This, my dear readers, is not related to apologetics. Rather, it is mourning the state of Holy Mass where I live.
Here we go….Oh baby, oh baby…..
The fact that every Mass I go to is met with some complaint over something which ought not be there means one of two things: it could mean I’m overly exacting in my demands of how the liturgy is celebrated. Or, it could mean that there is indeed a problem with common occurrences at a given Mass.
For example, the first complaint is silence (or lack thereof). If you go to a church where the Tridentine Mass is celebrated, what is the general aura? It is one of silence and prayer (or in some cases, group prayer aloud, but there’s not much chit-chat going on between members of the congregation. If there is, people whisper. Why? Because they recognize people are trying to pray. Also this is helped by the fact that most–dare I say, “Tridentine Churches”?–are very ornate and beautifully structured. They lend themselves well to prayer because the imagery found therein raises to mind to things above the world in which it lives.
Let’s compare this to the aura of–dare I say a “Novus Ordo Church”? Rarely are they silent. People talk as though they’re at any social event. This isn’t helped when a lot of these modern churches look no better than a library or post office. They tend to lack any pretty pictures/architecture and don’t at all help the mind think it’s somehow in a sacred place.
I think one of the reasons people are silent at a “Tridentine Church” (and I’d say mine fits in this category–we are a “Novus Ordo Church”, but it was built before Vatican II and all its decor and beauty is still present, uncluding the High Altar and Communion rails) is because the Tabernacle, which houses God Himself, is right there in front of them and it’s usually very ornate. In most modern churches the Tabernacle, if even present in the sanctuary, is a bland box which denotes nothing sacred of its Contents. More often than not, however, the Tabernacle is in some side chapel. With God locked in an ugly box away from the congregation, if Mass isn’t being said the sanctuary is turned into a gathering place and nothing more, with little to no decor.
One such example of a bland church is one near me where the outside looks like a post office (indeed, I invited a friend to a picnic there and he said “Why are we going to a post office…?”); the inside is similarly unnattractive. The sanctuary used to have absolutely no imagery at all: white walls, no Tabernacle, wooden pews without kneelers, a scummy “Holy Water fountain” due to peoples’ nasty fingers, skylights over a bland altar, and the worst of all (though, thank God, Father David had this removed) it used to have a screen which had slideshows of emotional touchy-feely pictures during Mass. And once again, thanks to Father David, the church has a REALLY nice crucifix behind the altar these days. In that church’s defense, it has really cleaned up its act since we first went.
But let’s consider this: That church has a little chapel where daily Mass is celebrated. This chapel has a Tabernacle, a confessional, stations of the cross, AND a stained glass window, all of which the main worship space is lacking. I feel more of God’s presence in a daily Mass at that church than I do a Sunday Mass, and something seems backwards about that.
And the saddest part is the fact that I’m constantly wondering WHY it has to be this way when fixing this stuff up wouldn’t be hard. Adding stations of the cross, for example, to the sanctuary would be a very simple task and that in itself would help lend a more reverent feel to the Sacrifice happening there. Similarly, the windows (of which there are not that many) could be replaced with stained glass and that, too, to some degree, would help the church be more “Catholicized”.
Okay, sorry, guess that doesn’t have to do with silence, which was the original issue, but more needn’t be said about that particular one anyway.
The second problem I’m often thinking about is generally involved with the Eucharist, on two points: Extraordinary ministers and Communion in the Hand. First of all, extraordinary minister: that name is very telling. Out of the ordinary. Not used except on certain occasions when needed, and not used in mass quantities such that we have eight lay people giving the Eucharist to commincants. And yes, I recognize that we have two priests for four parishes. But Communion would not take that long without them, despite what those bored by Mass’s length like to think, and even if they are necessary every week, we don’t need eight. Let’s be reasonable.
And then of course there’s Communion in the Hand. I needn’t delve into this. We, as lay people, are not ordinarily worthy to touch the Almighty Himself. Without going into a long thought process about this (and I’m not meaning to sound condescending by this, honestly) I truly suggest you think about this idea. And think about just how truly present He is after consecration.
Another area that gets me is the fact that every spare second when the priest or faithful aren’t talking must be filled with music. For example, when the priest is preparing the altar and would otherwise say, “Blessed are You, Lord God of all creation, for through Your goodness we have received the bread we offer You….etc”, most pianists/organists feel the need to play music and so the priest says it silently. But WHY? And it’s the same, at our cluster of churches at least, before the Lamb of God is said. Contrary to popular thought, some of us find more prayer in silence than in music. Just saying.
Yet another issue is twofold: holding hands for the Lord’s prayer and then, secondly, the Sign of Peace, which tends to turn into a “Hey, I’ll get out of my pew and go hug someone across the church.”
And I guess I’ll make this my last nitpick: choice of hymns. Do you think the angels before Christ in heaven are singing something theological and packed with meaning, or is it really likely that they’re singing, “Rain Down”?
Consider this: for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this year, I had the privelage of going to a Latin Mass and what was sung for Communion? The Ave Maria. You wanna know what was sung at a Mass at my church once? “He Walks With Me and He Talks With Me”. Or “One Bread, One Body”. Either way, it’s glaringly evident that the focus of the Mass has switched from being a sacrifice of God the Son to God the Father, the Second Person of the Trinity to the First, and is instead more focused on the “Communal meal” aspect. A shame. The Eucharist, NOT the congregation, is “the souce and summit of Christian life”.
However, I think these are valid points and I wanted them out of my mind and on paper.
P.S: Not to sound like a complainer, but this wasn’t in the original post and I just remembered: I’m no big fan of female altar servers, either. And no, I’m not just a complainer. I love Mass for what it is, and any Mass is a Mass, but some more reverence would be nice.