The Contradiction of Liturgy in today’s anthro-centric world

Today I went to the Solemn Mass organized by Juventutem St Louis, at the Church of St Anselm. If you don’t know who Juventutem is, read more about them Here . In short they are a young adults group, who is dedicated to the traditional mass.

Mass. That’s the one word that describes Catholics to most people – Those are the people who have mass. Get up. Sit down. Kneel. Repeat.

On my way home I realized I’m very much a contradiction. I’m 38, and have spent my life very much involved in the liturgy in some form – I was an Altar Server, and then involved in Choir and Music ministry. I grew up during the Pontificate of St John Paul II, a time of frankly bismal catechism, and people over all not knowing their faith. My First Holy communion was more akin to an assembly line than the conferment of a Sacrament, but I digress.

In 1969 the so called “Novus Ordo” or “New Order” of mass was promulgated. This mass was meant to shorten and make the Liturgy of the Latin Rite more relevant and accessible. However, the baby was definitely thrown out with the bath water,  and along with the Latin, smells and bells, we lost a lot of who we were as Latin Rite Catholics. Chiefly, How we worshiped was how we believed.

The Traditional mass, wasn’t just celebrated “Ad Orientem” or facing east… but was also celebrated  “Ad Deum” – Facing God.  This posture  alone reminded the believer who mass was intended for.

Along with the new mass, came a shift in posture – Now it was celebrated  “Versus Populum”. The concept of “Meal” was emphasized over “Sacrifice”, and suddenly mass, along with our faith, became more about “US” rather than Him. Music focused in on the We, and less about our God.

Growing up as a child.. like a lot of young boys, I wanted to play mass – Ironically though…I played Tridentine mass I had an  Alb, and my own Amice. My “High altar” was on a cedar Chest.. and I think I had at least 20 candles I didn’t actually light.   I would listen to my grand parents tell stories about how it was.. and find myself confused at how it is in front of me.

As I got older, I became more complacent, and found myself valuing the Church in Community. I thought the parish, being the center of the community, was vital, and that ANY way we could reach people… WE needed to. There’s that We word again.

That’s when a a lot of the “contradictions” started.  I am trained classically in music  (voice) , and have always loved Gregorian Chant.  However, we seemed to only chant when we wanted to be “extra holy” during Holy week, even though the Novus Ordo, has a plethora of chants arranged.

We hardly did bells – Why?  “Because bells went out with Vatican 2”.  Then there was the rather casual nature that not only people showed up for mass, but how they carried themselves during mass.

All of this points back to us losing an understanding of who we are encountering – and Holy Mass IS an encounter. In thinking on this, it very much reminded me of the Apostles who were walking on Emmaus Road (which just so happens to be the readings for this upcoming week), And they encountered a stranger. They had no idea who this man was, until the Breaking of the Bread, “for they knew him in the breaking of the Bread” ..  

Sometimes it takes us a moment to realize Jesus present in the mass , especially in our state of being and in this world. We, like the apostles, are more concerned about our worries and “Current Events”, rather than who we are, and where we are going, and who is there with us.

This is where I am the contradiction. Given my age, I have an affinity for traditional things that is uncharacteristic of my generation. At the same time, I still firmly believe in modern approaches to evangelization, however the mass is for God alone. I can go to a traditional mass, and then on the way home listen to Crowder or Maher. I wish more of the “Catholicsphere”  could get that.  Maybe then there would be more people at church, because they would realize that their faith life is dynamic, and can be expressed in a modern world, and the Timelessness of the liturgy,  is the summit of our faith. It is there that we know him in the breaking of the bread.

Thoughts on Low Sunday/Divine Mercy Sunday ..or whatever

Today marks the 1st Sunday after Easter. In modern times, its referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday. In ancient times, it was known as “Low, or  “Whit Sunday”, as this was the final day that the recently baptized would wear their white garments.

The Modern annotation, comes from the visions of one St Faustina, who gave to us the divine mercy chaplet. The novena of such, began on good Friday, at the hour of mercy, and completed today – in short, it is repeated over and over again, like a rosary or Jesus prayer

+Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, soul and divinity, of your Dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world

For the Sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy immortal one, have mercy on us, and on the whole world. +

 

Orthodox and those who are of the old form of Liturgy will recognize this as the text of the Thrice Holy, or in the east, know as the Trisagion. There are special graces attained with the recitation of this chaplet, most notably at the time of death.

To me, it all denotes the immensity of calvary. Mercy flowed from the Cross that day, and gave us all a second chance, but it is NOT without cost. His only Son, laid down his life.

We need to be careful that we dont treat this act as something disposable, as in something that we are simply owed. None of us are owed this, and it is only by grace that we receive it. It should NOT be taken for granted or with a sense of casualness.

 

I wandered into orthodoxy a year or so ago.. and quickly learned what I was moving towards, that being a more deep understanding of liturgy, and an acknowledgement of the immensity of the Godhead. That itself demands a certain purposefulness in our Worship. Where its true…we should find ways to engage the world through modern measure, the liturgy engages God himself, who is otherworldly.

Kneeling at the rail today.. taking in the incense.. and the beauty, reminded me of what we enter when we go to mass. We enter heaven, and from that, comes the mercy of forgiveness, if we approach with a contrite heart, and a comprehension of where we are, and what we are doing.