So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

HazMass (Hazardous Mass)

Condemning Bananality (Yes... the second word is spelled that way for a reason.)
In a casual conversation this past Saturday evening (anticipated Sunday), someone who attended a Mass the previous weekend noted that the stand-in celebrant used a piece of fruit in his homily, no doubt to illustrate a point that couldn't be clarified using those mundane things known as words. A banana! A homily on the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Nope. It was a prop the priest used as a telephone to "speak to God", metaphorically speaking, of course. Welcome to the Diocese of Victoria, BC. BC, as in, beyond crazy. Pax et bananum, eh.
When Mass is broken, it is very easy to become discouraged by the apathy and complicity of one's brothers and sisters who permit or willingly promote liturgical abuses of one kind or another.

Don't get in a huff. Don't sweat the small stuff.

You may have heard a phrase to the effect that as long as the Mass is valid, i.e., as long as there is a valid consecration, then all is well. The compartmentalization of certain difficulties that may seem relatively insignificant in order to avoid cognitive dissonance or excuse oneself from the responsibility for protecting the integrity of the sacraments reflects a modern reductionist notion that sifts things for essence and exiles nuance. That notion has become comfortably entrenched in the minds of far too many Catholics, priests and people alike.

Jesus Christ, the principal actor in the Liturgy, identifies Himself with the Eucharist: this is my body; this is my blood (St. Luke 22). When a priest resorts to gimmicks and ploys to attract attention, he runs the very real risk of turning the Mass into a circus. If we attack the Liturgy, we attack Christ.

There is simply no excuse for treating the Mass as a casual social event. The Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary. Dear People of God—flectamus genua! Kneel in adoration and thanksgiving in the presence of God, the Most Holy Trinity!

Now, some might chime up and say that there is no need to get bent out of shape over "minor" problems, that there are distinctions to be made in the Liturgy which help mitigate any excessive compunction over certain acts of omission or comission, just as there are distinctions to be made between accidents, e.g., attributes of Jesus physical appearance, and essentials, e.g., aspects of Jesus' person and His actions. Consider, for a moment, however, the descriptions of Jesus' physical appearance presented in Holy Scripture. Are those descriptions superfluous, i.e., unnecessary references to mere accidents, or do those descriptions provide something very real and important about Who Jesus is? Those descriptions remind us that Jesus was real, a real person. Jesus is real; He is risen! Sacred Tradition (written Scripture and the oral Tradition found in the continuous witness of the Liturgy and the near-Apostolic writings of the disciples of Apostles, for example) conserves both the humanity of Jesus and the divinity of Jesus. The Liturgy, established by Christ Himself long before the Canon of Holy Scripture was established (Decretal of Gelasius from a synod convoked by Pope Damasus, A.D. 382; Canon of Innocent I, A.D. 405; the Synod of Hippo A.D. 393; and the three synods of Carthage, A.D. 393, 397, and 419), is the arena in which Christians meet Jesus. Can you imagine that the details provided about the Transfiguration or the prophecies describing the physical appearance of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53), for example, are of little or no consequence? The greatest debates in Christendom made use of both the written and oral Apostolic record to preserve the orthodox understanding concerning the humanity and divinity of Jesus and His fulfillment of the Law. That's how important those descriptions are to the Church!

The next time someone casually dismisses concern for the rubrics, remind them about the need to preserve the understanding of the humanity and divinity of Jesus in the Liturgy. The rubrics found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal guide the celebration of the Mass so that we may worship God in spirit and in truth.
Who do you say Jesus is? What do you say the Mass is?
Rubrics really do matter. Without the rubrics the Mass becomes easily manipulated to conform it and worshippers to a caricature of Christ and His Church, quite possibly a gnostic Jesus amidst heretical understandings about the Church and one's (lax) commitment to her. Lest there be any doubt about the veracity of that statement, take a look around you during Mass on any given Sunday in most parishes where the rubrics are discarded (the same rubrics which guide the reverent celebration of the Incarnate Word!) and you will see a sadly uninformed, perhaps deliberately misinformed and irreverent congregation, a situation made possible largely due to a lack of adequate formation in right worship. Or, is that 'rite' worship? Liturgical catechesis is the long overlooked aspect of Christian formation in our day. Given the weakness of so many parish adult formation programs, RCIA should stand for the Right to Christian Ignorance and Apathy.
Here's a thought: the New Evangelization should require authentic and thorough liturgical formation. No child nor any adult should lack formation in the truth of the Real Presence, for starters.
In the midst of the liturgical-cultural wars, it's far too easy to get bogged down with people's misinformed biases and miss an opportunity to shift the conversation, for example, in the direction of Jesus Christ. Even though the tradition-minded are commonly subject to unfair treatment and dismissed with hollow name calling by our lax brethren who refer to the faithful as narrow, rigoristic and pharisaical, we must not allow those possessed by an adolescent rebellion against authority nor any kind of petulant behaviour to vacate our commitment to charity toward all. We are compelled by a duty to the Truth to speak the truth in love to those who will listen and to provide to those who do not listen an example of holiness by the way we conduct ourselves. An act as simple as making the Sign of the Cross with true intent and outward reverence can be a channel of God's grace that can melt hearts and shape minds to be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of abuses tend to reduce the Mass to some imagined fiction that elevates pastoralness ("C'mon, be a nice fluffy teddybear and do not offend!" Or, "Hey, have a banana!") above the reverent worship of God. Must there be a dichotomy between pastoral sensitivity and right worship, i.e., worship that is reverent, dignified and beautiful? The answer is 'no', of course not. There is, however, the obligation to maintain decorum in the presence of the Lord. He is, after all, the Almighty, the Creator of the universe! When people need reminding of that, they should be so reminded.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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