Liturgical Tinnitus

Over the years there have many discussions about various aspects of the Holy Mass. What are the roles of the various participants, architectural importance, vestments, furniture and their positioning and on and on.  What might seem to some as just opinions or theological sparring or unimportant minutia can have a profound impact on how the faithful view the Mass; this in turn can affect how the faithful view the Church and her place in the ministry of Christ and how the faithful live their lives. Lex Orandi, lex Credendi, lex Vivendi is more than just a cute saying. All of this has a profound impact on us, and in turn we on the Mass. Tonight I would like to reflect on one of these aspects, one that, thanks be to God, is not an issue with our Vesper prayers.

We have entered the season of Advent, a time of preparation, an almost hushed season where we look within and look both backward and forward to the comings of Christ. But, for me this is always battered by the clang of the secular holiday season. Noise and action and bright lights that drive us to distraction.

Holy Mother Church is not immune to noisy activity, and not just in Advent. At another parish, the month of November is when they sing the Our Father; not chant, but sing. And between the Our Father and the congregation’s final response where, according the rubrics[1], the priest, by himself says: ‘Deliver us Lord from every evil…[2] there is also an instrumental bridge, in short there is background music during the priest’s words where it isn’t allowed. And if the priest and the music don’t match up correctly, then the congregation has to wait for the music to finish before they start their response: ‘For the Kingdom the power…[3] For me, this takes away the congregation’s participation in the prayer our Lord taught us and makes it a tune – of course this is my opinion.

This is not an isolated incident; in many parishes, impromptu musical interludes happen during baptisms, confirmations, post communion time and in almost any moment of quiet. For example, during the sign of peace, where it isn’t allowed[4] many congregations have an instrumental background.

This highlights a very troubling trend in the Mass; one that has been creeping into not only the corporate celebration of the Holy Mass, but into the understanding of the active part of the faithful’s participation – lack of silence. An important part of the Mass is silence, the time that each participant can enter more personally into the presence of God – can hear God within their soul.

The prophet Elijah learned on the mountain that God can be found in: ‘a light silent sound[5]. And this makes so much sense. For us, creatures, to be in the presence of the almighty and total other, who is beyond our own comprehension, the reaction should be one of humble acquiescence and silent adoration, an almost stupefied posture, one that allows only the senses of our soul to be open and receptive.

At the Holy Mass we are in the closest proximity to God that we can achieve on this journey. We are watching God the Son in humble obedience offer Himself to God the Father, and we are watching the action of the Holy Spirit between them. There must be time where the din of noise, both within our hearts and minds, and around us in the celebration stops so we can listen to that ‘light silent sound’[6].

Brothers and sisters, let’s try to resist this ‘noisy participation’ that seems so prevalent in our celebrations and find that quiet time to open ourselves to God. The Tinnitus that has found its way into the Mass must be met with decisive resolve to bring back those moments of peaceful and holy silence. Liturgical Tinnitus numbs the senses whereas holy silence opens the soul to the beautiful symphony that is God. Let’s pray and strive for such times. Even if we can’t affect changes in the Masses that we participate in, we can affect change within each of us in how we look for silence in the midst of the noise. We can try to improve our ability to hear the symphony through the noise – be present in front of that most holy ‘light silent sound’[7].

———————————————————————————————

[1] Roman Missal pg 664 – ‘With hands extended, the Priest alone continues, saying:’
[2] ibid
[3] Roman Missal pg 665
[4] Pacem relinquo vobis -Circular Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass  #6c: In any case, it will be necessary, at the time of the exchange of peace, to definitively avoid abuses such as: the introduction of a “song for peace,” which is non-existent in the Roman Rite.
[5] 1 Kgs 19:12 (nab)
[6] ibid
[7] ibid

Advertisements

Desire for the King

I was reading a pre-election article in First Things[1] trying to explain the Trump phenomenon and the similar populous actions that are taking place in Britain and Europe. The thrust of the author’s thought was that we are probably seeing a major change in the mindset of the populace, at least in the first world. There is a seismic shift starting among the general population that is changing the western world’s political philosophy from the prevailing post WWII beliefs of globalization back to a more nationalistic view.

The author goes through many reasons for what he sees as this shift – many are compelling. At one point, he writes:

The dictatorship of relativism promises peace. Leaders are to devote themselves to prosperity and the enlargement of individual freedoms. Softer, kinder, secular gods are to rule – health, wealth, and pleasure. These are gods of utility to be ministered to by experts rather than priests and prophets.[2]

He goes on to say:

“Man does not live by bread alone.” The West is beginning to rebel. People do not want to float through life as atomized, utility-maximizing machines. They want the strong gods to return. They want to recover the possibility of noble sacrifice on behalf of something higher than the lonely, inwardly-turned self.[3]

A very insightful thought from a perceptive article. However, maybe what is fundamentally happening is the awakening of the desire, deep within those living in the comfortable West, of God Himself. Maybe, mankind is getting tired not only of the post WWII globalization mindset which came about because mankind was tired of the previous nationalistic ideology; but they are tired of man’s continual and futile exercise of creating ideologies and truths in the first place; of turning inward and ignoring God’s plan for His creation; of creating an answer to solve problems, only to see them fail and then coming up with another plan to solve the last one.

As today’s celebration of the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe reveals to us, God, through Jesus Christ, is the true path, the truth about all creation. He alone can give us the means to live a fulfilled and complete life because He created it, sustains it, and reveals the truth behind it.

Brothers and sisters, deep within each person there is a distaste for manmade philosophies and ideologies that ebb and flow, leaving us confused and conflicted with each other and ourselves, and there is a desire for the eternal plan that brings each of us to fulfillment. A tiredness for top-down directions that coerce us (however benevolently), and an eagerness and desire for guidance from a king that reigns not from on high but within our souls. This is what we hunger for and this is what we as followers of our King need to proclaim at the top of our voices and with every action of lives.

—————————————————————————————-

[1] A Failing Regime, R.R. Reno; First Things; November 2016 issue
[2] ibid
[3] ibid

End Of Times

The end of the liturgical year is upon us; next week is the last Sunday which is the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe. Throughout the liturgical year you and I have celebrated within the Mass the great mysteries of God in the special seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and of course the Sacred Triduum. We have been taught throughout the season Ordinary Time what it means to be a disciple and how we should live our lives. And throughout the year, at each Sunday Mass professed our beliefs by proclaiming the Creed.

Now, in these past few weeks Holy Mother Church points us to the end of times. She is witnessing to what our final goal is and what needs to take place, both around us and within us. This Sunday, our readings dive deep into the meaning of one line in the Creed which we are about to proclaim: ‘Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.[1] These aren’t her words; Holy Mother Church didn’t make them up; no, Christ Himself has given us knowledge of the end.

The first reading is a warning about the judgement to come, our personal judgement:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.[2]

God, will come and judge our lives; Heaven and Hell are real; these are solid and irrefutable facts. But, the end times are not a foregone conclusion. We can affect our eternal goal, as we hear in Malachi: ‘But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.’[3] By the words ‘we who fear His name[4] we mean: we who revere God to the point that we want to do everything we can to be close to Him, do His will, avoid sin.  We mean: we whose greatest fear is that of letting down the most loved person in our lives. We mean: we who offer back our existence to He who gave it to us; to trust in Him completely. This is what we mean; what we are meant for. This is what will affect our final judgement.

In addition, Christ tells us that we can never know when this judgement will come. In Matthew, He tells us: ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.[5]; and so, we must persevere – come what may. Christ tells His apostles and us in the Gospel today: ‘By your perseverance you will secure your lives.[6] By perseverance ‘not a hair on your head will be destroyed[7] He tells us. This is how Jesus will judge each of us. All of us will stand in front of Him and be held accountable. All of us must be prepared.

These readings sound heartless and mean, they can sound scary and threating. We know our selves. How can we hope to meet this threshold of salvation? How can we have the strength to persevere?  Take heart – our judge has been one of us; has lived among us. We will stand in front of Jesus who is our brother. He knows what it means to be a frail human, what it means to suffer, what it means to face overwhelming forces and struggle with goals. The then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. ‘One is reminded of the mighty vision of Christ with which the Book of Revelation begins (Rev 1:9-19): the seer sinks down as though dead before this being full of seemingly sinister power. But the Lord lays his hand on him and says ‘Fear not, it is I’ (1:17)[8]

Brothers and sisters, we come to the end of this year’s lessons. We are given the full import of our final judgement. We can understand that to succeed we need to fear the right things – fear of failing God, not of God’s judgement. The first affects the other.

Why? Because the God of justice is first and foremost a God of mercy. If we hold close to Him, trust in Him, ask for His forgiveness for those many times we have failed – he will embrace us; Yes, even if we fail and fall and return to Him again and again – He can’t do otherwise. Or as St. Paul writes so poetically ‘The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.[9]

He remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.[10] These are powerful words that we can hang our hope on.

My friends – these readings are even more profound on this day; the day when the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy begins to close. But even though the year is closing and St. John the Baptist Parish Holy Doors are closing, God’s heart will never close. Let’s look to our Lord, especially in those times of trial and persecution, fear what is important to fear and hold on to His love and mercy. And most importantly pass it forward to those who we see that need it as much as we do.

————————————————————————————————-

[1] Nicene-Constantinapolitan Creed
[2] 1 MAL 3:19-20A
[3] 1 MAL 3:20A
[4] ibid
[5] MT 24:36
[6] LK 21:19
[7] LK 21:18
[8] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Introduction to Christianity pg. 251
[9] 2 TIM 2:11-13
[10] 2 TIM 2:13

Election Advice

We are coming up to another monumental national decision, election of a president. Maybe, this time it is more defining for our country than ever before. Maybe, this election will have more impact on how we live our lives than any other election in recent history. Maybe, as faithful who have seen many attacks and manipulations against our beliefs the aftermath will bring more? At the very least I have felt this angst in many people, and to a degree in myself.

As American citizens, elections, especially national elections, should give us a little anxiety. After all, as citizens we have a vested interest in how we would like to see our country move forward. In a societal way, this is healthy; to not feel anxiety means that we don’t care. But there is a religious angst that isn’t healthy, a fear that we are losing in the national discourse; that our faith is disappearing from society.

During my weekly scripture reflection, a passage from scripture came across my eyes, Matthew 16:21-24. I was struck by how much it spoke to my mind and heart on this religious angst we might have and why it is unhealthy. Again, this religious angst we might have is useless for followers of Christ. 

‘From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”[1]

This all too familiar event in the life of Christ points out a very important part of being a follower of His, a disciple.  In times past I viewed this passage as another example of impetuous Peter once again sticking his foot in his mouth, but it is much more. We see Peter try to move ahead of Christ, take the lead. We see He won’t accept what the Lord is telling Him; he tries to alter the outcome. Peter wants his discipleship to be on his terms.

Christ tells Peter and us that to be His disciple is to follow Him. It is that simple and that hard. Christ tells us that following of Him will entail suffering, carrying our cross; but it is the only way. As uncertain and scary as this might seem we do have the reassurance that if we stay close to God, follow Jesus, then He will stay close to us, lead us on the true path to heaven – which after all is perfect closeness with our Triune God. We saw this today in the first reading from 2 Maccabees[2] about the seven sons being put to death. A very graphic and horrible example to be sure, but a witness to the most important part of faith – faith in our Lord – complete trust regardless of what is happening.

Brothers and sisters, let’s move forward into and then out of this national election, keeping close to Jesus; not in front of Him but behind Him. He will not fail us.  The election might bring sadness and maybe persecution or it might bring celebration; but these results are only short term – Christ brings us peace and joy that is eternal.

——————————————————-

[1] MT 16:21-24
[2] 2 MC 7:1-2, 9-14