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).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Arriving to Mass late. When is 'late' too late?

Today an Ordinariate priest said daily Mass. He entered in silence and recited the Introit at the altar, ad orientem—and many people recited the Introit with him!

During the homily, he spoke briefly about the almost (that is, not) amusing habit of people who arrive to Mass late and leave early. He noted that daily Mass, especially at the lunch hour, often means people are, understandably, rushing to/from work. He qualified his observation by referring to the situation that frequently occurs at Sunday Mass. Referring to the readings of the day, he reminded us that proper preparation is required when coming to meet the Eucharistic Lord.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow. Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.’—Exodus 19
The late will be... late.

If you're walking in the door and you hear the priest greeting the people in the name of the most Holy Trinity... isn't that a bit too late?

The Mass contains a series of vital movements in a progression to the summit of the liturgical symphony:
The Penitential Act prepares us to hear the word of God.
The Gloria is like a creed. We acknowledge Who God is. The great hymn of praise is, in a nutshell, a compendium of Who God is. We praise, adore, bless and give thanks to the One True God.
Christ speaks in and through Holy Scripture. Christ speaks in and through the priest who reads the Gospel. Hearing the Gospel purifies our hearts, elevates our minds, disposes us to God's grace.
The word of God prepares us to receive the Word of God Himself, the Holy Eucharist.
The Offertory. We offer ourselves and pray that our offering, our sacrifices, may be acceptable to God. We pray that our sorrows and joys may be grafted to the one Sacrifice of Christ, the Sacrifice of Calvary, that is about to be made present on the altar.
The Holy Eucharist, Christ's very Presence, fills our souls with the life of God and the grace to go forth and announce the Gospel for the sake of the salvation of the world.
Take away a movement in a symphony and it ceases to be the complete work. To be sure, there is great value in hearing even one movement of a Haydn symphony. Such multiple movement compositions, however, are conceived as a whole. The Holy Spirit, the master composer of the Liturgy, has given us through the Church which He animates a symphony of symphonies, and every movement is there for a reason. Consider this, too: would you barge in during a performance by some great orchestra? By so doing, wouldn't you be drawing attention to yourself and distracting others from the music?
White Rabbit: I'm late. I'm late for a very important date. No time to say "Hello, Goodbye". I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.
You're invited to a party. Imagine that the host of the party is someone you look up to a great deal: a great humanitarian; a genius scientist; your beloved grandmother; your sweetheart; a movie star (Jim Caviezel, perhaps?); a living saint (Jean Vanier). Would you then, even for a moment, consider delaying your arrival? Of course not. You would want to honour your host's invitation by arriving at a suitable time. The Mass is the feast of feasts, and everyone is invited. Everyone, in fact, is a very special guest, and the Host gives you His entire mansion to live in and enjoy for all eternity.

Knock knock,... I'm home!

The Lord God Almighty comes to dwell with His people! Get off your lazy butts and get to Mass in time to settle down before Mass and pray a personal preparatory prayer to help you welcome Jesus. Arrive at least ten minutes early to review the readings and to ask God to help you hear His wisdom, and pray for the help of His grace to help you live according to that wisdom!

Some parishes in our diocese have a policy that, barring exigent circumstances such as emergencies that constitute an understandable delay, the faithful should not receive Holy Communion if they arrive after the reading of the Gospel.

Communi-can or Communi-can't

The sanctuary of the heart must be prepared for the Lord. The Lord will not impose Himself on us. He, the faithful lover of souls, desires our full attention, a willing heart to embrace. How can we expect to fully and properly participate in the Divine Liturgy if our interior disposition is characterized by a sense of entitlement and our conception of Holy Communion is reduced to the indecent thought of hurriedly cramming one's face with that wafer thingy the odd fellow in the cloak holds out to each communicant. Yikes! Clearly, liturgical catechesis for the last few decades has failed to foster a necessary inner disposition. The attempt to persuade people that actuosa participation is all about doing is a failed enterprise. The heart oriented to God is the foundation of all participation.
Penitential Act B of the Mass (Ordinary Form)
Priest: Have mercy on us, O Lord.
People: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
People: And grant us your salvation.
If you arrive after the Penitential Act, you might at least think twice about receiving Holy Communion for having not participated in a necessary public act of humility that asserts that, if we hope to approach God, we had better learn to bend our wills to His will. Instead of receiving Holy Communion, consider making an act of spiritual communion during the Communion Rite.
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
The Church has offered in different ways her counsel to ensure that, if nothing else, no sacrilege is committed against the Body and Blood of Christ. We live in a day and age, however, when people have forgotten the usefulness of liturgical laws to foster knowledge of God, to foster a sense of the sacred and the transcendent, to prevent a loss of faith due to abuse or scandal and to enhance unity in the truth.

If people are catechized well, they will not react negatively to a priest who withholds communion for a good reason. Once upon a time, layfolk used to run from parish to parish collecting consecrated hosts. They would show up at multiple liturgies in succession and attempt to arrive when communion was being distributed so they could receive as many as possible hosts.

We seem to have regressed somewhat to former undesirable practices and invented a whole new class of abuses. People arrive to Mass at or after the Gospel, stay long enough to receive the Host, then immediately leave. If that activity is symptomatic of the kind of communion one has with the Lord God and His Church, one can only imagine the shallowness of the relationship one has with one's spouse and children.

I fought the law and the liturgical law won.

Many liturgical laws are commonsensical and almost unnecessary if people are raised well in the Faith, that is, with an authentic understanding of liturgical spirituality and practice. The laws are there to protect people and sacraments from abuse by people who, poorly formed in the Faith, really do need obvious healthy boundaries to keep them from committing a sacrilege.

Liturgical laws or norms are intended to do so much more. They are like microscopes or magnifying glasses which train our eyes to focus on details which deepen our participation in the beauty, truth and goodness of God. Rubrics are like hearing aids which help us hear the Word speaking in and through the ritual gestures that are the stunning jewelry of the Mass. The liturgical norms are like filters that marginalize distractions which obscure or impede the People of God from receiving and handing on the Apostolic Faith, the lex orandi, lex credendi of the Church.

Vatican II did away with rubrics!

Rubbish! Poppycock! Vatican II did no such thing.

Liturgical laws have become almost an offence to many people. How often do we still hear the protest from some corners that rubrics contradict the "spirit of Vatican II"? Catholics have bought into an insidious rebellion against authority. Anything that threatens small minded people's sense of autonomy, which is to say just about everything that should have a claim on Catholics' lives, is summarily dismissed. Little do such rebellious people realize that without rubrics and liturgical norms to scaffold the faithful toward a deeper relationship with Christ and His Church, the quiet anarchy which is common in many parishes divides people from Christ and puts pressure on priests who, confronted with petulant parishioners, tend to give in the bullying by offering communion to obstinate public sinners to avoid exacerbating any confrontation. Sadly, when priests do the right thing by withholding Holy Communion from manifest obstinate sinners (e.g., politicians who willfully support abortion), they are charged with politicizing the Eucharist. A priest could always keep in mind that the traitor Judas was among the other Apostles on Holy Thursday during the Institution of the Eucharist and the inception of the Priesthood. If anyone was unworthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, it was Judas. And yet, Jesus permitted Judas to receive Him. Now, if some people think that Jesus' action is a ringing endorsement of approval for communion for those guilty of serious sin (e.g., divorce and remarriage without benefit of a decree of nullity), then consider this: 
Judas received the Holy Eucharist. When his betrayal was complete, he hung himself in shame. Though we cannot say for certain he is in hell, Judas' actions certainly put his soul in danger of hell. People should be informed as to the serious consequences which occur upon the unworthy reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.—St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 11:27-32.
A priest might consider having a brief hushed chat or sidebar, if you will, with a communicant if there is any cause for concern. If the cause for a late arrival, for example, is just—e.g., an unexpected delay due to circumstances beyond one's control—no problem. People should recall that priests have a duty to protect the Sacraments from abuse.


Now, if a priest withholds the Eucharist for an unjust reason, say for example when a communicant intends to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and a passive aggressive impious priest shames the communicant into receiving Communion in the hand, then let fire rain down from heaven upon that priest the communicant should do as the priest says and afterwards pray for that priest who denied the liturgical norms which permit that venerable practice. The communicant refused communion on the tongue would do well to try and schedule a meeting with the priest to discuss his opposition to the practice. If the priest is not open to dialogue, then a letter to the bishop would probably be in order.

If people have a clear sense of what is liturgically appropriate, then priests will probably face a lot less pressure during the Liturgy when they and everybody should be focussed on one reality: receiving Jesus Christ—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—as one receives Him with awe and adoration.

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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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