For God alone my soul in silence waits; * from him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1
Dear Friends in Christ,
What do you do with times of silence? Often we rush ahead in our minds to fill the silence, but times of silence invite listening, as well as bringing ourselves to God in the present moment. Our worship services include times of intentional silence. Each of these times has different purposes.
Sometimes silence is for quiet internal reflection. We have relative silence before the service to prepare our hearts and minds to focus on God. Other more active reflection happens in the brief pause after each scripture reading and after the sermon. We don’t want the service to plod, but neither do we want the scripture readings to be rushed through like ticking off a grocery list. Rather, we want to leave room for the scriptures and the sermon to echo in our heads and hearts, and to land in our memories and our prayers.
Before the Confession, there is a brief silence. This is a time for each of us to call to mind those ways in which we have sinned against others and ourselves and against God, places in our lives where we need God’s absolution, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit. In that moment, we bring ourselves before God, not in a vague generic way, but the real and messy and specific lives we live, offering them up to God in honesty so that he might forgive us and heal us.
Sometimes the silence is there so that the people in the pews can add their petitions and thanksgivings to God either silently or aloud. You can add your prayers verbally (as appropriate to the gathering) so that the community around you can hear and share in your prayers. This is especially helpful in our thanksgivings. This is a case where the silence is there to give space to speaking and hearing and sharing.
And finally, silence is part of how we stand in awe of God. This is true in moments in the Eucharistic prayer, when the bread and wine are lifted, or when the bread is broken or as the community shares communion with Christ and his church. That moment when the celebrant breaks the bread is called the “fraction,” and there is a time of silence before the “fraction anthem” is said or sung. This is a moment in which the Great Thanksgiving connects with the breaking of Jesus’ body for us. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” we say, proclaiming the way in which Jesus is both, for us, the Passover lamb that saves us from death, and the sacrificial lamb given for our sins. “Therefore, let us keep the feast,” we respond, finding joy in our salvation Jesus gave us, embodied and proclaimed in the Lord’s Supper that he commanded us to continue.
In your own life, and in our worship services, take each opportunity of silence as an invitation from God to come closer, bringing all of who you are to him, in honesty, trusting him, and opening yourself to his life-giving presence. Each time of silence spent with God will be a feast indeed, with its own unique rejoicing.
Yours in Christ,