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 . . .

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.

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.

Meditating at Mass

PRAYER AND MEDITATION: I left home 8/8/1950 at 18 to study them full time. After two years of it (novitiate), I got my SJ degree, which I relinquished many years later. Even so, much of it has stuck. At Mass, for instance, I often enter the zone of prayer and meditation, which makes me a poor participant in liturgy. Doesn’t mean I think of nothing else (distractions, you know) or that I am superior to the fellow or gal next to me who belts out the songs and other responses. In fact, you could argue I’m not as good because I seem to reject the communal aspect that characterizes today’s liturgy.

So allow me to hang my head in shame at that, asking only for tolerance. Bear with me.

However, I ask . . .

Do we exceed the limits of liturgical propriety sometimes when, for instance, we extend the handclasp of peace to other pew-sitters far and wide, even getting out of our pews to hug and chat? Just asking, don’t get mad.

Communion time also. What about our meeting and greeting on way to the communion station? Ushers do it. They are the souls of geniality as if they were the host greeting you at the door of a party. And they and others seem sometimes to take it amiss if you don’t participate, like the old gent at Ascension-Oak Park a few years back who stood where communion-goers passed, glad-handing one and all. I didn’t go along, and the fellow was surprised and wounded.

Some get carried away with our communality. Something is missing when that happens. A sense of the sacred, reverence?

Communion time at a Mass of burial, an arguably solemn time on an arguably solemn occasion: Worshiper who has participated lustily throughout Mass thinks of something to call another’s attention to, does so. But the other is in a zone and working on staying there and can only nod and turn back. Later, returning from communion, same worshiper has to pass others to get to his place in the pew, puts head down and looks straight ahead. Others for whom this is a social occasion seem not sure about this, wondering what gives with this fellow.

Is something missing? The Mass of old, which encouraged or at least made time for the prayer-and-meditation aspect, is long gone. Pious chatter is the norm, including from the altar, where like a radio talker, anxious about dead air, Father almost never stops. Once there was silence. Is it time for some sort of pendulum shift? I ask you.

Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment: Mary Mother of God

Try this on for size, my hearties:

Once upon a time, a thousand years ago in the great basilica of Blachernae in Constantinople, high up on the ceiling near the Altar, was an enormous picture of a Palestinian teenager, that selfsame Girl who is such a lead-player in the Christmass celebrations. There she stood orans, Mediatrix of All Graces, as we Westerners would say, her hands raised in prayer, and in front of her womb, in a round circle, a painting of her Divine Son – his hand lifted in blessing. That image of Mary was called Platytera tou kosmou, the Woman Wider than the Universe. Mary was Great with Child; her Child was Almighty God. She contained the One whom the heaven of heavens is too narrow to hold. Can a foot be larger than the boot or an oyster greater than the shell? For Christians, apparently, Very Often. Mary’s slender womb enthroned within it the Maker of the Universe, the God who is greater than all the galaxies that stream across the firmament. The tummy of a Girl was wider than creation.

Then on the crisp night air came the squeal of the newly born baby. It came from the cave that was both a stable and a birth-place. That stable in Bethlehem, as C S Lewis memorably explains in The Last Battle, ‘had something in it that was bigger than our entire world’. The stable, like Mary, was great with child; very great, for that Child is God. And what is true of the womb of the Mother of God, and what is true of that stable at Bethlehem, is also the great truth of the Sacrament of the Altar. Bread becomes God Almighty; little round disks of unleavened bread are recreated by the Maker of the World to be Himself. As Mary’s Baby was bigger than all creation, than all the stars and clouds and mass of it, so the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is bigger than the Kosmos.

As you made your Christmass communion, glorious and loving Infinity came to make His dwelling in your poor body; so that, as you walked or drove home for the rest of Christmass, you were platyteroi tou Kosmou: broader than the Universe.

He spells Christmas with two s’s, you see. Not a typo. It’s what he thinks about the Mass.

Blithe Spirit

Try this on for size, my hearties:

Once upon a time, a thousand years ago in the great basilica of Blachernae in Constantinople, high up on the ceiling near the Altar, was an enormous picture of a Palestinian teenager, that selfsame Girl who is such a lead-player in the Christmass celebrations. There she stood orans, Mediatrix of All Graces, as we Westerners would say, her hands raised in prayer, and in front of her womb, in a round circle, a painting of her Divine Son – his hand lifted in blessing. That image of Mary was called Platytera tou kosmou, the Woman Wider than the Universe. Mary was Great with Child; her Child was Almighty God. She contained the One whom the heaven of heavens is too narrow to hold. Can a foot be larger than the boot or an oyster greater than the shell? For Christians, apparently…

View original post 248 more words

RORATE CAELI DESUPER, “Rain down ye heavens . . . “

Mass by candlelight just before dawn.

“THE RORATE MASS”A beautiful custom arose in Germany and Eastern Europe of saying an Advent Votive Mass of our Lady in the darkness just before dawn, entirely by candlelight. As well as being very ancient and very suitable to the few days before Christmass, it also comes round about the time (in the Northern hemisphere) of our shortest day. It thus has pastoral potential just when the human frame and psyche need to be cheered up by the prospect of lengthening days and the return of Light.

Mass goers went without their missals, were caught up in what they knew was happening. A lesson here.

(Oh. “Rorate coeli” are the first words of the post-introductory mass. “Rain down” is mine.)