Liturgical Ruminations by Fr. Pat

Since 1965, people still struggle with the concepts of Worship. In previous articles I tried to explain that our participation in the Mass is not watching a play. It is not just singing or reciting hymns or prayer responses. It is a true participation in the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord. Responses, hymns, etc. are used as language to help bring about in the present age the Graces, etc. that the Lord accomplishes.
I have a question to ask: Would Mass still be a Mass if all the externals were removed? For example, is Mass still a Mass if music were removed? Is Mass still a Mass if the church building were removed? What is it that makes a mass a Mass? What is it that makes a Solemn High mass at St. Paul Cathedral and mass at a family picnic on a card table the same? Those similarities are where we need to concentrate.
People still think of a “true” Mass as “Smells and Bells.” The true and ultimate potential of the Sacrifice of the Mass is still misunderstood. Misinterpreting the roles of everyone present, people still look at Mass as something that is watched; we are made holy by osmosis. The Holiness of the Mass was seen as being in the same room as the priest saying Mass. Actions, like the ringing of bells, are thought to enhance the “mystery” of the ceremony. In reality, the mystery of Mass (synonymous with Sacrament) is the people’s Offering, not just the outward signs. Bells, for example, were used at a time when people pay attention to a ceremony they weren’t actively participating in. When people today say “they like to hear the bells,” it makes me cringe inside, because their misunderstanding is still not where it needs to be.
“It’s not the same” people tell me. “I like the way things were when I was a child. Church felt like Church. I liked the incense and bells.” if worship is only based on feelings, what happens when you don’t feel holy? Is God not present, then? Why is it that people who never grew up with incense and bells still feel that they are at Church? If Church doesn’t feel like Church, what is lacking on your part? Sometimes, people like to think of nostalgia rather than reality. The truth of the matter is that the “good ol’ days” weren’t very good, especially when it comes to worship. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a change.
What the Church is trying to help people to do is fully focus on what needs to be focused on. There are growing pains. Bells aren’t being used because we want you to focus on where you need to be, rather than being inattentive and not receiving the full benefit of the Mass.

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