The Pope has weekly General Audiences where many of us go to see him personally if we are fortunate enough to be on a trip to Rome. The last few weeks he has been talking about different parts of the Mass, and last week he mentioned an interesting part I remember being taught when I was in the seminary, the importance of silence. In this address he was talking about the Gloria and the Collect (or the Opening Prayer) at the beginning of Mass, and how important the silence is when the priest begins the Collect with the words, “Let us pray,”:
With the invitation “Let us pray,” the priest exhorts the people to recollect themselves with him in a moment of silence, in order to be conscious of being in the presence of God and have arise, in each one’s heart, the personal intentions with which he takes part in the Mass (Cf. Ibid., 54). The priest says “Let us pray”, and then comes a moment of silence, and each one thinks of the things of which he is in need, what he wishes to ask for in prayer.
The silence isn’t reduced to the absence of words, rather in disposing oneself to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, especially, the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the nature of the sacred silence depends on the moment in which it takes place: “During the Penitential Act and after the invitation to prayer, it helps recollection; after the Reading or the homily, it’s a call to meditate briefly on what one has heard; after Communion, it fosters interior prayer of praise and supplication” (Ibid., 4r5). Therefore, before the initial prayer, silence helps to recollect ourselves in ourselves and to think why we are there. See then the importance of listening to our spirit to then open it to the Lord. Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow, and we want to say it to the Lord, to invoke His help, to ask that He be close to us; we have sick relatives and friends or who are going through difficult trials; we want to entrust to God the fate of the Church and of the world. And for this the brief silence is useful, before the priest, gathering the intentions of each one, expresses in a loud voice to God, in the name of all, the common prayer that ends the Rites of Introduction, doing in fact the “Collect” of the individual intentions. I earnestly recommend to priests to observe this moment of silence and not go in a hurry: “Let us pray,” and that silence be kept. I recommend this to priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the recollection of the soul. (from the Papal General Audience on Jan. 10, 2018: ZENIT translation by Virginia M. Forrester)
While this time of silence is not extensive, only a moment, but along with the other times the Pope mentions hopefully they help us to more fully participate in the prayer of the Mass. I know some of you thought I was just waiting for the server to bring the book over and then find the right page, but I almost always have the page marked with a ribbon beforehand, and the fact that we teach the servers to bring the book over when they hear us say “Let us pray” is just a good cue for the servers, and a built in reminder for myself, to not rush past this moment of silence.