Thursday, April 10, 2008

When is your High Mass

I spoke to a good friend from college last night. She lives in Hawaii, but has traveled the world. She was telling about the adventures of finding a Mass she can stand to attend. She went to her local parish, only to find that the Mass was in either Filipino or Samoan, which she doesn't speak. No problem, she's used to Mass in foreign tongues from her travels. [It would seem good, don't you think, if the Church could come up with some language to use internationally so as to avoid this problem -- but that's another post.]
So she went to another parish only to find the liturgy there objectionably hip. She tried several parishes. Finally, she asked the usher at her home parish, "When is your High Mass?" He told her, "We don't have a High Mass." My friend, of course, is dumbstruck. It has been years since she has lived in Hawaii, and in her travels throughout the world she has never seen a parish that had no High Mass.
Ah, but she just doesn't know... you see the liturgists tell us that there is no such thing anymore. We just have Mass (or Liturgy or Eucharist as they prefer to call it). Those distinctions went out with Vatican II. Would that someone would tell that to Rome. Anyway, these liturgists, who, by the way, are the same ones that brought us punch-bowl patens and flagons, have all kinds of Gnosis that would be good for us to get ahold of, or so they think. Such things as the Southwest Liturgical Conference, which has great sway here in the Lone Star State, become meetings of minds of those who are still living in the felt-bannered 70s.
Just because the Missal (yes, the word Sacramentary was and is incorrect) does not speak of Solemn Mass, Sung Mass and Spoken Mass, doesn't mean that these realities don't exist or that these terms are meaningless.
The other issue here is that these people who come up with these horrible liturgies have no idea how they contribute to the emptying of our churches. My friend has to drive up a windy mountain pass to go to a church where she finds the Mass to be decently celebrated. True enough, our obligation doesn't get dispensed just because the hippie couple are singing Kumbaya. However, there is a certain point where the liturgy itself is so badly celebrated that it obscures the presence of Christ in the Sacred Action. The celebration of the Mass becomes so disturbing to the person that she leaves the church in a worse emotional state than she came.
I applaud her for making the sacrifice to drive to the parish with the well-celebrated Mass. I lament the days when she isn't able to make the drive. As the Church has said so many times, we, the faithful, have the right to a well-celebrated Liturgy. We, the clergy, have the obligation to celebrate the Mass according to the norms of the Church. It is amazing how in clergy circles, one would be labeled "closed-minded" if one did not allow Life-Teen into the parish, but one is not "closed-minded" if one schedules no High Mass. Wake up and smell the incense, Fathers! The people want more. When they are educated in what the symbolism of the Liturgy is, they love all the smells-and-bells. These aren't mere trappings. They are means to involve our every sense.

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