In the Gospel today, we hear how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for a time of prayer and fasting for forty days and forty nights. Have you ever experienced time in a desert? One can only imagine how vast, void of life, quiet and alone that experience can be. For Jesus, it was also a place where he faced temptations from Satan. But all of this helped Jesus to prepare Himself for public ministry. During this season of Lent, we enter the desert experience so to let go of the many things that distract us from our relationship with Jesus and to prepare our hearts for the true celebration that is to come in the Easter season. Fasting helps us to truly enter into the feasting that is to come.
One way we will foster this desert experience is through silence within the liturgy. You will notice that during Lent there is silence during the Alleluia proclamation. In order to foster a deeper desert experience within the liturgy, we will refrain from the offertory hymn and offer silence during the offertory. In addition, if you come to celebrate daily Mass with us, silence will replace the opening and closing hymns. All of these ways will help us to prepare our hearts with a longing for the rejoicing that comes with the gift of the resurrection. It will also enable us to enter deeper into the mystery of what is happening at the Eucharistic liturgy.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote on the importance of silence all throughout his life. In 2000, Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, offered an insight into the silence of the liturgy. “We respond, by singing and praying to the God who addresses us, but the 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.” He also mentions that: “Silence is the environmental condition most conducive to contemplation, to listening to God and to meditation. The very fact of enjoying silence and letting ourselves be "filled", so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer.”
By entering into silent prayer during the liturgy, we are allowing God to restore us and better open up ourselves to prayer—which is encounter with God. Enter into the desert with Jesus this Lent. Allow the silence to restore you.
May you find peace in the stillness,