Sunday, November 15, 2009


This Sunday I had the privilege of attending three different Sunday masses. A vigil. A morning mass. An evening mass.

Just because that is the way things worked out!

Three masses . Masses with liturgical differences.

All masses were valid. Two masses were celebrated with great care for rubrics and with reverence.

We Catholics express our faith, our beliefs, by actions and by words. Reverence in mass reminds us of Whom we are reverencing.

There is a difference between a mass where the priest follows rubrics carefully and a mass where a priest ad libs. Even a little.

a title, heading, direction, or the like, in a manuscript, book, statute, etc., written or printed in red or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
a direction for the conduct of divine service or the administration of the sacraments, inserted in liturgical books.
3.any established mode of conduct or procedure; protocol.

The rubrics of the Mass form the directions, the guide, for the priest to follow. They serve as protocol for the mass; reminding us that mass is about worshipping God , that it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that Jesus is truly present at the altar..and that mass is not about the people and the personality of the priest.

It is not a feel good exercise.

From one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council - there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing(Sacrosanctum concilium ).

I am truly not being critical here. Not being that liturgical nazi that my family all hate, the one who decries any change post 1962.

I just know that we go to mass to adore God, to receive Jesus. Yes, within the community of believers and with communion with all the saints but also with a focus on Christ, on prayer, on eternity, not the here and now of laughter/clapping/jokes/priests wandering around giving a homily..( I am sorry, Fr, but it is impossible for me to listen well, to gather myself and my thoughts interiorly, with you wandering near my elbow, giving a homily, asking me and others to cry out Praise the Lord. Is PTL part of the rubrics? Can't we participate more fully when we are not distracted?).

Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Pope Benedict the XVI, (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) The Spirit of the Liturgy

The richness of Catholic theology, the theology of the Mass, the ritual over the centuries, gradually unfolds in the mass. Forms our beliefs. How we worship really does have an effect on what we believe.

We demonstrate our beliefs by the rubrics of liturgy. We develop and understand these beliefs, we grow in grace and in love and understanding, by the way we worship, by familiarity with the liturgy, a familiarity that comes with repetition - with very careful observance of liturgical norms. If the norms are ignored, are played with, are altered in small ways, not necessarily via big liturgical differences or abuses but via little changes and injections of personality, then we lose an opportunity. We lose a powerful means of transmitting and re-inforcing the Church's teaching about the meaning of the Mass, of the Eucharist, of what we as Catholics believe.

We lose an opportunity to lift ourselves out of the sometime quagmire of daily life, to think not of ourselves but to lift up our hearts and eyes and minds towards God.

When we change or add little things to the Mass, things that of themselves are not of great substance, that certainly do not mean liturgical abuse or an invalid mass yet are little people-centred innovations, well, when we do this, we not only lose a sense of awe and a sense of the sacred. We also lose a sense of unity, of praying the one and same mass with others.

We have liturgical legislation not to enforce what one writer calls "rigid rubricism" but instead to encourage reverence and unity in Catholic liturgy... in Catholic worship.

The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer..Pope Paul VI


LLMom said...

I totally agree. I really appreciate the quiet and reverence at Mass. You don't get that much at home with lots of dc.

Theresa said...

So true.

Pam said...

Not a Catholic (as you know, LEonie) but I'm with you. I became a Christian in the Anglican church and I didn't realise how the liturgy had shaped my understanding until we were visiting a relative's church where they- I have to say it- bopped into God's presence. I was shocked, affronted, unsettled that there was no realisation of our sinfulness and God's graciousness at letting us come before Him through Jesus.

It was a major point of growth and understanding for me.

Leonie said...

I love that phrase - bopped into the Lord's presence!