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Silence

posted May 22, 2017, 11:07 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated May 22, 2017, 11:07 AM ]
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal calls for silence at various times during the liturgy. This should be a purposeful time of silent reflection, when we focus on the readings or another action of the liturgy. It should not be an uncomfortable time of wondering why nothing is happening. We need to be active during those times of silence. They are opportunities for our interior reflection and prayers. Let us not waste them.

Silence also plays an important role in music, being one of its main components, and “the birthplace of any sound”. French mime Marcel Marceau once said “Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.”

Sometimes it’s the space between the notes that makes all the difference to a piece of music. A few beats of silence can raise our expectation of what is about to come, creating anticipation. In terms of tension and release, silence can release tension when it follows a phrase, but it also builds tension as we await the next phrase. It’s a tool that enables us to create ‘pockets of emotions’ to give space and reflect on what we’ve heard or are performing, allowing us to easily shift our attention between one section of a song and another, and giving us time to remember what we’ve just sung or heard, making a melody easier to learn.

In a couple weeks for Pentecost, we’ll sing “Sacred Silence.” In the Oregon Catholic Press blog, its composer Tom Booth says “An old theology professor once said that the study of theology should lead us to our knees in silence.” He hopes his song should lead to just that. I hope many of our hymns do...