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The Silent Eucharist

A Eucharist celebrated in silence may seem to be a contradiction. Possibly it is! Nevertheless, many who have tried it out have found the silence to be very rich and have discovered new insights in God's action at the Eucharist. Almost certainly it needs to be used only with people who are familiar with the shape of the Eucharist.

The DRAFT ORDER at the end of this page gives a brief plan for a silent Eucharist and it is suggested that something similar should be given to everyone taking part. Careful thought must be given as to how the essential movement of Eucharistic worship can be best expressed. Manual acts by the leader should be carefully considered (and kept simple).

There is no blueprint. What is offered here is reflection on experience of such services and an example of one such service. If you wish to plan such a service you will need to do your own work and use your own imagination. You will also need to be very tightly organised, having thought through clearly what people will need to be given before the service starts.

SUGGESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT (but there are all sorts of possibilities):

  • Worship space. Table, Icon, Candle....people arranged in a circle. Chairs for comfort.
  • Let people ask questions about what is going to happen. Give clear instructions about any movement or action required and try to help people feel as comfortable and secure as possible. Silence can be very frightening.
  • Consider using a piece of music as a call to worship and to inaugurate the silence.
  • Confession. Pieces of paper given out by the President can be written on, folded and placed in a suitable container. These may then be burnt or torn up by the leader.
  • Gospel. If there is time, prepare a mime for one or more people. If not, someone can be appointed to move to the centre of the circle, hold an open Bible for a short period, possibly lifting it slightly before sitting down.
  • Intercession. Each person can come forward and light a candle as they offer their intercession in silence.
  • Peace. Begun by the leader. Others may follow his actions at this point, a handshake or an embrace. (We found it very difficult to remain silent!)
  • Eucharistic Prayer and beyond. The leader's actions must give full expression to the fourfold action here.
       Taking the bread and cup.
       Giving thanks over the bread and cup.
       Breaking the bread.
       Giving the bread and cup to the assembled worshippers, possibly
       encouraging them to communicate each other in the round.

The material printed below was given at a silent Eucharist of the Holy Spirit celebrated at a SPIDIR training course meeting. Classical music was thought to be most helpful on this occasion and for this particular group, but many different styles of music would be suitable, e.g. 'Eat this bread' from the community at Taize could be used at the communion or as an invitation to communion.

A POSSIBLE DRAFT ORDER

At the celebration of the Eucharist we are usually expected to respond physically with body and voice. Today we are released from these expectations and invited to use the freedom given to allow ourselves to be more open to the promptings of the Spirit.

The liturgy will follow the usual Eucharistic shape, which is set our below for those who find it useful.

Call to worship - (‘Locus iste’ - Anton Bruckner. 'This place was made by God a priceless mystery; it is without reproof.')

Confession and Absolution.

Collect - Come now, spirit of integrity, of tenderness, judgement, and dance; touch our speechlessness, kindle our longing, reach into our silence, and fire our words with your truth; that each may hear in her own language the mighty works of God.

Gospel - St. John 14. 25-27 (J.B.)

Jesus said: 'I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.
Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'

After the Gospel: an excerpt from 'The Kingdom' by Edward Elgar will be played.

Intercession
Peace
Eucharistic Prayer
Lord's Prayer
Breaking of Break
Invitation to Communion
Communion
Blessing
Dismissal