Thursday, June 6, 2013

I drink, therefore I am

You have already read it if you follow this blog, but go give the Veritas blog some more hits. The Mass is the unbloody representation of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary. That's what we believe, but the Mass as it is practiced in the average suburban parish makes it difficult to hold on to that belief. Leaving aside what a penitential experience the typical Novus Ordo Mass is for me personally, I've noticed that most Catholics just don't see the liturgy as something which is supposed to be prayerful. We just don't see the Mass as a sacrificial offering anymore. We go to receive Communion, and that's it. I know many lay people who say the Mass is a celebration and that ought to be reflected in the music and comportment of the congregation. This means guitars and drums in the choir, and the Sign of Peace must be a free-for-all hootenanny where we cross the aisles and give our neighbors hearty bear hugs. The recessional hymn at my parish last Sunday was, so help me, "This Little Light of Mine."

At the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I hang on every audible word from the priest, and I carefully follow everything in the Missal. At most Ordinary Form Masses, I try to ignore as much of it as I can and struggle to be mindful of what is actually happening at the altar. The Church, in her infinite wisdom, understood the nature of man. The Council of Trent had this to say on the matter:

CHAPTER V.
On the solemn ceremonies of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has holy Mother Church instituted certain rites, to wit that certain things be pronounced in the mass in a low, and others in a louder, tone. She has likewise employed ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.

Somewhere along the way there came a radical disconnect between the Church's orthodoxy and praxis. We're all Cartesians now. Our minds and bodies are separated and never the twain shall meet. This is probably why so many of us wear Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and sandals to Mass these days: "God doesn't care what I wear to Mass! He can see that I love him!" Then why is it that we put on suits when going to job interviews? Surely the hiring managers can see that we respect the company since we applied for a job in the first place, right?


The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass really ought not be an exercise in teeth-grinding obedience. This isn't a question of EF vs OF but one of praxis. If the Mass is celebrated like it's nothing to take too seriously, then people will believe the Mass is not a serious thing. If it looks like something the community puts together for the benefit of only that particular community, then that's what we'll end up believing about it. Fathers, please have mercy on us poor lay slobs and celebrate the liturgy with the dignity and solemnity that is its due. Do that and I guaran-damn-tee that not only will your people pursue holiness more seriously but you will make more converts and take in more money every Sunday.

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