Saturday, May 27, 2006

An off-Broadway Mass reprise

It was with dreaded anticipation that we went to Mass a couple of weeks ago at the same place where a family member had been baptized at last year's Easter Vigil -- which I described at that time as an off-Broadway Mass. The family member and her husband have two children, the surivivors of a pregnancy with triplets that ended rather too early. The occasion was their reception of First Communion.

It was another off-Broadway show, not as spectacular as the Easter Vigil, but all the elements were there. Full chorus off to the right of the sanctuary (if that little three-stair rise on which the altar sits can be called a sanctuary) with piano, flute, guitar, two clarinets (that couldn't stay in tune), and a range of singers (some of whom also couldn't sing in tune).

The star of the show was the priest with all his little adorers running around like the dancers in a chorus line or the swimmers around Esther Williams or Miss Piggy. The children receiving First Communion were instructed to set the altar cloth on the bare altar at the time of preparation and then they stayed there throughout the entire Eucharistic Prayer.

The congregation had been instructed that kneeling is prohibited from Easter to Pentecost, so when my family did it anyway, some people in back of us grumbled that we weren't supposed to be doing it and "don't they read the bulletin?" (No, don't worry about trying to locate the written norm for that instruction -- it doesn't exist, except in the liturgy committee's collective head.)

Of course, there was the choreographed show at Communion when the Communion ministers came up to get their vessels containing the Sacred Elements. One of them received a glass bowl with the Body of Christ and two received glass chalices with the Precious Blood. After receiving them, they went to the front of the altar, faced the priest, elevated them briefly (salude!) and then turned around and went to their places. And, of course, when the priest issued the general invitation to Communion ("This is the Lamb of God..."), all of the Communion ministers held up their vessels as well.

It should be needless to say that this goes against the very clear norms set out in the liturgical documents, but since it is going on, it obviously needs to be said.

Why write about this? I don't know. There's a part of me that is still in disbelief that things are that bad, that these folks have not grown up out of their very long-lasting adolescent behavior and seen that following the norms and laws of the Church on liturgical worship is not a burden, but freedom.

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