Monday, March 18, 2013

Should we resist the precious and the sublime?

Father Z's comment on the red shoes and mozetta reflects the true humility which is demanded of the priest who should see the honorific gestures not as accorded to his person but rather to Christ in whose person he comes.

The seeming simplification of vestments and anything about the rites which Pope Francis prefers is really sending the wrong signal that the Church of the poor must have poor liturgy! I now hear people saying that the Church must veer away from its high church liturgies and perform low church rites in order to be more relevant, and even more "people-friendly". I find it disturbing that the liturgy is once again being regarded as a theater performance wherein we should look poor in order to appeal to the masses. In the present political season in the Philippines, I notice that political candidates no longer have themselves photographed in the formal barong tagalog wear but in t shirts and blue jeans. A politician (born again fundamentalist) used to put the title "bishop" before his name. Now he reverts to being called "brother". Are these for real???

Unfortunately, everybody wants to ride the "simplicity" band wagon on account of the new Pope. However, everybody seems to forget that sacred ministers are not actors who pretend to be poor in order to be relevant. Sacred ministers are, in reality, "sacramental signs" of Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father. We come in the name of Christ. We come in the person of Christ. In the Sacred Liturgy, the priest is Christ and Christ is the priest. The priest must have enough humility to be able to accept the fact that he is no longer his own.

I find Fr. Z's reflection very relevant to the present issue:

"The Catholic priest is simultaneously the victim offered on the altar.  All the older, traditional ceremonies of the Roman Rite underscore this foundational dimension of the Mass. If we don’t see that relationship of priest, altar, and victim in every Holy Mass, then the way Mass has been celebrated has failed.  If we don’t look for that relationship, then we are not really Catholic.  Mass is Calvary.
The use of beautiful marble in the church building, precious fabrics and metals for vestments and vessels, music that requires true art and skill to perform, ritual gestures which to worldly eyes seem to be the stuff of bygone eras of royals and the like, all underscore the fact that step by step during Holy Mass the priest is being readied for the sacrifice, which – mysteriously – he himself performs.
Back when I resisted the liturgical kissing of my hand when being handed a chain, spoon or chalice, I had made the mistake of imagining myself to be more humble by that resistance.  That was a mistake.  Ironically, my resistance to those gestures turned the gestures into being about me.  Submission to the gestures, on the other hand, erases the priest’s own person and helps him to be what he needs to be in that moment: priest, victim, alter Christus.   The trappings, the rubrics, the gestures erase the priest’s poor person.  Resisting these things runs the risk of making them all about the priest again.
In a sense, I had made the objection of Judas about the precious nard which the woman brought to the Lord.  Jesus responded that the precious stuff should be kept for His Body, which was to be sacrificed.  People who object that we should have only poor liturgy are falling into the argument of Judas.  We must submit to the precious and sublime in recognition of the truth of what is going on.   To pit the sublime and complex and precious and beautiful against the low, simple and humble is schizophrenic and not Catholic."


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  3. Yes, St. Jean Vianney lived in extreme poverty, but when it came to the Liturgy he wanted to have the most beautiful vestments and liturgical vessels. He did not diminish the Sacredness of the Holy Mass because he knew the mystery he was entering into. To diminish the Sacredness of Mass is diminishing Christ. Thank you Fr. for the above post.

  4. Twice Fr. Z in the above text speaks of how people are not really Catholic if they don't see it his way. I find this excluding of others from being Catholic as something lower clergy and bloggers do. I don't find Popes doing it. Why not? They...Popes...are actually capable of excommunicating and rarely do so but the lower ranks of Catholicism have this exclusionary habit. Something is wrong. Maybe Popes are not excommunicating enough so the blogs are subconsciously filling in. Judas did not believe in his own argument because he regreted not being able to steal the money involved in the nard. The text tells you that. So Judas' argument was not his real one.