and puts the Host back in the Taberncle and so on. while the priest is out of the way and the Altar now belongs to them.

It sounds as if you are dismissing those who want audible prayers as those with a false idea of active participation. But even a person with a proper understanding of participation might prefer the prayers to be audible. Someone who wants to unite his prayers with the priest may very well find it easier to do if he can hear the priest.

I am so full of distractions that I find it hard to dedicate my entire heart, mind and soul at all times, though there are some circumstances (like the traditional Latin Mass) that make it easier than others. And there is nothing about the TLM that forces us to totally neglect the external; nor did I come close to suggesting that this is desirable.

That’s because you read more into my words than what I said.

Sometimes it is necessary for us to put aside our preferences.

I think the intent to pray these words with the priest, and our agreement with the prayers, is sufficient to accomplish this. Otherwise, there is no hope for those of us who are still in the learning curve stage with the TLM.

Ah yes … shades of the short-lived and ill-fated “interim Missal of 1965” where at least parts of the canon were said audibly (and of course in Latin). I happen to agree with that premise, and I frankly don’t recall any wild reaction against it at the time. But of course I’m speaking of its first incarnation (1965). The second one (1967) was an abomination that was merely a prelude to the Novus Ordo.

When one comes right down to it, what that 1965 Missal did wasn’t half bad. Actually, I think it was quite decent in general. (There were a few minor things, such as the abbreviation of the communion formula, that I wasn’t thrilled with, but OTOH and FWIW, I was very pleased with the removal of the Last Gospel, the standardization of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, and the restoration of the audible “per ipsum” etc just to name a few). In any case, that Missal was pretty much what the Council called far, and I find it a shame that it was never given a chance in real life.

But I don’t see why it is intrinsically necessary that the canon be inaudible. It is necessary now, in order to follow the rubrics. I certainly do not suggest disobeying them. But if those with the authority to change the rubrics were to make the canon audible, I do not see why that would be such a bad thing.

I think it would detract from the mystery of the Mass if the canon were audible. But then, if the Church decided to change the rubrics for the TLM, then I would have no choice but to set aside my preferences.

I don’t frankly see the need to make the canon audible anyway, since, as somebody has already pointed out, you can tell by the priest’s gestures what he is saying and doing – you can, at any rate, tell when the consecration is about to take place, and has taken place.

For those who may have missed it about the silent canon, click here to see the quotes I posted about it.
The quotes were taking from this article.

The 1965 Order of Mass (it was not a whole missal, just an Order of Mass) did not render the canon inaudible. Permission for a vernacular and audible canon did not come until October, 1967, along with other changes that had been announced earlier that year.

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