Picking up from my post on "Fuller Participation & Celebrations of the Word", we find that the Pope's second suggestion for "fuller participation" is silence. How can being quiet lead to fuller participation? To participate, shouldn't I be doing something?
Well, silence is "doing something", of course. It is in silence we can process what's already been said or done. In silence, we can reflect. It is the silence after that makes the last dramatic notes of a song so moving. Without silence, significance can be lost because we're already on to the next sentence, the next verse, or the next action. The Holy Father will emphasize this on May 20, 2012 with a seeming contradiction: presenting on the World Day for Social Communications the theme of "silence". CatholicCulture.org quotes from the Vatican press office that silence was chosen "precisely because it favors habits of discernment and
reflection, can in fact be seen primarily as a means of welcoming the
Consider Mary. She had quite a lot happening around Jesus' birth. She received warnings, gifts, and messages that we continue to hear and read and contemplate to this day. There in the bustle of activity, she stopped, " reflecting on them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) Consider, too, another Mary who sat at Jesus' feet and listened, putting the bustle of activity aside for a time to listen in silence. "Mary has chosen the better part," Jesus tells her harried sister, Martha - and tells us. (Luke 10:38-42)
I try to end most posts here with something to do, some small way to put the topic into action. My suggestion today is nothing. The next time you read Scripture, receive the Eucharist, hug your child, or even watch a sunset - just do nothing. Take it in. Be present to the wonder of the God who made you, speaks to you, and is present to you.
(Addition: Auxiliary Bishop James Conley has written a piece on the topic: Silence and the liturgy.)