It is important to recall that silence is a necessary condition for deep, contemplative prayer, and an important component of the liturgy.
Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times (Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 30; Instruction Musicam sacram, n. 17). Its nature, however, depends on the moment when it occurs in the different parts of the celebration. For in the Penitential Act and again after the invitation to pray, individuals recollect themselves; whereas after a reading or after the Homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise God in their hearts and pray to him. Even before the celebration itself, it is a praiseworthy practice for silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred celebration in a devout and fitting manner. (GIRM, no. 45 [formerly 23])How sad it is—it’s almost a sacrilege—to hear sometimes priests and bishops chattering uninterruptedly in the sacristy, and even during the entrance procession, instead of recollecting themselves and contemplating in silence the mystery of the death of Christ on the Cross that they are getting ready to celebrate, which ought to inspire them with nothing but fear and trembling!
The first moment in particular in which silence is prescribed is the penitential preparation: “The Priest calls upon the whole community to take part in the Penitential Act, which, after a brief pause for silence, it does by means of a formula of general confession” (GIRM, n. 51 ). Then, for the collect: “…the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions” (GIRM, n. 54 ; cf. n. 127 ). Then, “the Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to favor meditation, and so any kind of haste such as hinders recollection is clearly to be avoided. In the course of it, brief periods of silence are also appropriate, accommodated to the assembled congregation; by means of these, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily” (GIRM, n. 56). Paragraph n. 128  is entirely in keeping with this recommendation for the First Reading, and n. 130  for the Second Reading. This advice applies also to the homily, which must be received and assimilated in an atmosphere of prayer (cf. GIRM, n. 66  and 136 ). Finally it becomes a genuine prescription addressed to the faithful for the Eucharistic Prayer, when “the people, for their part, should associate themselves with the priest in faith and in silence…” (GIRM, n. 147 ).
We find again the possibility of remaining in silence after Holy Communion (cf. GIRM, n. 164 ), or to prepare to listen to the “Postcommunion” prayer (GIRM, n. 165 ). In Mass celebrated in the absence of a congregation, a moment of silence is even recommended to the celebrant: “After the purification of the chalice, the Priest should observe a brief pause for silence...” (GIRM, n. 271 ).
Silence is therefore not at all absent from the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, at least if we follow its guidelines and celebrate in the spirit of its recommendations. Unfortunately, too often “it was forgotten that the Council also included silence under actuosa participatio, for silence facilitates a really deep, personal participation, allowing us to listen inwardly to the Lord’s word. Many liturgies now lack all trace of this silence.” Moreover, apart from the homily, all other speeches or introductions of persons should be forbidden during the celebration of Holy Mass. Indeed, we have to avoid turning the church, which is the house of God intended for adoration, into a theater in which people come to applaud the actors who are rated according to their ability to communicate, to use an expression that you often hear in the media. Nowadays, you sometimes get the impression that
Catholic worship…has gone from adoration of God to the exhibition of the priest, the ministers, and the faithful. Piety has been abolished, including the word itself, and has been liquidated by liturgists as devotionalism, but they have made the people put up with liturgical experiments and rejected spontaneous forms of devotion and piety. They have even succeeded in imposing applause on funerals in place of mourning and weeping. Did Christ not mourn and weep at the death of Lazarus? “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy…it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared….”4. The importance of silence for the quality of the liturgy
Finally, we must strive to understand the motivations of this liturgical discipline concerning silence and to become imbued with it. Two particularly well-qualified authors may help us in this area, and therefore succeed in convincing us of the need for silence in the liturgy. In the first place, Msgr. Guido Marini, Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, expresses the general principle in these terms:
A well celebrated liturgy, in its different parts, plans a happy alteration of silence and speech, in which silence animates speech, allows the voice to resonate with an extraordinary depth, and keeps each verbal expression in the right atmosphere of recollection…. The required silence must not…be considered as a pause between one moment in the celebration and the next. Rather, it should be considered as a true moment of the ritual, complementing the words, the vocal prayer, the song, and the gestures.Indeed, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had already noted in his famous book, The Spirit of the Liturgy:
[S]ilence is part of the liturgy…. [T]he greater mystery, surpassing all words, summons us to silence. It must, of course, be a silence with content, not just the absence of speech and action. We should expect the liturgy to give us a positive stillness that will restore us. Such stillness will not be just a pause, in which a thousand thoughts and desires assault us, but a time of recollection, giving us an inward peace, allowing us to draw breath and rediscover the one things necessary….his is therefore a silence in which we simply look at God and allow God to look at us and to envelop us in the mystery of his majesty and love.
Cardinal Ratzinger also mentioned several particular moments of silence, for example this one:
In some places, the Preparation of the Gifts is intended as a time for silence. This makes good sense and is fruitful, if we see the Preparation, not as just a pragmatic external action, but as an essentially interior process…. We ourselves are, or should be, the real gift…through our sharing in Jesus Christ’s act of self-offering to the Father…In this regard we must deplore the long, noisy offertory processions, involving endless dancing, in some African countries. They give the impression that one is attending a folk dance performance, which distorts the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and removes us from the Eucharistic mystery; it should be celebrated instead in recollection, because we too are plunged into his death and his self-offering to the Father. So it is appropriate to insist on the silence of the lay people during the Eucharistic Prayer, as Msgr. Guido Marini explains:
This silence is not synonymous with idleness or a lack of participation. Its purpose is to make all the faithful enter into the act of love by which Jesus offers himself to the Father on the cross for the salvation of the world. This truly sacred silence is the liturgical moment during which it is necessary to say yes, with all our strength, to Christ’s action, so that it might become our action too in everyday life.Finally, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, for their part, “the silent prayers of the priest invite him to make his task truly personal, so that he may give his whole self to the Lord…. These priestly prayers…do exist—they have to exist, now as before.” Finally, for everyone, “the silence after [the reception of] Communion…is the moment for an interior conversation with the Lord who has given himself to us, for that essential ‘communicating,’ that entry into the process of communication, without which the external reception of the Sacrament becomes mere ritual and therefore unfruitful.”
Footnotes can be found HERE