Lately I have been fascinated by the use of the caesura, a pause in a line of poetry or music which is used for a dramatic effect. A caesura is often used to introduce, or highlight, something that is to follow.
Recently someone in my Bible Study pointed out the caesura dividing the two stanzas of the Hail Mary. The first stanza ends with the words "blessed is the fruit of your womb"; hence, Mary is with child. In the silence of the caesura separating the first stanza from the second stanza (which begins with the words "Holy Mary, Mother of God") Mary has given birth and is now a mother.
A lot happens in the silence of that pause.
Last week I gave a presentation in which I pointed out one of my favorite illustrations of a caesura in art in Andrea della Robbia's masterpiece, "The Annunciation". This familiar scene has been reduced to the essentials in which everyone is waiting for Mary's reply. The angel, God, the cherubs, and even the wings of the dove are waiting in suspense for the free will decision of Mary. Her face is thoughtful; one hand rests on the passage from Isaiah (Behold, a virgin shall conceive ...) while her other hand rests on her heart, searching for God's will.
This example of a caesura demonstrates the moment - the silent moment - just before Mary gives her fiat. And her words, not yet uttered, are inscribed on the base: You see before you the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say.
The Annunciation, Andrea della Robbia
La Verna, Italy
There is so much about the caesura, that deliberate pause, which I can apply to my life. How about inserting a caesura before I am tempted to speak my mind? Or using it before I make an important decision? Or using one in prayer so I can hear what God has to say? I can even use the caesura as a way to begin, or end, my day.
Yes, there are lessons to be learned in a pause ... a silence which speaks volumes.