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    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Sacred Mass, it takes great humility


    The Liturgy of the Church is a moment where all the dimensions of our lives come before the living God. It is the place where we have an active encounter with God. It is the place, therefore, where we can rediscover the sacred in our lives.
    Certain settings demand their own particular etiquette. Dress at a wedding reception differs from dress at a sports event. Conversation in a bar is louder than in a funeral home. The more we realize we are coming into the Presence of God in Church, the more respectful and reverent our whole person becomes. Chewing gum in Church, loud talking, beach attire and immodest dress simply do not belong!

    In church, we need to cultivate a sense of God who is present to us. This is why we are called to observe moments of silence. Both before Mass begins and during Mass. Liturgy is much more than our joining together. It is our opening ourselves to God. By our singing and praying, we respond to the God who addresses us in Liturgy. A constant torrent of words and songs filling every empty space in the Liturgy does not leave the heart the space it needs to rest quietly in the Divine Presence.
    We are not just spirit when we pray. We pray in our total reality as body and spirit. And so, to recapture the sense of the sacred, therefore, we need to express our reverence through our body language. The norms of the Liturgy wisely have us stand in prayer at certain moments, sit in attentive listening to the readings, and kneel in reverent adoration during the solemn prayer of consecration. These norms are not arbitrary nor are they left to the discretion of any individual celebrant.

    Creativity is not an authentic rule for celebrating the Church’s Liturgy. In many cases, it humanizes the Liturgy and draws attention from God to the celebrant. The priest is merely the servant of the Liturgy, not its creator or center.

    Commenting on this, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: “The great¬ness of the Liturgy depends—we shall have to repeat this frequently—on its unspontaneity (Unbeliebigkeit)…. Only respect for the Liturgy’s fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us that we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as a gift (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 170). Since the Liturgy is a gift and not something of our own creation, it takes great humility to celebrate the Liturgy properly and reverently.

    Observing the norms of the Liturgy helps to create a profound sense of the sacred in each of us at Mass. Celebrating Mass and observing liturgical norms also makes us visibly one with the entire Church to which we belong. “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

    Today it has become commonplace at the end of the Liturgy to recite a litany of gratitude for all those who, in some way or another, have made the celebration beautiful. No doubt there is a way to express gratitude at the end of Mass. But is it possible that each time applause breaks out in the Liturgy at the end of the Mass for someone’s contribution, we lapse into seeing the Mass as a human achievement? Sometimes even during the Mass after someone has sung a beautiful hymn, there is spontaneous applause. At such a moment, does not the real meaning of Liturgy lapse into some kind human entertainment?

    We can recapture more and more the sense of the sacred, the more we allow the Liturgy to be what it is. A gift from God that allows God to speak and act in our life. A gift that draws us out of ourselves and out of time into the eternal life of God even now.
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    I work in a company of about 40 employees. It is informal knowledge just who can handle what job and which customers. The main concern is to match individual with customer.
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    There are some customers where our best people have to be at their best, and some customers who themselves are at such a low level, that our low level employees relate very nicely there.
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    The same is probably true regarding some Priests and their ability to conduct liturgy. They just suck. Add to that the minimum supervision possible by the Bishop, and over time they just suck more.
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    And as time passes, these congregations get wilder. The parish's pastor, be him lax or proper, carries the congregation along because he is singular, rare and in short supply, and long lasting.
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    These Priests can perhaps be reminded by their Bishop what is expected. I know it's hard for Bishops with not enough Priests to ask for discipline in the ranks. These low state Priests are already in jeopardy.
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    In my parish, there is applause for baptisms and weddings and wedding anniversaries.. OK.
    This article reminds me that I have infrequently been at Masses where the music or singer has been applauded, which strikes me in the same bad vein as this Bishop mentions. It needs to stop. And will stop if the Priest will stop first asking for it, and secondly permitting it.
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    It must be tough for Bishops to enforce discipline with these low Priests who are probably already in jeopardy of Faith. With the Priest shortage, and already under pressure to work multiple parishes, they might just leave. Sometimes I think it is just inertia that keeps them in their role.
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    A Priest I always shudder at, showed up at a recent funeral as a fill in. I can only guess that as a concession to the mixed faith, or no faith crowd, he threw in a few bones to ecumenism as he homilied..
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    "I don't think God stands at the gate of heaven and says.. you were not good enough, and have to spend some time in purgatory.."
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    and
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    "And here I think the protestants got things right (I forget what the subject that was so right was)..."
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    So what's a congregation to do? Put up with it I suppose. It's part of the punishment for not guiding enough of our sons to the Priesthood so that the Bishop could afford to assign these low Priests to administrative duty in some back office.
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    Thanks to The Curt Jester for the link to the article.

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