July 23rd, 2012Falling Down the Rabbit Hole at Massby Lorraine V. Murray
“Welcome to our Eucharistic celebration,” the cantor bellows. “Please silence all electronic devices. Your cooperation is appreciated.”
“And now, before we begin, let’s stand and greet those around us.”
Really, it’s more than I can stand. First, we are not at a Eucharistic celebration; we’re at Holy Mass. Can’t we just call it that? Do we have to call laypeople “ministers” and the altar the “Lord’s Table”?
Have we fallen down the rabbit hole into a brave new world where everything sacred has been stripped away?
Forgive me, but I don’t want to stand up and greet the people around me. You see, I said a quick hello to the folks who are sitting next to me when I first came in. And I will greet them again later during the sign of peace.
It’s not that I have anything against these nice people, but standing up and grinning and sticking my hand reminds me too much of attending some convention where people are learning how to hawk a new product and they are testing out their cheesy tactics on each other.
Next, the person on the stage –whoops, I mean the altar--announces the “gathering hymn.” Why do we have to gather anyone? Aren’t we all standing there poised to sing what used to be called by the ridiculously simple but quite accurate term, the “opening” hymn?
All these bits and pieces of idiocy are chipping away at the sacred elements of Mass. Someone somewhere –calling Oregon Catholic Press! – decided we need smarmy lyrics, upbeat, rinky-dink show tunes and plenty of self-aggrandizing reminders (“We are Called” and “We Are Many Parts”) to get us through Mass.
Is it any wonder that in some parishes, people come in, sit down and start talking quite loudly about the movie they saw last night? Is it any wonder that many folks are chewing gum during Mass?
In some archdioceses, churches lack kneelers, so people literally just plop down in the pews when they enter the auditorium – whoops, I mean sanctuary --foregoing those precious moments of prayer before Mass.
Even after receiving Communion, they have nowhere to kneel. Many of these parishes also have dispensed with hymnals and use overhead projectors instead, contributing to the sense that this is not Mass at all, but rather some kind of community get-together.
It was Flannery O’Connor who emphasized that there is a striking difference between Mass and the Elks club. Of course, it is true that going to Mass and attending a meeting at the Elks club share features in common.
In both cases, you get to see friends, you get to eat donuts at some point, and you share a common perspective on things. But unlike Mass, the Elks Club has nothing to do with anything sacred--and that was her point. She died in 1964, so she didn’t the enormous efforts made to reduce the sacred to the secular.
Ten years ago, just as our parish was succumbing to Marty Haugen tunes, cantors and piano music, I recall looking at the tabernacle with tears in my eyes. It was so hard to concentrate during Mass that it was nearly unbearable. And I heard this little voice remind me, “I’m still here.”
I know that Christ is still there, and I trust that one day all this nonsense will disappear, and we will again have reverent liturgy and hymns that worship God instead of ourselves.
I trust we will again have an altar rather than the Lord’s Table. And we will enjoy a stretch of silence after Communion rather than being subjected to more wretched ditties compliments of Oregon Catholic Press.
And, yes, I know that Jesus loves us, and He loves us even when we are strumming banjos and pounding drums and singing songs like “Rain Down” and “Come to Me and Drink.”
But the Lord deserves better. He deserves something sacred. It used to be called the Holy Mass.