10 March 2007

It feels like spring

Lots of good thought and excellent writing out there just now... green shoots appearing where just weeks (decades) ago there was nothing but muddy snow.

Philip Blosser has made a number of amazing posts on his blog of late: clearly and carefully written, thoroughly researched (as always), and incisive. It is such a sigh of relief to read his stuff.

I recommend this post on the language of the liturgy: "Making It Real" - Part I: the words of the liturgy. But it is only a wonderful warm-up to this: "Making It Real" - Part II: the Sacrament of the Altar.

As those who've read my blog in the past are aware, I have strong feelings about all this. A year ago I wrote out my answers to some thoughtful questions from Lorna about the Mass. But I feel like a lisping child next to Philip Blosser's masterful articulation of what I have felt but could not say all these years.

He quotes Martin Mosebach, the award-winning German author and film-maker, as he describes his experience as a diminutive altar boy under the aegis of the old Mass in his book, The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), in an appendix entitled "'This Is My Body': On Veneration of the Sacrament of the Altar in the Catholic Church":
I always found it embarrassing to see the Host at such close quarters, so vulnerable, as if it were lying naked on the white cloth. It was not something for my eyes, a layman's eyes, to behold. There was something secret going on between the priest and the Host. It was a real relationship: there was a kind of conversation between the Host and priest that was hidden from the eyes of the congregation by the priest's body. I, however, as an altar server, was aware and had to be aware of it, like a nurse who unexpectedly finds herself in the position of having to undress a respected personage. The gentle cracking sound of the Host made when it broke seemed not for my ears, either: it was an intimacy to which I was not entitled.

At some point - at a quiet Mass, of course - I heard the cracking of the Host and my soul shuddered at the thought of the thieves' legs cracking on Calvary. His body was broken, too, in so many ways, for us. Covered in blood and sweat, blue around the lips from suffocation, His hair matted around His face, having just died the most repulsive death... there are so many of us who still weep for Him in that moment, weeping in grief and gratitude. And there are a substantial number of those who are in love with Him to the point where they leave everything to live for Him alone. I once wanted to be one of those. With exquisite tact and tenderness, He listened to all my passionate outpourings, accepted my feeble attempts to live the life on my own, guided me with grace and the good advice of many, many writers whose books providentially came into my hands ... and said no.

My call is to love one man and know him only, and God is making that happen as tenderly and gently and firmly as He kept me at a distance all those years ago. And it is because of that love unfolding in my life that I understand exactly what Dr. Blosser is saying when he writes,
Please do not be offended, but I want to draw an analogy with another movement of cultural liberation that was concurrently underway alongside the liturgical reforms of the 1960s: the sexual revolution... It was precisely to protect the Real Presence of the Person that sex was hedged about with all those traditional taboos of courtship, ritual, decorum, and bonds of matrimony to begin with. Persons were never to be treated as mere things, to be 'used' as 'means' to satisfy our own pleasure, but always to be respected as ends-in-themselves. The taboos were a sign that we cared about the Real Presence of the other Person on the altar of sexual union. The dropping of the taboos was a sign that we no longer cared about the depth dimension of sex because we no longer cared about the Presence of the interior and irreducible selfhood of the other Person in the sexual encounter.

For those fortunate enough to know what it is to love like that, the very idea of being intimate with another human being is repellent, because they are not known... they are a stranger. And, also, because the stranger does not know one as does the beloved. Even when he was a young man, my beloved was exceptionally courteous, tender and kind. He managed to convey his deep affection without frightening me or lapsing from his habitually deeply respectful treatment of me - emotionally and intellectually, as well as physically. (Three decades later, nothing has changed. And there are still those who say there are no miracles!) Because of his gentleness, I am slowly allowing myself to be persuaded to consider life no longer alone, but forever after together, knowing and being known... and honoring one another with our care for each other's physical selves.

With the BBC News publishing the astonishing (/sarcasm) fruits of a study which concluded that not protecting young girls from sexual behavior harms them, and another study which conveyed the momentous (/more sarcasm) discovery that couples actually can space children without using methods harmful to the body or soul, and the hopeful signs that Benedict XVI is going to reiterate - tactfully, but clearly - the truth about the Sacrament of the Altar, and maybe even make it exceptionally clear that it may be celebrated as it once was ... one begins to feel that effervescent, springlike hope that the erratic thoughts and practices which followed the Council might - might - have begun to run their course, and souls might be waking up and wondering about these "new" ideas.

Count me among those who do not want to turn the clock back, but who do want to stop the endless liturgical churning and give God's Roman Catholic children at least the opportunity to experience a quiet, reverent Mass. I am not usually one to prattle on about "rights," but this is one big exception: it is our right as Roman Catholics to worship in the way we did before the Council. Even our Protestant brethren recognize this and provide both "traditional" and "modern" worship in their churches. So, if the goal of the Council was truly to adopt Protestant worship ways, then we must fall in line and allow our congregations to celebrate Mass in Latin, ad orientam. ;)

1 comment:

Lorna said...

Hi there - haven't been here for a while (long story) but want to encourage you to keep pressing in for more of God

Jer says seek the old ways or paths ...it doesn't mean that new is wrong, but it does mean we can still learn from history.

My views on the Eucharist haven't changed - and I'm still longing for true unity - and diversity - within the body of Christ.