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Cardinal Sarah emphasizes importance of silence, ad orientem celebration

October 04, 2016

In an interview with a French newspaper, Cardinal Robert Sarah emphasized the importance of silence in encountering God and renewed his call for the ad orientem celebration of the Mass.

Discussing his new book—La Force du silence (The Strength of Silence)—the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said that the “truly urgent thing” is “to rediscover the sense of God. Now the Father allows Himself to be approached only in silence.”

“We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism,” he continued. “We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power. For the sake of titles, professional or ecclesiastical duties, we accept vile compromises. But all that passes away like smoke.”

Renewing his invitation to priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem, accompanied by catechesis, he said:

This way of doing things promotes silence. Indeed, there is less of a temptation for the celebrant to monopolize the conversation. Facing the Lord, he is less tempted to become a professor who gives a lecture during the whole Mass, reducing the altar to a podium centered no longer on the cross but on the microphone! The priest must remember that he is only an instrument in Christ’s hands, that he must be quiet in order to make room for the Word, and that our human words are ridiculous compared to the one Eternal Word.

I am convinced that priests do not use the same tone of voice when they celebrate facing East. We are so much less tempted to take ourselves for actors, as Pope Francis says!


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 07, 2016 4:38 AM ET USA

    I have attended dialog low Masses in the East and the Midwest where everyone participates verbally. I have attended high Masses where the Mass is routinely sung and where everyone can join in the Gregorian chant. None of the ICKSP low Masses that I have attended allowed dialog between the pews and the sanctuary. If you attend one of their Masses only occasionally, I can understand why you might not have the most fruitful experience. Their Masses require more effort and discipline on your part.

  • Posted by: stephen-o-rino - Oct. 04, 2016 8:32 PM ET USA

    Can the Faithful pray the "responses" to the Priest during a low or "high" Mass "ad orientum"? I thought I would truly appreciate the Latin Mass more than the 'new' Mass and found that no vocal participation on "our" part (parishioners) was tedious. Instead of relishing the silence, I was having a hard time finding my "place" in the sequence of the liturgy and felt left out. I was surprised to find that my 'responding" in the vernacular helped me immensely to keep pace. ?? Latin would be fine

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Oct. 04, 2016 6:38 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Sarah is not talking about the EF, I think, but ad orientem Masses in the Ordinary Form. Certainly for those, far too many priests are far too casual in approaching the altar. Tthe combination of a microphone and facing the congregation allows an interplay which distracts from worship and sacredness. I hope a sense of reverence can be widely rediscovered in the Church; ad orientem Masses would help that!

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Oct. 04, 2016 6:34 PM ET USA

    As someone who attends traditional Masses as times, I much prefer the use of a microphone at them, for those parts of the Mass that are meant to be heard. I really try to enter into the Mass, and find it frustrating to attend a Low Mass where I cannot hear the readings and prayers. All the more so if it is apparent the priest is celebrating something other than the Mass of the day and did not announce it, so I have no idea what readings and prayers are being used.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 04, 2016 12:49 PM ET USA

    I must disagree with Loumaiamo. I would be pretty put out if I did not have a low Mass to attend. One of my reasons for returning to the extraordinary form 20 years ago was low Mass, a Mass where I could follow the Mass and pray it with the priest. Not only can I pray the low Mass with the priest, but if the priest on duty is slow, I actually have time to catch up on post-communion prayers that I might ordinarily not have time to say after Mass due to my CCD responsibilities. Blessed silence.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - Oct. 04, 2016 10:26 AM ET USA

    I attend the Latin mass in Phoenix, & I agree with the Cdl's teaching re ad orientem posture. But not re the mic, as I see that as just another tech improvement to make the mass better for the people, in the same way that the bells at consecration and then later the raised platform for the altar were simple tech advances. The tradition of silence developed from lack of options more than any other cause. A mic for the WHOLE mass would be an improvement and would make evangelizing much easier.