Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pet Peeve

(I speak in general terms here about hypothetical cases. I have always been lucky enough to attend worthy celebrations of Mass, with very rare exceptions - by far the worst befell me in Melbourne back in 1999, with a priest who omitted all the Eucharistic Prayer except the institution narrative, amongst other inanities such as applauding Our Lord's arrival on the altar; and in Hobart in 2001, with a priest who sat at his newspaper-piled dinner table with me as sole guest and celebrated there with great expression the whole Mass conjoined with Lauds - complete with long sermon! Now that was wierd: I had in all simplicity wondered why he had a glass of wine with his breakfast, till the penny dropped and I was so stonkered by it I couldn't make my escape.)

Pet peeve: attending a Mass at which everyone stands for the Eucharistic Prayer (in contravention of what the relevant bishops' conferences long since determined and had approved by the Vatican, throughout the English-speaking Church), not even kneeling - as the rubrics demand everywhere - for the Consecration. It's simply not allowed (and yes, the Church's provisions are meant to be obeyed - why else bother having them?), unless obviously there's some compelling reason to say Mass in a place where it is impossible for the people to kneel down.

Persons may seek to justify this standing with appeals to the Early Church/Christian East - and do these same people ever seek to restore or imitate, say, their penitential or fasting disciplines, of much greater value to the contemporary, blase, half-committed West? - but what it seems results from this is a practical diminution of the adoration that is mandated by God and man at the Consecration. This slighting did not happen in the past, nor does it happen in the Eastern Church: both have a healthy sense of worship of the Majesty of God. But the danger today is that it makes kneeling and saluting Christ now made present upon the altar to seem but a childish game, a fantasy of yesteryear; whereas it is real and good and true.

I do not in any way wish to judge those who in good faith don't realize the issue here: for so many will have been lead to believe that this is just another option, even a preferable one, and who love and praise Our Lord very much in the Sacrament of His Love, and would no doubt be amazed and scandalized that I am scandalized and upset by this, no doubt seeing me as some poor benighted soul trapped in an infantile faith, terrified of some avenging Deity.

But we know, since Pope Paul VI defined it (following the entire Roman Church), that the essential sacramental formulae of the Eucharist are the well-known words of institution (of course the whole Eucharistic Prayer is most holy and valuable, but the silly idea that somehow the whole thing is consecratory won't wash: consider, if a priest saying Mass die before "This is My Body/Blood", obviously the Eucharist hasn't been confected, whereas if he die directly after, it has been, despite the prayer left unfinished), and the very liturgical text prescribes that the priest after uttering the performative words thereupon show the consecrated host and then the chalice to the people - and why? - for adoration: that is, for worship (it says this quite openly, as a glance in the altar Missal would prove).

It is patent that humble kneeling upon one's knees is a most suitable posture for this act of worship, and is prescribed for the laity in the very Missal. Why change this part of the ritual? By what authority? If the body shew no outward reverence, reflecting the heart and soul within, how can this be called the worship of the whole man rendered to His adorable Saviour, now made present whole and entire? (I know full well that kneeling for the whole of the rest of the Canon is not prescribed universally, but, as the newest GIRM puts it, where that is prescribed locally, the practice is laudable.)

[BTW, the lifting up of the chalice and paten at the concluding doxology is a solemn ritual offering of the consecrated elements - that is, of Christ our Priest and Victim - to God the Father, and so the focus at that moment is on the sacrificial nature of the Mass. It is at the double elevation after the Consecration that our attention is to be focussed on the Real Presence of Christ, which is worthy of divine worship. Similarly, at the "Ecce Agnus Dei" the priest shews the Host - possibly over the chalice - to the people, in this case inviting them to focus on humbly confessing their gladness to receive the Divine Guest, however unfit they may feel to welcome Him.]

Since I don't have the courage to appear different and scrupulous if everyone else is standing (no doubt without the slightest worry), I just try and bow down (as the CDW's Notitiae once suggested in the case of those unable to kneel at the Consecration for some just cause), no doubt appearing furtive and peculiar, and tell the Lord in my heart that I hate having to stand and really don't wish to show Him disrespect and irreverence, but want desperately to cast myself down in His Presence... Feelings of guilt, cowardice, helplessness, despair, anger, rage and contempt fight within. So much for the fruits I would wish to gather at Mass!

Don't people understand that these things really trouble their 'weaker' brethren, and why don't they demonstrate the compassion that they never cease to talk about?

A second, related peeve - what I call "Lazy Mass", generally involving the large and middle-aged on beanbags or comfy chairs (I speak not of persons frail or elderly or otherwise unable to stand or kneel, as commonsense perceives): a Mass at which any of the following occur: (1) everyone sits for the General Intercessions - how ridiculous! - (2) everyone sits for the Preface - ditto! - and/or (3) everyone sits for the Eucharistic Prayer, which is even more disrespectful and irreverent than standing throughout - at least I can unobtrusively kneel down in such a case, and not feel so panic-stricken (always remembering that if you can't stand or kneel, of course there's no worry: it's the lazy I object to).

Advice gratefully solicited!

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