Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Holy Mass

Some memorable masses (memorable for the right reasons).

Malaga- Iglesia Santo Cristo de la Salud (10 years ago)
Aged and frail priest on two sticks, sat perched on a bench for the entire Mass. Beautiful, dignified vernacular, lunchtime Novus Ordo Mass. Can’t understand Spanish, but it didn’t matter. The congregation all over the place, standing, kneeling and sitting seemingly at random (as happens a lot in Spain), but there was something special in the level of concentration both of the priest and us his rag-bag congregation of smart dressed business people, dusty tourists and toothless old ladies in black.

Santo Cristo de la Salud

Manchester- Holy Name (15 years ago)
Tridentine Mass, never have I been so far from the sanctuary but so fully absorbed in the consecration that I was left breathless. The church was packed with young people, shabby people, joyful people from all over the world. It was my first Mass where a deacon and sub-deacon were used. I felt holy fear approaching the altar rails for communion.


Salford- (15 years ago)
When I was unemployed, I’d often attend daily Mass at the one of the local churches (4 and a convent all in easy walking distance), especially if there was a funeral on, it meant we may be able to muster a choir together, singing the deceased’s requested hymns with a gusto the congregation could not muster. This particular Requiem Mass, there was no congregation, just the undertaker and 5 of us in the choir loft. How small the Church Militant seemed, but how great the Church felt that day.


Oxford- St Aloysius (1 year ago)
After a difficult, sickness-filled and hard lent, and an exhausting Triduum, Easter Sunday, solemn sung Novus Ordo Mass in Latin left me in tears. It really felt like the first day of a new life. Tangible joy in disciplined reverence. I’d always struggled with “feeling” the resurrection, and this was an answer to my prayers. Thank you, Oratory Fathers your self-discipline and reverence are infectious.


What do they all have in common? It was not the ability to understand the words. It was not the charisma (or otherwise) of the priests. It was not the direction in which the priest was facing. It wasn’t how well I’d prepared myself for Mass. It was not the friendliness or the self-discipline of the congregations. It was a sense of closeness to the ineffable, beautiful, boundless love and mercy of God. There’s no one magic formula for that. It is an unmerited gift from God.

4 comments:

Robert B. Heath said...

Back in the early 90s, I was seeing a woman in another town, and we used to go to daily Mass in the side chapel of the largest church in town. Often the celebrant was an old retired Irish monsignor, I can't think of his name, but it was a very intimate setting, a N.O. Mass, most everyone knew each other. What struck me most about this Mass was after the Lord's prayer, when the celebrant says the prayer introducing the Rite of Peace, "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles..."
The way Monsignor looked at the Host on the Paten while he said that prayer, you had to believe he KNEW, or even SAW, Jesus was there.

It was a very deep sense of closeness to the ineffable, as you said. I'll never forget that soft voice talking to Jesus, and those old eyes gazing at him... I often think of it during Mass. Sometimes a celebrant will almost seem to have that same intimacy with the Lord, but most of the time not, at least to appearance.

That sense of the closeness of Jesus, that intensity of focus on the One who Is, the One who offers the sacrifice, totally changes one's perception of Mass.

Ttony said...

I attended a Mass in Spain in either 1981 or 1982 celebrated by a priest who had been ordained in 1903. Everything was put on the altar for him as he was very nearly blind and could no longer read from the Missal.

In theory his Mass was in Spanish, but by the end of the Confiteor (said in Spanish, but a translation of the EF version) he gave up trying, and said the EF Mass from memory.

The only Mass he ever said was Salve Sancta Parens as by ancient indult it is a Mass which can be said on almost any day and which blind priests could learn and say.

What moved me was the way he said the Mass as though he could read, as though he had the body of the 23 year old who had been ordained a couple of years early (who had learned to say the Mass and read the Breviary even before Pius XII had begun the 20th Century's adventures in liturgical reform): even when at the Elevation he could barely raise his arms, he could raise his eyes as though his no longer existent gaze could see the Host and the Crucifix beyond it; and he held this posture even though it was clear that it caused him discomfort.

He had survived the 1934 Revolution and the Spanish Civil War and was a link to an almost untouchable past in terms of secular history. But what he was doing every day, as he done for almost 80 years was make something happen anew that had first happened 1900 years earlier, however much it cost him to do so.

Rita said...

Robert, Ttony,

The love the priest has for the Lord is obviously paramount. Thank you both for your tales.

I'm just left wondering, can a priest love the Lord and seemingly despise the Church? I'm terrified by some of the malice and heterodoxy I've heard recently from priests busy with large congregations who "seem to be doing a good job". They are bitter and they feel betrayed by the current (and previous)Pope and it is all simmering away just beneath the surface.

Robert B. Heath said...

I don't see how a priest could love Christ but hate the church. I'm not even sure why he would feel betrayed by our present Pope and the previous, unless he just doesn't understand something, or he has all too human expectations of the Pope and the Church. I don't know, it doesn't make sense to me: I love the church with all my heart, I always have, especially since I came to better understand the Church as the mystical body of Christ, or as the Bride of Christ. To me, the church is another sacramental real presence of Christ in our poor world, and even Priests themselves are sacramental presences of Christ.

But maybe that's like that passage in Ephesians 5 about a man hating his own flesh. Could it be that some Priests who truly love Christ, still don't understand their priesthood or the church and so are in some way at odds with the Church and their own priesthood, a sort of sacramental psychosis!

For me, loving the church is what gets me through the misery of individual priests or individual Christians who commit the crimes that cause so much scandal.

(Of course, if my sins were plastered all over blogs and newspapers and tv screens, I'd do a good job of causing scandal too.)

Did any of what I wrote make any sense?