Well, it looks as if I have not posted since April! First, I'm sorry, and second, has it really been that long? Anywho...
(And this is going to discuss the Novus Ordo Mass...)
Let's face it: Some Masses are FAR more reverent and traditional than others. Why is that? Is it the Priest? The congregation? The setting in which the Mass is said? As humans, we often allow presentation to affect our entire perception of what is going on around us, especially in places and events of worship.
Take visual perception for example. If the priest's body language is extremely lax, we then take that as a cue that we, too, can relax. If the Church building is set up so that the Tabernacle is off to the side (or worse, as I have seen, not even in the sanctuary, or hidden by a wall!), we then get the message that the Eucharist isn't the central reason that we are here, and He just comes out from "offstage" a little later. If the Church does not have a sense of wonder to it, or a reflection of our Lord's grandeur, it can seem almost like another ordinary place (Not to say that "modern" buildings or ones that lack great architectural designs are bad places of worship. This is just a side comment). Often, when we enter a place that reflects adequately God's Glory through its architectural characteristics, it can give us a sense of wonder and awe for God and his creation, and his Majesty.
This (Benedictine altar areangement, in case you weren't familiar with it):
As opposed to this:
As far as appearance goes, (no, don't worry – no modesty talk here!) it also plays a huge role in our perception of what is going on. First of all is the priest dressed appropriately? You may be asking yourself, what could go wrong with the vestments where it would be inappropriate? Well, like I mentioned before, my diocese is one of the worst in the nation. It has a terrible reputation at the Vatican. And I have been to "Masses" where the priest was in street clothes saying Holy Mass. Yeah, I know. It was awful. So make sure that if the celebrant isn't dressed appropriately, it is brought up to the Bishop. Cuz that's a WHOLE 'nother issue in itself. Anyway, the atmosphere is also affected by the appearance of the people in attendance at Mass. Are they taking care to genuflect and two outwardly express* some level of reverence (based on their own personal physical ability. I am not in any way saying that everyone must genuflect, including the 93-year-old lady who is hunched over in the fourth pew… You get my point…)? Do the parishioners come into church, into the Presence of our Lord, just to chat with the people around them? Do they pay attention during Mass? And yes, how are they dressed? Not in a modesty sense, per se, but one of respect for our Lord. For example, are they all in short shorts and "givin'-up-clothes," as my parents used to refer to them, or are a good number of them at least dressing in a fashion that implies that Church and Mass are SPECIAL? Not in fancy dresses, but in a way that implies that this isn't just a regular shindig and this isn't a joke.
I would consider this to be appropriate dress... It was slim pickings on the interwebs anyway...
How about auditory reception? It very much affects our perception of the Mass. Which would you say "prepares and announces the way and coming of the Lord" better? Guitars and contemporary music, or music that has a very profound, solemn, sacred sound? (Not bashing contemporary Christian music as I am a big fan of it myself. However, there is a time and a place for everything. Contemporary music worship nights with Eucharistic Adoration? I'm ALL for it! But contemporary music at Mass, to me seems a bit disrespectful and irreverent, and quite frankly, out of place. And seriously. Enough with the tambourine. We all hate it but none of us want to be the "bad Catholic" and scold you for playing that thing...) Something is so powerful about hearing music that really tries to get us to focus on Him. I am very partial to organ music; I love the organ. Its rumbling bass tones, its floating, echoing high pitches, and something about how it can shake the floor just a little is so beautiful. It gets you in the "Catholic zone," preparing you to meet the Lord, face-to-face. It's amazing! Of course, this is provided that the organist is someone skilled and knows how to play using the pedals…
I love the organ...
And this is a little much.
Lastly, and most importantly, how is the Mass said? We must establish that my determination of "reverence" may be different from someone else's. But then again, you are reading my blog… to me, a reverent saying of the Mass is one that puts the focus on Him. My spiritual director's Mass is far more reverent than any Novus Ordo that I have ever been to in my entire life. To set the scene, even though his parishes are relatively small and not overly architecturally exquisite, his altars employ Benedictine set up, and everything is so beautifully placed near the tabernacle, and around the altar. He really makes it look stunning for our Lord! Father's reverence is especially observable during the Consecration. Father takes the host ever so gently, and fixes his eyes upon it, soon to become our Lord. Father raises his eyes to Heaven and gently raises the Body of our Lord, as He was raised on Calvary.
He doesn't only raise Him for a moment, he lets Him be there for a few seconds, sometimes longer. And when he sets Him back down on the paten, it is gentle, it is loving, it is in a manner that treats Him like Lord, not like a piece of bread. Father then makes a profound genuflection for another several seconds, and from that point on, his thumb and first finger (with which he held our Lord) are glued together. In the same manner he consecrates the contents of the Chalice. He distributes our Lord with care and with reference, not just passing Him to people, but gently and attentively placing Him on their tongues or on their hands, careful to make sure that they will not drop Him. Father utilizes his acolytes also during Communion, and they hold patens underneath our Lord, lest a 'crumb' drop on the floor. Father's ablution is stunning, in the way that he so carefully ensures that Particles are not left on the patens or in the chalices. Everything is just so precise, so careful, so loving! It's hard not to fall in love with this manner of hearing/saying Mass.
On the other hand, I have been to Masses that were utterly horrific, the one with the dressed-down priest included. One more recently was at a convent (which made it even more shocking)! At this particular Mass, the priest was very lax about everything! He would cut off our responses ("the Lord be with you," "and with –" "lift up your hearts," "we lift them up –" "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God…" "it is right – " "It is truly right and..." And the like.), and the priest's body language just screamed that he did not want to be there. (In fact, immediately after Mass I got a chance to speak with him only for brief moment, and he was already out of his vestments, and on his way to "judge chickens." Yes, I feel the same way you do…) While pouring the water into the wine, he essentially dumped it and it splashed out of the chalice. During the elevation of the host, he was nearly waving Christ around in the air. I was so upset, and I begged God to "get me out of here!" The Final Blessing was so rushed and undefined that I wasn't sure if he had in all actuality made the Sign of the Cross, or just waved his arm in a peculiar formation and called it a blessing. I was left so disturbed after this whole ordeal that I didn't know what to think!
Refreshing picture of Papa Benny with our Lord and a member of the faithful after that slightly traumatic paragraph...
So, in closing (yes, this has been a very long, drawn out, detailed post with lots of parentheses), this post is just to get you to think about reverence in your Church and community. I'm not only here to complain (although I did put that in my own job description), I'm here to make you think about these things, and get you outraged enough to do something! So GO DO IT! If you see issues in your parish, talk to your priest, your friends, your Catholic Support Group (everyone's gotta have one of those! If you don't, get one!) make a change for the better in your parish. Let's start a Reverence Revolution!
Down in Adoration falling...
CLOSING DISCLAIMER: Just remember, no matter what type of Mass you attend, or how reverently it is said, as long as it follows the Roman Missal and the rubrics, it is a Mass, and Christ is still being sacrificed. This post is not giving you permission to think that less reverent Masses are of lesser importance than the most reverent Mass. Treat all Masses the same, please! :)
Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and I encourage you to share it if you found it to be informative or thought-provoking. God bless you, God love you, God keep you, and may His Holy Angels surround you and protect you, now and forever. Amen.
*As far as outward expression in the Church goes, some people are very against it. However, perhaps they don't fully understand the purpose and reason behind it. Outward expressions of love, devotion/piety, and reverence serve two purposes: 1) to help us better internalize those virtues that we outwardly express, and 2) to express, for GOD, the virtues that we possess internally. It is not meant to be overdone, showy, or to make you seem holier than thou. Trust me, it's not.