Friday, 13 March 2009

Easy like Sunday mornin'

St. Mary Church, Marietta, my former parish. (Hopefully, soon, its renovation will be complete so I can drive there, snap some pictures, and pass them on. It will be spectacular.) I hope that this fulfills my photo requirement.

Our little corner of the internet was all a'flitter a couple of weeks ago over an article published in The Tablet about Fr. Tim Finigan, and his RC parish in Blackfen. I cannot find the original article online anywhere to provide a link, so this link from someone's compound in Minnesota ought to do the trick, if you can ignore the black and red scratchings and e-scribbling in the margins.

My take?

The article should never have been published. There really is not much, if anything, that is newsworthy in the entire piece, and it served little more than to stir up ire about an issue that is as insular as it is tiresome. Had Father been preaching heresy or forsaking his priestly and pastoral duties, that may have been newsworthy. The writer spends a lot of time capturing the emotions of parishioners about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and that is good, though it does seem to be a little one-sided. The writer really crossed the line when she questioned Father's integrity regarding the parish's finances.

That being said, the article did bring to the fore a problem that I see with the whole mess. Fr. Finigan introduced the EF Mass when it was requested, as he should have done according to the guidelines handed down by Pope Benedict. However, the Sunday 10:30 AM Mass is now in the Extraordinary Form. I would imagine that in England, the mid-morning Sunday Mass is the "principal" Mass, the same as it is in the U.S., and the rest of the world, and that the principal Mass is the one that is attended by more people than the other Masses. The article maintains that it was not the entire parish that was calling for an EF Mass, and that is entirely believable to me. Also, the article makes mention of people now travelling to Blackfen for the EF Mass. This creates a mess in two parts: many parishioners are now ostracized for not preferring the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, and we now have a severe case of liturigcal tourism. Not only does this muck with parish boundaries and finances, but it also is canonically irregular, as the Church assumes and encourages her faithful to be active in the parish life and Sacramental life of their own geographical parish. What should have been done? Designate a Sunday Mass, or even a couple of them, EF Masses. But unless the parish is overwhelmingly attached to the old Rite, leave the principal Sunday Mass in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. (All polemics aside, if it is good enough for the Pope...?)

As I said, all of that is just my opinion on the subject, and I hope that feathers have gone down enough at this point to address the matter in good faith.

This episode has made me consider the nature of corporate worship. Some aspects are a given. We gather at least once every week on the Lord's day to worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, together, with one voice, in the sight of the angels, and in communion with all of the saints. We break the bread of Life and drink the cup of Salvation, thus joining Heaven and Earth in the unfathomable mystery, receiving our Lord under the form of bread and wine, and uniting with our brothers and sisters in presence and joint prayers for ourselves and for others. We hear the words of Scripture, ancient prayers and prophecies and teaching and poetry, and we hear God's word for us proclaimed by his sacred ministers. We cloak our worship with the mysteries of the ages, worshipping in some form as Christians have for nearly two millenia, opening our minds and forgetting our individual lives to contemplate more fully the incomprehensible.

I am not trying to re-write the Didache, but these basic principles of our purpose in gathering for worship occasionally bear repeating.

I think sometimes that we miss the point with our corporate worship. Certainly, there are correct ways and incorrect ways to enter into liturgical prayer, and these are important matters. But when the Mass is used as a chess piece in a war of ideologies, we have missed the point. When someone says that they cannot worship with this form of the Mass or that form of the Mass, and that they just don't connect with it, as if it's a new Michael Buble album, then we have missed the point again. Corporate worship is not just about us: it is all of us, united with one voice, worshipping our God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No matter the form of the Mass, our purpose in gathering remains the same. We approach the throne of our great God and humbly cry
Immortal, invisible, God only wise. In light inaccessible, hid from our eyes. Most blessed, most glorious, Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Pax et bonum.