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).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Off on the wrong foot. Mass begins... sort of.

How often do we still witness awkward attempts to introduce the Mass? How often are we subjected to useless blather by priests who attempt to 'personalize' or 'contextualize' the introduction to the Penitential Act, for instance? When such attempts occur, they are not only painful to witness—and priests who commit such liturgical faux pas are right to be embarrassed (which begs the question, why don't they stop?)—it is a frustrating abuse of a moment when the priest should forget himself, stop being all buddy-buddy, and by his right example lead the congregation to do the same. The Mass is, if you haven't already heard, the worship of Almighty God, not a visit to a fast food joint.

If there is one moment in the Divine Liturgy when Mass is reduced to a caricature of the awesome reality of the throne of grace, the holy of holies and the temple of the Lord, it is when a priest takes us out of our self forgetfulness and reverent approach to the transcendent Lord by beginning either a comedy routine or a weak incitement to humble our hearts.

Leading us to the promiscuous land.

When priests cannot remain faithful to the text of the Mass, should priests be surprised when parishioners likewise rebel and dismiss the rubrics with equal carelessness?

Dear priests, set a good example. Stick to the script (SC22)! Avoid awkward introductions to the Penitential Act, the Creed and the Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful).

Try a little tenderness.

Contrary to entrenched (and stupid) practice, the Creed and the Universal Prayer need no introduction. The Roman Mass is not a verbose liturgy. So, stop trying to make it is something it is not. If the various servers/ministers/lectors know their roles and have been taught the reverent timing or pacing of the Mass, then be comfortable with saying nothing. The Mass is supposed to flow seamlessly from one moment to another, punctuated with silence that offers worshippers a moment to cultivate a true participatio actuosa of the heart. The only "activity" in those moments of silence should be a movement of the heart toward God.
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.
Spoiler Alerts

Is it any wonder that worshippers have acquired attention spans the length of a gnat's when the Liturgy has become so noisy, painted over with layers of vain additions by liturgical busybodies whose childish acting out speaks of poor liturgical formation? Doing in the Presence of the Lord has replaced being in the Presence of the Lord. The ability to listen—really listen—is inhibited these days by the intrusion and addiction to smart phones and other personal electronic devices which command more attention than the most sublime moment on earth—communion with the Lord! Shame on us for allowing our machines to distract us from each other and, most importantly, from the Lord.

Announcements of hymns/songs during the Mass, issued out of some misguided sense of facilitating participation, are akin to the conductor of an opera repeatedly interjecting descriptions of a forthcoming scene into a performance. Interruptions in the Mass are akin to that annoying person who introduces a forthcoming scene at the movies: "Oo, here is the part when... ! = Oo, here is the part when we sing... ." Stop the invitations and announcements during the Mass. Let the Mass be; let the Mass speak for itself, so-to-speak.

If the assumption is that the congregation should sing the Offertory and Communion (chants), that would be a mistaken one typically predicated on a misguided sense of the actuosa participatio. Announce the first and last hymn, if need be. Technically speaking, those moments are outside the Mass, so announcements are not an intrusion (... unless made so by someone with a grating voice or misplaced sense of humour!). Refrain from interrupting the Mass by introducing the Offertory and Communion chants.

Back to the beginning.

In case you are one of the priests who has forgotten his lines, the words at the Penitential Act are as follows:
Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

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