The Mass un-liturgized

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    WHEN IS it appropriate to applaud at Mass? To do so appears to reduce the Mass to the level of entertainment, but so many people do it nowadays that I’d like to know if the Church has any teaching about it.

    So was posted in the FB account of my reverend friend El-Rey Guapo where affixed too what comes off as a reply with a photo of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI: Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.

    Further clicks on the subject showed:

     …(W)hen we come to Mass we don’t come to clap. We don’t come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need. Thus, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome, cited in Adoremus Bulletin; Vol. IX, no.7, Oct. 2003.

    The way the Mass is celebrated hereabouts, clapping appears to be the least of our worries over the Holy Sacrifice’s reduction in liturgical essence and its inflation with secular, aye, pedestrian, entertainment.

    This early, I am already bracing myself for the usual unliturgical – to me – addenda in the Christmas Eve Mass.

    Two years ago, there was this fl ash mob singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” at Off ertory. Last year, there was the ballet-like (or is it mime?) dancing during the Gloria and the Pater Noster. With practically the whole congregation pulling out their mobiles to take photos of the performances. Presumably for later, if not instant, uploading on FB, YouTube or Twitter.

    No offense to my parish priest and his liturgist, but it was much too much for my conservative Catholic sensibilities – seeing in the first a paroxysm of secularity; in the second, the vestal virgins sans the sacred fire. There was no way I could fittingly worship in such a setting. I walked out of the church and went home.

    It is not only at the Misa de Aguinaldo that the essence of liturgy has been diluted. Indeed, there is in every offering of the Mass a diminution of its spiritual value.

    Ten years ago, I wrote here:

    I AM looking for a Catholic church that gives true expression to the essence of the Mass as the Holy Sacrifice.

    Frankly, I don’t think I can find any here, but, perhaps, in the quiet solemnity of cloistered monasteries.

    No den of thieves – as yet – our houses of prayers have become everything but temples of worship on Sundays.

    I find in them noisy playpens for children – complete with popcorn and balloons, spilled milk and soiled diapers. With distraught mothers frantically running after hyperactive juniors weaving in and out of pews, or nonchalantly unbothered even if their kids run up and down the aisle in wild abandon.

    Navel-gazing yogis will have a blast with our churches, having turned too into modeling ramps for fashionistas in hanging blouses and hip-hugging low-rise denims, or in bra-showing halters and thigh-baring mini-skirts. Displayed sensuality, nay, vulgar sexuality takes over spirituality here. Isn’t there some kind of a dress code to Mass? Perhaps, we need some versions of the Saudi’s cane-wielding mutawa to knock some sense of propriety into some flirty heads.

    Find the nearest country club too expensive, gentlemen? Come to church and be one with the boys in their exchanges on the latest in business, politics and sports – all in their exclusive enclave at the back of the church.

    To a number of ladies, the church is a gossip parlor with all the juiciest morsels in entertainment, liposuctions and facelifts, or about their non-Church-going neighbors.

    And the churchyards? Showrooms of wealth, honest or ill-gotten. So manifest in the fl ashy cars and SUVs churchgoers take to Mass. The Church of the poor I truly long to see. And see it I do, in manicured diamond-ringed fingers dropping coins into the collection baskets. Truly an unchristian paradox: So much to show to man, so little to give to God.

    On to the Mass. The joy of listening to the Word of God gets suddenly snatched by the shrill cry of a child whose cotton candy a playmate just snapped. Deprivers too of the bliss in one’s immersion of the Gospels are those who make grand entrances to display their tardiness. The church doors ought to be slammed on their faces.

    Given these realities, where lie the solemnities? All professions of belief become nothing but utter hypocrisies.

    You truly believe that the unleavened wafer becomes the real body of Christ and the wine the real blood of Christ at the consecration? How come you neither kneel in adoration nor cease from conversation during their elevation?

    Communion – the closest encounter of the holiest kind, taking Christ into one’s whole being – requires the purest heart, the most immaculate of mind. See the jostling, hear the idle chit-chats at the communion lines? There is no respect, much less veneration here. This is sheer sacrilege. Even with no consideration of the communicants’ state of grace, or disgrace as is often the case.

    Come to think of it, how many of those taking communion have really gone through the sacrament of reconciliation? I have never seen lines forming at the confessionals in direct proportion to those at communion. As a matter of observation, I do not see any line at all at the confessionals except during the Holy Week. We must really have a saintly people packing our churches.

    It is my misfortune that I am not one of them. So I write pieces like this. Or – unlike them sainted ones – have I just become pharisaic?

    TRUE THEN. Truer, and gone for the worse, now. The secularization of the Mass. So the Church has to adapt to modern times?

    The Church always seems behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue. Thus, G.K. Chesterton.

    And then, lest we forget: Christus Heri, Hodie, Semper. Christ Yesterday, Today, Always.

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