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March 23, 2017

Holy Week: Silence

Barn with cross on top and sunset behind


I was personally very convicted recently by an article in the Catholic Sentinel by the chief shepherd of our Archdiocese, Most Reverend Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland. In his article titled “The power of silence” Archbishop Sample shined a bright light on an area of my own life that I need to be more attentive to. Silence. One of my favorite passages of scripture is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11). Holy silence penetrates the darkness of our hearts and reveals the will of God hidden within, eclipsed by self-love and the human will. Silence refines us like the refiner’s fire mentioned in Zechariah 13:9. That is what makes silence so uncomfortable, but also what makes silence so valuable as we move through Holy Week to the celebration of Easter. Below you’ll find some suggestions on how to invite more silence into your Holy Week journey toward Easter.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11)

Janét Sullivan WhitakerThe words of Archbishop Sample also resonate with an article published in last year’s second ordinary time issue of Today’s Liturgy. Janét Sullivan Whitaker illustrates in that article – titled “A Time to be Silent” – How including silence within the context of the Liturgy can offer the faithful the opportunity to meditate on the Word of God. Janét also includes sections from the General Instruction for the Roman Missal that spell out particular times in the liturgy where meditative silence is appropriate and encouraged. I feel a strong connection to this statement from Janét. “We have all found ourselves in conversational settings that include one person simply waiting for a lull so the other can begin. This sort of silence rarely includes true attentiveness” This is how I feel most of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, approach silence in the Liturgy. After the first reading we stand ready with book in hand for our chance to respond to God and we are not being attentive to the action His Word is trying to perform in our hearts. We are in such anticipation of our opportunity to fully, actively and consciously participate that we effectively fail to do so.

Silence gives us the proper breathing room to commune with the sacred. Several years ago during an episode of The Commons, Tom Booth told us the story of how his song Sacred Silence came to be. Through an unplanned moment in the liturgy there was a dramatic silence that penetrated his heart, the fruit of which was this song. Since the recording of that episode our lives have only gotten noisier. Every moment is filled with some sort of audio/visual distraction. As we culminate our journey through Lent this Holy Week, how are we leaving room for the Lord to speak to us?

Songs for Holy Week

Below are 7 songs one for each day of Holy Week that can help draw us into that silent place where we can hear God’s voice more clearly in our lives. Join me in listening to one of these songs each day of Holy Week and after listening to the song spend 5 minutes alone with the Lord without any distractions. If we give Him the opportunity to speak to us in the silence, we might be astonished by how much he has to say.

Palm Sunday

Above All [MP3]

Lenny LeBlanc, Paul Baloche

Holy Monday

Judas and Mary [MP3]

Sydney Carter, Tom Kendzia

Holy Tuesday

Holy Wednesday

Holy Thursday

Good Friday

Beneath the Cross [MP3]

Ronald Matthews, Genevieve Glen

Holy Saturday

Sacred Silence [MP3]

Tom Booth, Jenny Pixler, Anthony Kuner
Jethro Higgins
Jethro Higgins

Jethro Higgins, father of 6,  has Directed Youth & Young Adult ministry programs and led liturgical music ensembles since 2004. Jethro received his Master of Science in Business Analysis from the Catholic University of America and is currently studying at The Augustine Institute in the Master of Arts in Theology program.