31 July 2005

What I miss at Mass

I miss the capital-M Mystery.

When the new Mass is poorly performed (I cringe every time I see that word), it loses all mystery. And, let's face it, folks: once that's gone, there's nothing left. It's not like there's great preaching or wonderful music. The English translations are the verbal equivalent of Frankenstein lumbering around, the music is execrable, and there often is no teaching. The mysticism is so gone.

I yearn for it because I found my way to the faith as a teenager by way of the Carmelite mystics. It made perfect sense to me that the Lord romances our souls. He woos and persuades us. He wants us to invite Him into our very selves. The Song of Songs, the Gospel of John, the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux are full of ardent, courageous, self-forgetting romance. All depict Jesus as a passionate, resourceful, persistent and devoted Lover of our souls.

"Have I ever told you, Mother, how fond I am of snow?... I wanted to see nature clad like myself, in white, on my Clothing Day, but I had almost given up hope because it was so warm the day before that it might have been Spring... I gave up my childish desire as impossible of realization...

"The moment I sent foot in the cloister [after the ceremony], my eyes fell upon my little statue of the Child Jesus smiling at me from the midst of flowers and lights. I turned towards the quadrangle and--I saw that it was completely covered in snow! What delicacy on the part of Jesus! To gratify His little bride's every desire, He had sent her snow! What mortal man could ever cause one flake to fall from the sky to charm the one he loves?" -- St. Thérèse

"O my Divine Master, is it only your Justice that shall find atoning victims? Surely Your Merciful Love has need of victims too? It is rejected and ignored on every side, the hearts on which You long to lavish it turn towards earthly creatures, seeking their happiness in a momentary affection instead of running to Your arms to be consumed in the enrapturing furnace of Your Infinite Love..." -- St. Thérèse

"The spiritual passion of the Dark Night exceeds the passion of earthly love as the fire of the sun, the fire of a candle. Life is love passionate and intense. Only in such love is reality touched--the rest is deception, bondage, and spiritual death. Such love draws upwards, ever more persistently, to the mountain peaks. The fulfilled passion of St. John passes into the peace of perfect satisfaction, its energy spent in ecstatic absorption rather than in sporadic desire. In this mystic marriage are fulfilled all knowledge and all art, all striving, all desire, all love, and all life. This spousal union is the limitless Being of God eternally filling the virginal emptiness of the soul. It is harmony without striving, love without longing, yes without no, and life without death." --William McNamara, OCD, in Mystical Passion, the Art of Christian Loving, writing about St. John of the Cross

"Open to me, my sister, my dearest, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is drenched with dew, my locks with the moisture of the night." --the Beloved, in the Song of Songs, 5:2

Incense. The ringing of the bells.


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