The Mass belongs to the Church, not the priest – March, 2012

Opinion: Letters To The Editor March 13th, 2012

Dan Haley is indignant about Bishop Braxton’s telling a priest not to ad-lib the Mass, as if it’s the priest’s Mass and he can do with it anything he wants. But it’s not his, it’s the church’s. Braxton had no choice. Once apprised of the situation, he nixed the practice. What was he supposed to do, poll the congregation?

Dan knows the church doesn’t act that way, but he continues to kick against the goad, betraying either naivete or stubbornness in the matter. He would like the church to conform in this matter. And in how many others?

It’s an institution that claims divine founding and has thousands of years of being governed pretty much as it is today. But a priest wants to remake the Mass, the center of Catholic worship? Braxton is supposed to say go ahead, suit yourself? If he has authority in any area, it’s in worship.

He doesn’t have Dan’s vote, and he may not always have mine, but in either case, so what? We’re both trying to be decent Catholics; that’s the important thing.

Jim Bowman
Oak Park

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.

Acid comments on a church redecorated . . .

CHURCH AS REDECORATED, January, 2002 . . . Astute, knowledgeable reader reports a church redone in “a rainbow of colors,” including purple and pink and “new shades of blue-greens . . . all radiating from a once dramatically stark huge crucifix above the sanctuary, which now looks like a Divine Mercy wannabe, clashing with modern stained glass windows already there in bold blue, green and yellow.

“The ‘liturgy committee’ . . . saw autumn approaching and brought out last year’s hangings on either side of the crucifix in vivid orange and yellow, with nosegays of artificial orange/yellow flowers. Streamers of artificial leaves cascade down the walls of the nave between stations of the cross.

“We have either become the Rainbow Coalition or been taken hostage by Puerto Ricans. Not to say that would be such a BAD thing, but if you are not color blind you wish you were.”

She was a writer and a dedicated Catholic who has gone to her reward.

THE MASS TRANSMOGRIFIED: WHOSE SACRIFICE? WHOSE NAME?

The mass is reconstituted by free-lancing priest-celebrants.

For instance . . .

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands
for the praise and glory of his name,
for our good
and the good of all his holy Church.

. . . is in some quarters changed to

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands
for the praise and glory of God’s name . . .

. . . which never in my hearing has been explained to the congregation. It’s simply done, over and over until the people, or most of them, do it that way too. You can hear the cacophonous blurring in the recital.

The changes are easily explained. “Our hands” ignores the priest’s unique role as celebrant and “God’s name” avoids the masculine pronoun.

The first changes the meaning and is pernicious. The second flouts tradition as scandalous and offensive.

What Catholics pray for during Mass: Should they watch their language?

Praying for peace is a good idea, but for an “end to violence” or even the specific “end to violence in Chicago”? That’s praying for the end of the world, which will be a wonderful thing, to be sure. The earliest Christians prayed for it. But we might add an Augustinian “not yet.” Why not “less violence”? Or “fewer killings on our mean streets,” something we can take seriously without calling for an end to life as we know it. (Unless we are truly asking for the Final Coming.)

Or an end to vote-stealing. Why not expand social-justice discussion to troubles behind the obvious — poverty and the like — into political corruption, which does poor people no good and like everything else affects them most of all.

Or we are asked to pray for the deceased who “rests in the loving embrace” of God, which is romance-novel talk. “May he or she rest in peace” works nicely. Do we need this loving-embrace talk? One cringes.

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…

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The mentality and modus agendi of Novus Ordo reformers, in a few words . . .

Key words and phrases here, help us understand what we have in Novus Ordo masses:

The feast of St. Thomas the Apostle has been kept on . . . December 21 from at least the ninth century. It was moved to July 3, the day mentioned by St. Jerome as the date of his martyrdom in India, by those who revised the calendar after the Second Vatican Council. They did this so that his feast would not interrupt the major ferial days of Advent leading to Christmas.

They wanted to tidy things up, calendar wise. They considered the feast of St. Thomas in later Advent out of place. Their liturgical rationalism made them blind to the wonderful interruption of late Advent made possible by the feast of this apostle.

You see this in the masses, where it’s almost a head trip that is offered worshipers. No room for what does not fit the outline.

The Gospel of the day is

the famous Gospel of “doubting Thomas” . . . heard also on the Sunday after Easter, Low Sunday. Heard on Low Sunday it makes sense as the continuing narrative of Jesus’ resurrection and appearances to the disciples. But it also makes sense in a discontinuous way today, four days before the celebration of the birth of Christ.

More later on this very point about liturgical fixers . . . Fussbudgets . . .

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.)

Differences in the Old and New Liturgical Calendars: Slaughter of the feast days . . .

More of why liturgical change. “Armchair strategy of academics,” then-mere-cardinal Ratzinger called it.

It was incomprehensible and pointless to move feast days that people have been celebrating on particular days for hundreds (or thousands) of years, thus totally disrupting the annual nature of the liturgical year. And why change the calendar all around to a three year cycle named as years A, B, or C? Whoever thought that one up?

. . . .

From “the Feast of Faith” By J. Ratzinger ( later Pope Benedict XVI) in 1986:

“One of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform can doubtless be traced to the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth. The most blatant example of this is the reform of the Calendar: those responsible simply did not realize how much the various annual feasts had influenced Christian people’s relation to time. In redistributing these established feasts throughout the year according to some historical arithmetic – inconsistently applied at that – they ignored a fundamental law of religious life.”

Of course, Ratzinger later put his authority where his mouth (or pen) was, in 2007 as pope giving carte blanche approval for the Old Mass.