Worshiping without tears

The main character in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, Evelyn Waugh’s 1957 novel based on his own experience published when he was 54, is a Roman Catholic who just when church leaders were urging worship as a corporate rather than private act, had “burrowed ever deeper into the rock” and when away from his home parish sought the “least frequented mass” and remained “aloof from” church organizations formed to meet the needs of the times. Called “a leading Catholic” by media, he was not conspicuous for his leadership. 

Some find that appalling, I’m sure, but I find it appealing.  Today’s RC worship represents capitulation to a personal, Protestant approach to piety.  Once the emphasis was on God and ceremony, now it’s on the priest.  He has become the main character, as performer.  We like this or that parish because the priest is a performer after our likes.  Once it mattered far less who said the mass.  Differences were muted by sheer force of ritual.  Personal, quirky additions or emendations were unheard of.  Now they are everywhere.  They are what give the priest-performer style.  He may not intend that, and he’s under the gun to perform.  So he does.

That said, the goal can still be there for the mass-sayer or celebrant if you insist.  He can ditch the folksy business, or the pseudo-scholarly or the innovative.  And he can be more matter-of-fact about it.  You wonder sometimes about the emotional stability of some.  They spill their guts and go all compassionate.  They are romantics when you get down to it.  But classicists have feelings too.  They just don’t go all sloppy about it.  Granted, the priest is in competition with a media-frenzied world, especially as on television.  But even there you can find clarity without bathos sometimes.  Even there the message is muted sometimes.  Priests should hit the mute more often, even sometimes shutting up, but at least toning things down.

And for starters, they should not open mass with that “Good morning” bit.  They are not running into us at the supermarket, they are leading worship.  Let them can the informality.

Later, from Reader D.:  I LOVE your suggestion that priests should hit mute. Hey, mute is Biblical: I must decrease so He can increase.  All the chummy baloney at Mass is the Phil Donahue syndrome. That’s when it started, and that’s when this generation of pastors were newbies. They learned to take their mikes down into the audience. Spare me!!!  I decided during the Triduum at the Monastery of the Holy Cross (which I enjoyed) that Gregorian Chant is over-rated. Who the heck hums Chant in their free time besides Brother Peter? It’s mathematics as music. Give me a little melody.  Watching a bit of the Easter vigil on EWTN with Pope Benedict, I discovered Latin is an equalizer. There was no German accent — just Latin.

The Case for Latin: Why Worship Benefits From a Sacred Language – Philip Kosloski

Argues that Mass is a spiritual event that goes beyond hearing Scripture.

While it is true that part of the Mass is meant to be instructive and intelligible, the overall character of the liturgy is meant to be much more. Instead, what is meant to be the focus is that, in the “liturgy, heaven joins earth, the invisible becomes visible, and the symbolic is the real (sign and reality)” (Mystical Body, Mystical Voice: Encountering Christ in the Words of the Mass, 27). This hidden reality should then be expressed in the language that is used at Mass, for “the language that we use during the liturgy is the Mystical Voice of the Mystical Body, a ‘hymn of praise that is sung through all the ages in the heavenly places’” (Ibid, 29).

Rather than being a mere proclamation of scripture, the liturgy is meant to bring others into a mysterious realm where one can peer through a window into Heaven. The use of the Latin language accomplishes this mystical goal of the liturgy just like the iconostasis veils the Divine Mysteries in the Eastern Church. Parish priest, Father Christopher Smith, explains what many have discovered in this way, “In the West, the function of icons and veils is taken in part by [the Latin] language. It emphasizes the mystery and the transcendence of a God who, despite His closeness to us, is still always beyond our reach” (New Liturgical Movement).

more more more here . . .

Who will succeed Cardinal Robert Sarah as Prefect of the Roman Congregation Divine Worship and the Sacraments?

Everything seems to indicate “an attack on ‘Summorum Pontificum’ and the Usus antiquior in general”, said Monika Rheinschmitt from Pro Missa Tridentina at the end of February.

The Heart of John Henry Newman: Beating with the Spirit of the Liturgy

Here on what’s called on for the worshiper:

Newman preached regularly and therefore commented upon much of the Biblical text having to do with ritual and liturgy. The sermon entitled, “Reverence in Worship,” takes up the “forms of worship—such as bowing the knee, taking off shoes, keeping silence, a prescribed dress.” These and the like are “considered as necessary for a due approach to God,” even from the standpoint of natural religion (310).

But:

While reverence is “one of the marks or notes of the Church,” the world teaches man to be “familiar and free with sacred things” (310), entering the Church “carelessly and familiarly” (311). While Newman opposes the approach of the world, rather than simply adopting rote ritual postures “for their own sake,” he challenges the faithful to keep in mind the fact of being in the very presence of God and so to “allow the forms of piety to come into God’s service naturally” (311).

Externals matter:

In his sermon on the “Ceremonies of the Church,” Newman comments upon the “great importance of retaining those religious forms to which we are accustomed” (76). Indeed, there is “no such thing as abstract religion” (78).

He made sense wherever he went with his thinking.

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma

A prayer that needs no editing:

God our Father, source of life and freedom, through Your Holy Spirit you gave the Carmelite, Titus Brandsma the courage to affirm human dignity even in the midst of suffering and degrading persecution.

Grant us that same spirit so that, in refusing all compromise with error we may always and everywhere give coherent witness to Your abiding presence among us.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

Clear and to the point. Clean copy.

Act of consecration to St. Joseph re-phrased

O dearest St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to your honor and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a greater purity of heart and fervent love of the interior life. After your example may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. O Blessed St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

becomes:

St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to you. I want you to be my father and protector and guide on the path to salvation. Obtain for me purity of heart and love of the interior life. Help me to do everything for God’s glory, in union with Jesus and Mary. Pray for me, that I may have the peace and joy of a holy death. Amen.

=================

Later: It’s an argument, in part, for church Latin, which is far more articulate, clear, and trustworthy in its genre than today’s (or last centuries’) devotional English — with noteworthy exceptions, as Newman’s “Lead, kindly light,” for instance — in its. Not to mention Southwell’s, Herrick’s and others’ of previous centuries. I offer my sliced and diced trimmed-down translation above as trying to make do more convincingly with the vernacular which we have now.

When early Lutherans in 1616 got liturgical marching orders and were told to get rid of altars etc. . . .

. . . and said the heck with that and kept their altars and crucifixes and communion not on the hand and bowing “as if” God were present and seeing the priest “with his back to the people” and going to confession before “communing” and not considering the words of consecration “symbolic,” etc.

Ordered to go low in 1616 by Johann Georg, Margrave of the the Silesian duchy of Jågerndorf, they faced him down.

His decree:

All images are to be removed from the church and sent to the court.
The stone altar is to be ripped from the ground and replaced with a wood table covered with a black cloth.
When the Lord’s Supper is held, a white cloth covers the table.
All altars, panels, crucifixes and paintings are to be completely abolished, as they are idolatrous and stem from the papacy.
Instead of the host, bread is to be used and baked into broad loaves, cut into strips and placed in a dish, from which people receive it in their hands; likewise the chalice [in their hands].
The words of the supper are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
The golden goblets are to be replaced with wooden ones.
The prayer in place of the collect is to be spoken, not sung.
Mass vestments and other finery are no longer to be used.
No lamps or candles are to be placed on the altar.
The houseling [communion] cloth [for catching the host if it dropped] is not to be held in front of the communicants.
The people are not to bow as if Christ were present.
The communicants shall no longer kneel.
The sign of the cross after the benediction is to be discontinued.
The priest is no longer to stand with his back to the people.
The collect and Epistle are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
Individuals are no longer to go to confession before communing, but rather register with the priest in writing. [?]

The people are no longer to bow when the name of Jesus is mentioned, nor are they to remove their hats.
The Our Father is no longer to be prayed aloud before the sermon.
Communion is not to be taken to the sick, as it is dangerous, especially in times of pestilence. [Covid
times!]
The stone baptismal font is to be removed and a basin substituted.
Epitaphs and crucifixes are no longer to be tolerated in the church.
The Holy Trinity is not to be depicted in any visual form.
The words of the sacrament are to be altered and considered symbolic.

These prohibitions have the flavor of 20th-century Catholic liturgical reform, do they not? The writer, a longtime Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor, drawing on Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation and Three Centuries of Conflict, by Joseph Herl, has uncovered what he calls “a sort of photographic negative of Lutheran worship!

“Drop the prohibitions,” he says, “and see the description of the normal practice, the actual shape of Lutheran worship to which this complaint bears witness.

“From the images and crucifixes to the chanting of collects and readings; . . . from the rich use of the Mass vestments to the beautiful and precious vessels that distributed the Lord’s blood; from the piety that knelt to receive the Sacrament and bowed to the Christ truly present in His body and blood when approaching or departing the holy altar to the bowing of head and doffing of hats at every mention of the holy name of JESUS.

“And what truly matters and is clear is that all these ceremonies . . . were clearly heard and seen as confessions of the Lutheran faith. And that is why they had to go.”

But the “surprisingly stubborn and resistant populace . . . was not about to give up their faith for some princely whim of his; they smelled Calvinism and wanted no parts of it.” Indeed, soldiers were sent to “enforce the changes . . . and the Margrave backed down. The people got to keep their Lutheran ceremonies.”

Reminds you of Catholic traditionalists today, in any number of points, including the boldfaced proposed prohibitions above. And it give me quite a different feeling about the staying power of Catholic liturgical customs and ritual even 100 years after Martin Luther’s break from Rome.

The sermon is no joking matter

Lutheran pastor Burnell Eckardt mused about leading prayer at a church service and concluded that while doing so, he never has “the remotest thought of praying with levity or jocularity.”

Never is humor added as if to maintain the attention of people who might be silently praying along. Never in the prayers of the church, or for that matter, in personal prayers, is humor thought to be a helpful ingredient. . . .

This pastor, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois, thought it puzzling. “Whenever we speak to God we are dead serious. We are not trying . . . to be funny, or evoke laughter.”

(Let us hope so, though many a churchgoer would not be surprised by ill-timed attempts at humor.)

“Why then?” he asks, “is there [the urge] to employ levity or evoke laughter when it is time for us to hear God, when there is preaching?”

In the sermon, “the integration of God’s word with the words of the pastor . . . The Gospel is to be preached, not simply read aloud. . . . the same ought to be true of the sermon,” which also is “God’s word,” even if in the preacher’s own words.”

The preacher “is doing a holy thing. The sermon is “God’s word.” The sermon must be “norma normata, that is, ‘normed’ by the Scriptures,” which are to be its “guide and compass.” It must be “derived, governed by the Scriptures.” That is required of preachers, “though of course they have great latitude in how they preach and apply God’s word.”

But . . .

. . . the sermon is not stand up comedy. It is not a time to connect with the hearers in the way that motivational speakers might do. It’s different. It’s norma normata. Certainly the pastor is using the sermon to connect with the hearers, but . . . with levity? With jokes?

You don’t joke around when speaking to God, so why, then, should you joke around when you, O pastor, are the vehicle through which God is speaking? We are, as the catechism says, to hold preaching sacred. Certainly this applies to the preacher as well as to the hearers.

Indeed. This Lutheran has it right.

Shaking hands, holding hands, communion in hand as mentioned in a parish bulletin several years ago . . .

* You don’t have to shake hands (at “sign of peace” time), you can just say hi in a “genuinely warm” way, said the bulletin in 2012, concerned about germs in the flu season.

But being genuinely warm can be the trouble. What’s not to like about that. A handshake is lower-level sacred in itself, something I give myself to wholeheartedly, but here it’s distracting when one is absorbed or trying to be absorbed with God-centered thoughts, which are essential to a worship experience or any religious experience as I understand it. Am I wrong?

* Plus maybe skip hand-holding (at Our Father time).

Or any other season if you don’t mind: forget the kumbaya if you don’t mind.

* Plus reconsider your aversion to communion in the hand if you have one.

Didn’t have one at the time (have acquired one), but was and remain averse to persuading people to do things opposite to what’s done in the Vatican. Or is hostile to their belief and a trifle insensitive to religious emotions. But more than that to one’s conviction that it’s God-time at Mass and that it’s important to pay attention to that.

Something else: Control freakism here? Uniformity pushed if not subtly enforced by professionals? Some of that maybe, or probably. All part of the decline of the worship experience, loss of the sacred. I thought so then, do so now.