Monday, 12 May 2008

Living the Faith

I'm grateful for all the positive comments regarding my last post. On Sunday we were unable to attend Mass at our own church and went some miles to another church in another diocese. Does it ever happen to you that you blog about something, then all of a sudden you have to stand by what you have written; living your faith as well as just writing about it?

The Mass we attended was beautiful; Mass is beautiful, period. However, the music was provided by a lady with guitar, she was a competent singer and player and everything was pitched so that it could be sung along with by those of us over 12 years of age. Unfortunately her choice was dismal. We had an offertory "hymn" called "She sits like a bird", this being the nearest thing heresy I think I'd heard in a Catholic church, how can the Holy Spirit be female if the Church is the Bride of Christ? Being struck low with intense pain from irritable bowel syndrome (when will I learn to lay off the vegetables) this only added to the pain. My husband just muttered "Oh dear" and the lady in front of me had her head in her hands and her eyes shut during this. However, further anguish was caused when the Agnus Dei was replaced with:

Jesus, glorious brightness, flame of love
Jesus, filling hearts and minds with life
Hear our prayer have mercy,
Hear our prayer have mercy
Give us your peace

etc.

A jolly tune to take away any idea that the Mass is a sacrifice.

So what was my response? Am I a hypocrite? Did I pray fervently for this guitar strumming lady and her parish? God alone knows the true nature of my response.

We take an elderly couple to Mass each week and the choices of music provoked an interesting conversation on the way home. My husband and I were in full adult catechesis mode, we are really growing to love and cherish that couple, Pentecost is wonderful!

10 comments:

Irene said...

Hm-m-m. A few thoughts do occur to me:

(1) You said it was a mass. Therefore, I presume he was present. Since you did not mention it, I presume he made no complaint. Could he even have had foreknowledge of the music? Can you accept his judgment?

(2) The Holy Spirit is just that, a spirit. It does not have a gender. How can it be female? How can it be male?

(3) Similarly, the Body of Christ has many members (1 Cor 12). Some are female, some are male. How can it have a gender?

(4) I gather the priest also did not protest the replacement of the Agnus dei. He is the ordained person who was present and he certainly had the authority to stop the mass, dismiss the musician, and continue a capella. I would submit to his authority. But if still concerned, I might talk it over with him. Then if not satisfied, I might ask him to discuss it with the Bishop (your teaching authority) and I.

(5) Mass is indeed a sacrifice -- but it is a joyful sacrifice. Death and hell are defeated, our sins are forgiven, and we receive (unmerited) eternal life. Joy does not seem inappropriate. (Consider Deus caritas est.)

The Body of Christ has many members, and their perspectives differ.

Andrew said...

Hi Irene, permit me to make a few comments. I hope you take them in the irenic spirit in which they are offered.

[(1) You said it was a mass. Therefore, I presume he was present. Since you did not mention it, I presume he made no complaint. Could he even have had foreknowledge of the music? Can you accept his judgment?]
The Holy Spirit was certainly present, as was Jesus Himself in the Sacrament. God rarely complains, but as you say, it is because He is truly present that we have to take the greatest care to give Him the worship that he deserves and thus the music must be fitting. Secondly, the Church has laid out a couple of ground rules (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium of VII) on what the ideal music of the Mass should be like and there's no harm in Rita commenting that the offering in that particular Mass falls short of that ideal. It's more than a matter of taste or preference, it's the view of the Church.

[(2) The Holy Spirit is just that, a spirit. It does not have a gender. How can it be female? How can it be male?]
The male reference to the Holy Spirit comes from Scripture, from the mouth of Jesus, who choose to come as a man, the Son of God Whom He chooses to call Father and teaches us to call Father.
John 15:26 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me."

It's not our inference but we call the Holy Spirit 'He' because that's the term Jesus used.

[(3) Similarly, the Body of Christ has many members (1 Cor 12). Some are female, some are male. How can it have a gender?]
Again, because it is the scriptural image of the Church. Jesus calls himself the bridegroom and the Church is presented in the Book of Revelation, as the Bride of Christ and so in that sense, the Church is feminine and is called Holy Mother Church. BTW, Israel, the precursor of the Church is also always referred to in feminine terms and her infidelity is always likened to an unfaithful spouse.

[(4) I gather the priest also did not protest the replacement of the Agnus dei. He is the ordained person who was present and he certainly had the authority to stop the mass, dismiss the musician, and continue a capella. I would submit to his authority. But if still concerned, I might talk it over with him. Then if not satisfied, I might ask him to discuss it with the Bishop (your teaching authority) and I.]
Great. And when bishops disagree, good Catholics should submit to the authority of the Holy Father in Rome. As Successor to St. Peter, it is his ministry to guarantee the unity of faith. The buck stops there. I am glad that you acknowledge authority and the need to refer to authority. But in this case, Rome, where the buck stops, has already decreed. It's in the Missal. What to sing and what not to. And in various other Church documents such as GIRM the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and Vatican documents meant to clarify and remind us to obey what the Holy Father has decreed on the liturgy. We do need to submit to authority but so does the priest and the bishop and even the Pope who is to uphold the Apostolic Faith, Scripture and Tradition. If the priest did nothing then clearly, he is in violation of the universal liturgical law of the Church. He has no authority to change any of the set prayers because he is a minister offering the Church's public prayer. It is not his to tamper with.

[5) Mass is indeed a sacrifice -- but it is a joyful sacrifice. Death and hell are defeated, our sins are forgiven, and we receive (unmerited) eternal life. Joy does not seem inappropriate. (Consider Deus caritas est.)]
There are times and seasons for everything under Heaven. Just as in the Church's year, there is Lent and Eastertide, Good Friday and Easter. The Mass is the re-presentation, the making present of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, offered by Christ the Priest and Victim. Just as it is not appropriate to dance for joy in front of the Cross as Jesus lay crucified and dying, we must not excessively trivialize the Mass by overly celebrating during the Canon and the Eucharistic Prayer. There are moments for joy and thanksgiving, and moments of prayer and reflection and spiritual communion.

[The Body of Christ has many members, and their perspectives differ.]
But some matters are beyond mere preferences and perspectives but touch on what the Church teaches and requires of Her children. In obedience to that lies the true freedom of God's children.

Philip said...

I have to travel ten miles to Mass, as I find Mass in my local to be "not what it should be". (If I told ou that I once went to Adoration, and they forgot the Host, would that give you a clue?)

I think the Agnus Dei is from a Paul Inwood number. He comes in for a great many knocks from traditionally-minded Catholics. That said (as he is the Diocesan liturgist for Portsmouth) I have got to know him personally over the years. He is a very, very lovely man with a wide knowledge of traditional liturgy and chant. As the Holy Father's "Reform of the Reform" becomes more accepted, I hope that he will use is many talents in that direction.

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

But Rita, here's your honest and charitable post about it. No hyprocisy there.
God bless

Rita said...

Irene and Andrew,

Many thanks! Your discussion was our conversation on the way home from church.

Rita said...

Philip,

Thanks for the information about Paul Inwood, you are not the first person to say how nice he is. I would like to see him use his creativity in the sense you suggest. Everybody has to be on board if the "reform of the reform" is going to work.

There are good and interesting times ahead provided there is considerably more fraternal charity going around and an end to the bickering.

Irene said...

Rita, you have opened a really thoughtful discussion. I really have enjoyed it.

I hope no one will be offended, but reading over others' comments, a few more thoughts have come to mind:

(1) There is an egregious typo in my the first point in my first post. The first line should read "You said it was a mass. Therefore, I presume a priest was present."

(2) All human languages are human -- and therefore limited and incapable of expressing the full reality of the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, each language has some things which it expresses exquisitely, and others which it expresses poorly or not at all.

Some languages have no gender; in those, this issue would not come up. But English, Latin, and Greek all do have gender -- so when you use pronouns, your choices are limited. So it doesn't bother me if someone uses "he" to stand for the Holy Spirit. But neither would it bother me if another used "she". Neither one reflects the reality exactly.

Consider that Genesis uses the pronoun "us", "our", and "we" as well as "he" for God! Indeed in 1.27 it says that the image of God = male + female.

(3) The custom of using feminine pronouns to refer to the Body/Bride of Christ is scriptural, thus fine with me -- but it cannot be taken literally. I can't imagine that anyone thinks this linguistic usage confers material generative organs upon it.

(4) Authority. The Holy Father indeed has the last word -- and if he rebukes a bishop, the bishop must obey. But the bishop is the teaching authority for his diocese, and every priest in this diocese must follow his teaching. Similarly, the parish priest is the teaching authority for parishioners, who must follow his teaching.

Parishioners do not get to decide they can ignore the teaching of their priest because they interpret the Holy Father differently, any more than the priest can ignore the teaching of the Bishop on a similar basis. (Yes, there are procedures for appeal.)

In Rita's situation, she may think the priest got it wrong and should not have tolerated the happenings in this particular mass. And the Holy Father might even agree with her. But until she has discussed the matter with her priest, and perhaps appealed to the Bishop and the Holy See, her duty is to accept her priest's decisions.

Yes, she may raise the issue for discussion, as she has here. And good for her for doing so. But she is to accept until the appropriate authority has made a change. And the missal has and does change.

(5)...times and seasons.... For what it is worth, for me every mass is the most beautiful and joyful time of my entire week (possible exception = Good Friday). Even the Agnus Dei is a song of triumph, and as such in no way "trivializes" the mass or Christ's sacrifice (God forbid!).

Rita, thank you again for the opportunity of this thoughtful discussion.

Andrew said...

I'd like to comment on the niceness of some of these people. Contrary to what many trads think, I have found some very liberal people to be, in fact, very nice.

An elderly priest I know for example, is very humble, does all the manual work himself, carries the candlesticks back to the sacristy after Benediction, etc. But he favours introducing female altar servers despite the diocesan ban, plays around with the words of the Canon, says Mass sitting down, minus the chasuble, encourages people not to kneel etc.

A retired Archbishop who oversaw the liberalization of diocese and failed to discipline his clergy for gross violations is personally very orthodox and humble and very nice and is a pretty much by the book guy.

Because of their personality, it's very hard to constructively bring their failings to their attention because we ourselves fall far short of the standards of holiness. What to do?

Rita said...

Thanks all of you,

This particular Mass was not at my local church so it is not for me to inquire if Fr is being browbeaten by the lady liturgist or if he regularly gives her a free hand to "choose the hymns".

On the subject of "niceness". Historically, I don't think it has ever been the job of the laity to constructively criticise the liturgical shortcomings of a particular Mass. The problem arises because, for the last 40 years the laity has been much more involved in how the liturgy is presented. Unfortunately, this is not the whole parish, but a self selecting few, usually with an agenda. This new relationship is backed by the bishops because it seems to make the priests more accountable to the "needs of the people". Everyone involved is thoroughly nice and "when the chips are down" thoroughly Christian and helpful.

What must be removed from the interactions is politics. With politics comes self interest and the desire for control. There is a word for what has happened and the change in relationship between the priesthood and the people, something that has never been intended by the successors of Peter, the word is HEGEMONY. Until it is recognised as force within the Church, I'm not sure it will ever be eliminated. It doesn't come from the very top, but from those who would like to be in control.

When I'm a little less busy, I'll blog about this....Politics in human reactions is inevitable, I'm sure even the most pious monastries have some political infighting. It is the subtlety of hegemony and the change in norms and values that it produces that really interests me. And yes, I did spend too many of my student days hanging out with Marxists. Politically, they have given us nothing of real value except the ability to analyse the functioning of modern society.

Irene said...

Rita, Amen to hegemony and politics.

And again, thank you, this has been immensely interesting