August 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 153
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW for Monday, August 28, 2000
We've forgotten something so vitally important to our Faith
Imagine you went to a baseball tournament. Arriving, you saw a batter with a flat paddle looking bat standing in front of a stand of three upright sticks and another stick across the top of it. You'd wonder where the baseball game was wouldn't you? (BTW, the British game of cricket is played with a flat sided 'bat' and the standing sticks) Now, imagine you went to the person who set this whole thing up and asked him where the baseball game was. He might look at you and say, "Right here!" "Right where?" you would probably ask confused. "Right there" as he pointed to the cricket game. You might leave and ask for your money back (if you paid to attend it). Obviously the person either didn't know what a baseball game was, was misinformed about what a baseball game was, or figured this was what baseball 'should' be. Now what would happen if the community this was done in was exposed to this as baseball over a long period of time, would they know a real baseball game if they saw it?
Or you're an American (or Canadian), and want to go to the stadium to watch the football game only to see the players in shorts, shin pads and kicking a round ball. (Soccer, called football in Europe). And I won't even try to illustrate Australian football.
Maybe a better, and more current, example is the sacrament of marriage. If we truly knew what marriage is, then questions about divorce, infidelity, contraception, abortion and same sex marriages, would never even come up. But if we don't understand what it is, then it can be distorted and redefined to allow all or any of these.
Is the Mass today any different? If you want to attend a Catholic Mass, you aren't going to see a Protestant service as being the same thing, or an Anglican or Lutheran service as being the same thing (though they are similar). The Catholic Mass is worship, though different from those other worship services, even though they are all 'worship services'. Just as the term 'football' means different things in different places. They are not all the same.
But as for the Catholic Mass, one has to first know what the Mass is, not just have a general idea or notion of what it is. Cricket is like baseball in that both games have a 'batter' hit a ball that's thrown toward them, and they run to try and score point. In very general terms, they're alike, in actuality, they're as different as night and day.
"…in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Vatican Council II;
SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chapter I: General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of Sacred Liturgy, #11)
"Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: "How then are they to call upon Him in Whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe Him Whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?" [ref. Romans 10:14-15]." (Ibid, #9)
How can one truly celebrate the Mass, how can we truly participate in the Mass, unless we know what the Mass truly is?
We've heard that the Mass is a communal worship. This is true, to a point, but not as it's often portrayed.
"Oh yeah. I'm a firm believer in God and Jesus, very spiritual. I just don't necessarily agree with any organized religion. I stuck it out as a Catholic for a long time, but in the end-you know, it's called the Celebration of the Mass, but it's no party. No one's having a good time." (Kevin Smith; Director and creator of "Dogma"; ZUG, a comedy website, 4/5/99)
The Mass as a good time celebration? We've all heard about how Mass was like dinner at Dad's or Granddad's. A celebratory meal. If that is the case, then the Mass may be no more than a religious block party or parish picnic. It's as if the Last Supper just a celebratory meal.
"At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; Vatican Council II;
SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chapter 11: The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist; #47)
The Last Supper was a ritual, a commemorative celebration, not a party sort of celebration.
"They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning, anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's passover. ….'This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever'" (Exodus 12:8-11; 14).
"And Moses said to the people, "Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place; no leavened bread shall be eaten" (Exodus 13: 3).
"Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?'" (Matthew 26:17)
This wasn't a block party sort of celebration, but a celebration to honor God for delivering His people from Egypt. So too, the Mass is a commemorative celebration of His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from death. It's where we, as Christians, come together as a community to give honor and glory to God. Not each other or the community.
If it is simply a communal celebration then we come face to face with numerous issues and problems.
Firstly, what one person enjoys different things from others. No one 'celebrates' in quite the same style or way. We may join each other to watch fireworks on the 4th of July, or parade with the community during the feast of the Immaculate Conception (or other community day of celebration). But we generally celebrate in our own way. We may go on a picnic, go boating, fishing, some may even hit a bar, tavern or club and 'party'.
Those who attribute this sort of notion to the Mass are required to 'spice it up', to make it fun and enjoyable for the congregation. "Fr. So and so, brings such joy to the Mass" some may say. But what happens when Fr. So and so is no longer there? Does the absence of 'joy' or fun mean that you'll go elsewhere? If you're no longer entertained, does it lessen the Mass?
This sort of thing brings about the 'cult of community' and the 'cult of personality'. That is, the Mass is dependant on the community and/or the priest 'celebrating' it. Nothing could be further from the truth. For the Mass would be the Mass if the only person present was the priest, and it would not be the Mass if the church was full but there was no priest. In churches where no priest is present, a deacon or other specially appointed person may have a 'service' but not a Mass. They may distribute the Eucharist, consecrated by a priest, but it isn't a Mass.
"The Mass is first and foremost an action of Christ Himself. At each Mass, through the instrumentality of the priest as 'alter Christus', Our Lord reenacts the sacrifice of Calvary in
an unbloody manner and becomes present on the altar -- body, blood, soul and divinity -- to nourish us unto eternal life….. What I am saying is that while a non-Catholic worship service is a human action, the Catholic Mass is a Divine action. There is an unfathomable gulf between them -- a gulf so vast that any effort to compare the two without the most careful qualifications and caveats will lead to blasphemy." (STYLE AND THE MASS; [Reflections by Jeff Mirus, Sysop, CRNET, November 8, 1994])
But if the Mass is merely a communal, 'human' action, then any 'liturgy' will do as long as it pleases the community it intends to come before. So we read of, or hear of feminist liturgies, abortion liturgies, gay liturgies, etc.
"The denial of male mediation as essential to the priesthood of Jesus Christ also deforms the celebration of the liturgy. Without a male priest, there can be no liturgical expression
of mediation between God and man. Without a male priest, there can be no liturgical expression of man's contact with an infinitely transcendent God. Only a male, by the plan of God, can mediate his love through the Eucharist to his people. A community which denies the priest's role as mediator can no longer be open to new life. In its quest for autonomy, it has deliberately and liturgically disconnected itself from the Author of grace and life.
This explains the liturgical disorder associated with illicit liturgical practices. At times a priest might be uneasy about his role as a mediator. There is a hint of this attitude when he illicitly changes the liturgical greeting, 'The Lord be with you,' to 'The Lord is us.' Another example occurs at the dismissal when a priest may feel compelled to say 'May almighty God bless us...' instead of 'May almighty God bless you....' At other times, the priest may feel the need to 'jazz up' the liturgy to make it more appealing or 'relevant' to the community." (Feminist Dissent, Human Sexuality, and the Liturgy by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky)
So, we hear from such groups as Call To Action and the Women's Ordination Committee about 'community appointed facilitators' while (supposedly) balking about women priests. We hear the priest referred to a 'Presider' instead of the 'Celebrant' or 'Priest'.
"The rampant disregard for liturgical law by trendy clerics and liturgists probably has been the greatest source of harm in the Latin church in the past three decades. Great irreverence has been
perpetrated in the name of "relevance" in the liturgy and, as one author stated, the solemn worship of God too often has been transformed into a low-grade variety act. Too often the celebrant sees his role as something of a stand-up comic who must bend or break the liturgical rules to get his 'theme' across. He acts not in the person of Jesus Christ but of Johnny Carson. Bishops tolerate this and Rome tolerates episcopal toleration. It is after all 'only' the liturgy-- what Vatican II called the , the source and summit of Christian life. (LITURGICAL LAW By Duane L.C.M. Galles)
These show a 'worship' of the community. The 'presider' has to follow the liturgist's, or community's desires for a 'relevant' service. The Mass is changed in order to make the community the center of focus.
"With Christ, we have said, sacrifice came to its perfection. The priest was perfect, for Christ was the priest. The victim was perfect, for he was the victim too. He offered Himself, slain. But not slain by Himself. He was slain by others, slain indeed by his enemies.
What He did was complete, once for all, not to be repeated." (Theology for Beginners (c) 1981 by F.J. Sheed; Chapter 18 - EUCHARIST AND MASS)
And it is not repeated. Rather, "In Heaven Christ is presenting Himself, once slain upon Calvary, to His Heavenly Father. On earth the priest -- by Christ's command, in Christ's
name, by Christ's power -- is offering to God the Victim once slain upon Calvary. Nor does this mean a new sacrifice, but Calvary's sacrifice presented anew -- in order that the redemption won for our race should produce its fruit in us individually." (Ibid)
We 'celebrate' that sacrifice which is ongoing for our benefit.
"May the Lord receive the sacrifice from your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our welfare and that of all His Church."
And when we come together to worship God and praise Him for His sacrifice for us, we long to be with Him and He be a part of us, to make us like Him.
"One element in the Mass remains to be mentioned. We, united with Christ's priests, have offered Our Lord to God. And God gives Him back to us, to be the Life of our life. That is what Holy Communion means. God, while retaining Christ for His own, also shares Him with us. So that God and man, each in his own way, receive the slain and risen God-man." (Ibid)
And so, Christ, being one with God, becomes one with us, and we, one with each other, the real meaning of community. The real way we become the 'Body of Christ'...the Mystical Body of Christ.
Pax Christi, Pat
August 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 153
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW
Return to Front Page of Current Issue