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, June 26, 2016

Mass, the musical.

To the informed, the Mass is a symphony of sounds (chant, sacred polyphony, spoken word: sotto voce; etc.), lights (candles; natural light through stained glass), smells (incense and occasionally the sweet aroma of holy oil), sacred furnishings (altar, statuary, icons, mosaics, tapestries, frescoes, etc.), arrayed on and around fitting staging (sanctuary and predella), all combining to immerse the worshipper in the Mystery of Faith.

The Christian experience forms upon the encounter between the soul and Jesus Christ—in the word of God (Holy Scripture) and in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus speaks to us through His word and communicates His very Presence by allowing us to consume His Body and Blood. Faith is our response to God's invitation to friendship in Christ. God grants grace to enable the penitent soul to respond to His call. Mindfulness of Jesus, a mindfulness aided by His grace, replaces self-centredness and moves us to charity.

Catholics speak of entering into a loving communion with Jesus Christ and His Church. In this modern world, people unfamiliar with religious life assume that all intimacy is of a purely sexual nature. People fixated on sex tend to project or impose their sex-saturated fantasies (and addictive behaviours) on to every (kind of) relationship. When their expectations are not met, they forge a new idol to worship only to be disappointed again and again until, perhaps, they surrender their flirtations with false gods and embrace the living God Who reveals Himself through the faithful witness of the Church in many varied ways. The Spirit blows where He wills (Spiritus ubi vult spirat).—St. John 3:8

Mass, the Musical, is an interactive encounter with the Risen Lord. It is a drama of epic proportions filled with, among many beautiful and true encounters, the revelation that we are loved by God, conversion and grace-filled scenes that have us laughing (hopefully at ourselves), crying (over our sins; mourning the loss of a loved one), and struggling against preternatural forces and inner temptations. We are present in the Upper Room and Calvary at every Mass. We are present to heaven.

Mass, the Musical, has its own music. It is very much a musical, and like all great musicals it must be presented with complete faithfulness to the score and script, otherwise it becomes a weak adaptation destined to play off-off-off Broadway.

The secret to a healthy parish—though no trite gnosticism is intended by the use of the term 'secret'—is not spiffy social programs or hip devotions or praise and worship music. No, the secret to a healthy parish is the simple affirmation that Jesus is Lord.
We are not lords of the Mass; Jesus is the principal actor in the Mass. So then, why do parishes continually and wrongly assume that they can play loosely with the Mass by not presenting the Propers (Introit, Offertory and Communion chants)?
Why do priests assume they can play loosely with the prayers of the Mass?
Why is music that is foreign to the Mass—remember, chant has the first place in the Mass... so saith Sacrosanctum Concilium—permitted any place in the Mass?
Dear priests, stop monkeying about with the Mass and learn how to say Mass with a full knowledge of the rubrics and a competent exercise of the ars celebrandi. The Mass can be a beautiful, true and good drama. Or, if treated like a cheap B Movie, it will drive away people who find such liturgies crass, banal and insulting. Certainly, young men who want to invest in the priesthood are more inclined these days to commit to a vocation which understands and keeps the beautiful celebration of the Mass as the proper exercise of Holy Orders. The Sacrament of Holy Orders was established with Jesus' institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the Upper Room.

Mass, the Musical, is not a drama subject to the whims of man. Mass is the action of Jesus Christ in our midst. We have an obligation to provide to the Lord the most beautiful, true and good gifts we can offer so that He may be clearly seen and heard and touched through those opportunities for encounter. Half-hearted attempts, felt banners, cheap music and tacky vestments that are common to lazy liturgy are hardly the symbols of our love and devotion that we, in our gratitude for having been rescued from sin and death should, offer to God. 

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