Friday, May 14, 2010

This Day Will Not Come Again

When am I going to learn that 'vigil' means the night prior? I missed the Feast of the Ascension, and mass for two weekends in a row, and I'm feeling rather aimless, like I'm floating in the ocean, wearing only swimmies.

Very unprepared. And drifting.

I checked my parish's website and found that all the morning masses were -- surprise -- ones that I couldn't attend.

Did I tell you that the last time I attended mass, the celebrant used a decent amount of Latin? Also not good. And I feel bad about saying that, because there once was a time everything was in Latin and then there was a huge sea change, and I bet the old-schoolers felt out of it and unhappy. Something beloved was different. I know how hard that is to swallow. There is something restorative in the cadence of words we know by heart. Words we could recite in our sleep.

The new translations are coming. Can I tell you how bereft I am that I'll have to give up Lord I am not worthy to receive you? It's going to be replaced with something like Lord I am not worthy to welcome you under my roof. That's not it exactly, but the gist is there. And although both statements are completely true, I have a fondness for the one I've said forever.

Some people have said that because the words are so familiar, people tend to zone out while saying them, and that maybe a change will bring new life to mass. I'm going to have an open mind, though I say that with a grumpy look on my face and defiantly crossed arms.

Since I'm scattered and feeling apart right now, I'm going to close with some Thomas Merton. I began thumbing through Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander last night, and was a bit dismayed to find that a lot of it is esoteric. He's quoting this philosopher or this theologian. It will take some work to read it. But there are some brief parts where Merton is describing his surroundings at Gethsemani, and it's like taking a coffee break while listening to a lengthy talk on foreign policy.

A sweet summer afternoon. Cool breezes and a clear sky. This day will not come again. The young bulls lie under a tree in the corner of their field. Quiet afternoon. Blue hills. Day lilies nod in the wind. This day will not come again.


Anonymous said...

I was too sick to go to the school mass yesterday at nine, and it was a great disappointment, even though i was going to have to drag Lorenzo along. Today the school will have another crowning of Mary, and since I have taken a sick day from work, at least I will be there. Perhaps I will even take some pictures, as I didn't get any decent ones from Fiona's First Holy Communion, and I couldn't take any on Mother's day when she was chosen to be the one to place the crown on the Blessed Mother because she is (by far) the tallest in the second grade. At least we are getting some use out of the white ensemble!

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about, praying for, and listening for God to guide me in utilizing my gifts for the benefit of others, and it would be so easy for me to be a contemplative. And while your life is far more complicated than mine (though who's keeping track?), I think it often feels as though life is intervening on faith, when the two are inextricable.

We have been "shopping" for a parish where we feel more welcome, and even the little changes in the liturgy at other churches are uncomfortable, driving me back to ours.

eileen said...

My dad stopped attending mass when they stopped saying it in Latin, because to him, it wasn't really church anymore.

I grew up in a Vatican II church, and so, have NO experience with the mass in Latin. Folk masses were the substance of my childhood church experience.

Of course, the last supper was not said in Latin, or for that matter English, but in Aramaic - the vernacular of Christ and his disciples. I suppose, in the sense of tradition and authenticity of experience, that makes a rather pointed argument for mass in the vernacular.

There is a very fine line between preserving things for the sake of preserving them - because they give us comfort in their predictability, cocooning us in their familiarity, and making changes to make things more theologically or historically authentic. In my mind, the Roman Catholic church has always been a rather poor custodian of authenticity, particularly after it became a state religion. I mean, Jesus and his friends had dinner together as a group of friends - no one wore vestments or said canned prayers. They were just together, gathered in love for one another, and listening to their beloved teacher. No incense - no hymns - no procession. Don't get me wrong - I experience all of those aforementioned practices as actions that elevate the common to the holy - that create a separate, sacred space - but that's not what Christ did at the last supper, for which Eurcharist is to be an anamnesis.

All that being said, I totally understand what you mean about the cadence and rhythm of a completely familiar liturgy, with prayers and responses ingrained into your being, like breath. I've been an Episcopalian now for almost four years, and the cadence isn't there in their services. Sometimes, I really miss it.

I am always torn between wanting the church as comfort and wanting it to be a living thing, which is active and relevant and growing - all of which necessitates change. It's one of my personal conundrums.

MemeGRL said...

You're reading my mind again.
We attended my niece's confirmation in Northern Virginia this week, and half the Mass was in Spanish and half was in English. And I did understand then, as I did on the rare occasions I was abroad, the appeal of the Latin Mass with your English translation missal. It really does speak better to the universality of the church. But week to week? I prefer English. So selfishly, I would like my church to use my own language, but everyone else's to use Latin.
And the "Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed" is my absolute favorite moment of the Mass. It sums up everything I love about Catholicism in a sentence. The combination of love and forgiveness and redemption is a powerful one, and mimicking the words of some soldier with a sick kid from two millenia ago does not have the same power and immediacy. Under my roof? Of what? My mouth? The change is idiotic. Not all of them are, but this one is a heartbreak to me.

Kim Luisi said...


you must be me! "Lord I am not worthy..." is one of the parts of the Mass where I am guaranteed to be absolutely paying attention to the moment. Ah well.

I have attended Traditional Latin Masses and there is much beauty in them, but my regular Mass will always be in English, the vernacular.

Monica said...

I love the "Lord I am not worthy to receive you..." moment. I would miss it too.

I remember my dad objecting to this line, complaining that it was too "negative," about how the Catholic Church just likes to hit us over the head with how sinful we are. Another adult friend, something of a Catholic philosopher, countered with: "No one ever listens to the second part of that phrase! The part where we are healed!"

I think that all people experience themselves as "rotten sinner" whether or not they have a religion that tells them so. Spend a day as a parent, and see if you don't screw up once or twice and feel bad about it. I love that we can admit to that experience during this part of the Mass, and also that we are promised the healing.

My dad is a lifelong seeker. He gave me the Faith, but doesn't believe in it anymore. Makes me sad.