Sunday, October 29, 2006


Earlier I was reading Fr Michael Brown's new Blog, Forest Murmurs. Apart from some interesting material on his recent visit to the Eternal City, he was explaining the changes that he has made to the sanctuary of his church, St Mary's, Forest Hall.

Somewhat tongue in cheek I suggested that perhaps there is something of a contradiction between a focus on what might be described as the externals of liturgical celebration and what it must have been like at the Last Supper. Fr Michael responded that many of the key elements of our liturgy can be traced back to the early years of the Church.

I have no doubt that this is true; however I'm not sure that it answers fully the question that I was posing. The 'early years' are still later than the very beginning and neither at the Last Supper nor at Emmaus do we find ourselves distracted from the central mystery by questions of vestments, furnishings or rubrics.

I love the spectacle of Catholic liturgy, I am enthralled by it; however I cannot believe that its presence adds to nor its absence detracts from the central event of the Eucharist. Is the Mass a 'better' Mass if it is celebrated with sublime music and enriched by cloth of gold vestments? Yes, these things might help us feel that it is a 'better' Mass, but is this true? Is a Mass celebrated with none of these trappings a 'poorer' celebration? If it is, how is it?


Joee Blogs said...

Your ideas of a "better Mass" show clearly you don't understand the Mass. The Mass is perfect, it is not possible for it to be better in the context that you refer to.
The sacrifice of Holy Mass is like a beautiful jewel. It's no less perfect if it's celebrated on the front of a Jeep with bombs going off around it, or if it's celebrated by the Holy Father himself.
The crown that surrounds the jewel however can be ugly or beautiful. A beautiful reverential Christ-centred liturgy of course aids us in our concentration as we as humans get distracted a lot.

FJM Madden said...

JB - many thanks for your comment - it's nice to see someone is reading! I greatly enjoy your blog.

I'm not sure that you got my point which is indicated by the fact that I agree with everything you say. My point - as expounded in the final paragraph - is that the Mass cannot be improved upon.

At the same time I accept that the setting of the celebration can enhance the experience. My point, however, is that it seems to me that too many of the parishoners of St Blog are more concerned about the cut of the celebrant's chausuble or the presence of an antipendium than they are about the essentials.

As Raphael, Cardinal Merry Del Val suggested ' Da mihi animas, coetera tolle'.

Joee Blogs said...

The reason these are talked about on the blogosphere so much is that this is one of the main areas that is the front line.
It's like saying my blog bangs on about Life issues - been there done that.
Yes it bangs on about Life issues because along with the liturgy bioethics is the other main frontline current issue.
It's not that the cut of a chasuble is the essential, but lex orandi lex credendi, the Church is in a mess. Whether you view the liturgy as the cause or symptom it's very much relevent now to the situation in the Church. I hope this clears something of the importance of these issues being debated and highlighted on the blogosphere.

FJM Madden said...

Agreed JB. But is there not a danger that the debate will become so esoteric (is that a tautology?)that ordinary people will get left behind? The life issues that you rightly focus on are central to many people's lives and that is why they will always be relevant; can the same be said about some of the liturgical debates that are currently whizzing across the blogosphere.

If, for example, the Pope allows for the freer use of the Pius V Missal, will it bring a significant change to the experiences that most young people have of modern religion? My fear is that it will make the Church even more remote, more irrelevant to those to whom we need to be reaching out the most.