Last week, we began to look at the place of silence within the celebration of Mass.
One of the times during Mass when silence is encouraged is during the Act of Penitence (also known as the Penitential Rite) and after the invitation to pray.
At the Act of Penitence, the priest invites us to pray silently. One example provided in the missal of how he may do this is: “My brothers and sisters, as we prepare to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins.” The priest should then pause to allow us to pray.
The invitation makes clear to us the focus of our silent prayer at this time. We are asked to be aware of our human frailty and limitations. We are asked to recall those times when we have failed to live up to the example of Christ. Conscious of our faults, we can then ask for the blessing of, and graciously acknowledge, the gentleness and compassion of God.
The Opening Prayer is preceded by the very simple invitation, “Let us pray”. Again, the priest should allow us some time for silent prayer. We come to the eucharistic celebration full of the joys and hopes, challenges and difficulties of the past week. We have our own intentions, petitions, and causes for praise and thanksgiving. This moment of silence allows us to bring these thoughts to mind as part of our own offering at this Mass. The prayer the priest leads, which is often referred to as the “Collect”, can literally serve to collect together the prayers of each of us into the unified prayer of the Body of Christ gathered to celebrate the Eucharist.