Sunday, May 27


All Good Things......

I concluded my time singing at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Chicago today, which has prompted me to reflect on the privilege of working with such a wonderful ensemble, probably as good a choir as a non-professional could ever hope to join, and indeed at experiencing liturgy carried out so well. In the course of research some travels in the near future, I came across this quotation from Thomas Merton, on his experience at Corpus Christi in Manhattan, where I plan to be on the eponymous feast day two weeks from now:

The words, songs, ceremonies, signs, movements of worship are all designed to open the mind and heart of the participant to this experience of oneness in Christ. One reason why I am a Catholic, a monk and a priest today is that I first went to Mass, and kept going to Mass, in a Church where these things were realized. . . . There was nothing new or revolutionary about it; only that everything was well done, not out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness, but out of love for God and His truth. It would certainly be ingratitude of me of I did not remember the atmosphere of joy, light, and at least relative openness and spontaneity that filled Corpus Christi at solemn High Mass.

Merton, I think, offers us some wisdom about carrying out effective liturgy in today's Church. This is especially true when he distinguishes how it was neither "new or revolutionary" nor done out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness. How often in the past 40 years we have been subjected to the "new and revolutionary" getting in the way of worshipping in spirit and truth, letting novelty itself become the norm for our celebration rather than the liturgy itself. Yet there are two sides to this coin, and as Merton points out, we also need to avoid the dangers of aestheticism and rubrical obsessiveness which can cause us to miss the forest for the trees. This especially can take the form of making past forms and norms into absolute standards rather than a leaven, and not admitting that perhaps some change to them was and is necessary. It can also take the form, in some ways, of making our communities places where people feel judged rather than welcomed, subjected to some real or at the very least perceived norms that cause them to feel alienated or unworthy.

The antidote to this, as Merton says, is "the atmosphere of joy, light, and at least relative openness and spontaneity." This does not, of course, mean a shallow embrace of the external forms of joy and openness for their own sakes. Rather, what Merton means is that celebrating the liturgy well and being a community of faith should lead to these characteristics. This, of course, does not mean that chastisement or critique should not take place - but rather, that they should only take place within these contexts. Indeed, this means welcoming others and not piling up presuppositions for entrance into the community besides those that are intrinsic to faith and morals.

This also means presuming good will on the part of others until it is demonstrably proven otherwise. Indeed, I recently saw on another blog that in the conext of praising the Insitute of Christ the King's work here near the University of Chicago, they presumed that "undergraduates are too busy studying and have more interest in cooperating with the local manifestation of liberal, heretical Catholicism in the chaplaincy than in “speaking truth to power” and trying to find something better." This is sheer calumny, and maligns the work of good people without the slightest knowledge of the context - simply presuming that campus ministries are this way. While this may reflect some people's experience, it is not the case in this one, nor should it be projected in this way simply to advance a traditionalist agenda through the means of the Institute.

Love and joy are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we must receive them as such and live them out in our lives. I have been grateful during my time in Chicago to find them, and indeed to find them combined with the pursuit of beauty, goodness, and truth. Indeed, I have realized precisely that the beauty of the Faith is not an ideology, but a lived experience of Christ through His Church. Let us be careful of trying to construct ideologies within the Church that wrongly alienating people by setting up boundary lines that are not there (based on, say, whether one frequently attends the Tridentine Mass) but rather by inviting them to experience the love and joy of the faith precisely through our own love and joy. This is the wonder of Pentecost, and ineed the wonder of the Church at her best.

* Pentecost at Mt. Carmel
Entrance Hymn: Come Holy Ghost
Sprinkling Rite: Engl. translation of Vidi Aquam, Monica Laughlin, OSB
Gloria: Andrews New Mass for Congregations, arr. Biery
Responsorial Psalm: Paul French
Sequence: Veni Sancte Spiritus, chant
Gospel Acclamation Verse: William Ferris
Offertory: Salmo 150, Ernani Aguiar
Eucharistic Acclamations: Danish Amen Mass, Kraehenbuehl
Our Father: Plainchant
Agnus Dei: William Ferris, Missa Brevis in A Major
Communion: O Spirit of the Living God, Tye, arr. French
Closing Hymn: Come Down, O Love Divine

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