Two Holy Thursdays

Had a very good one-two punch Holy Thursday., with attendance first at my Tridentine-mass church, where some 125 or so people huddled in a church that is really a chapel for the potentially long and boring service that turned out rather good and second at my neighborhood RC church, cathedral-like and all Gothic, where I had the same experience.

It helped that I came late to the mainstreamer, missing the ridiculous foot-washing (and no doubt, ahem, problematic sermon) but catching the guts of it — offertory to end of mass — in church with six or seven hundred people.  The culmination was the parade of the Host back and forth up and down aisles, people genuflecting as the main priest carried it past them in their pews.  I had the feeling of that drama that comes when the great man passes the crowd massed at the curbs, waving, little kids held up to see, etc.

This was a good solid boost to faith.  Music fit the situation, etc.  We were all with it, a churchful of attentive, even (quietly) enthusiastic people.  It didn’t hurt any that the priest on parade is a Jesuit I have known since we were novices together in 1950 and, more important, that he is a transparent guy without apparent agenda except to do the work of the moment.

Walked out of there with a sense of having been at worship that works, to use a largely Unitarian expression with wide usage elsewhere, as in this Lutheran publication with the essay fascinatingly titled, “’Blended Worship That Works’ or Cuisinart Worship That Sucks,” which I will have to read.  I attribute my reaction in good part to my few-hours-earlier experience in the severe, almost puritanical atmosphere of the tridentine-mass service, with its overriding sense of the importance of doing things right in matters large and small. 

This tridentine service is serious worship, sans fooling around, improvising, or indulging in casual manner.  And the sermon goes with it.  Not a scolding word in it, but a matter-of-fact discussion of how worshipers are to respond to the mysteries.  He was instructed by “holy mother the church” not only in rubrics for this mass but also in the content of his sermon, the preacher-pastor said.

So he talked about the priesthood and only tangentially noted the current bad situation, making a point that has been made countless times, that one of the original 12 turned out bad.  He also noted that the current situation gives an opening for critics of the pope who don’t like the way he does things anyway.  (It’s occurred to me not that the current situation does not stink but that a John 23rd, lovable and permissive, would not be the same target for mediums around the Western world.)

In any case, the tridentine service supplies something that’s missing in the relatively new liturgy, that is, beginning in the 70s, and not just in the organized nature of foot washing on Holy Thursday, done with dispatch and strictly by the celebrant of a dozen men who are parishioners and not a dragged-out, chaotic affair such as extends the service too much.  It supplies a seriousness and an objectivity about what’s happening.

Current liturgy, on the other hand, is therapeutic.  Our neighborhood mainstream preacher on Friday night, for instance, was at pains to say the day was “not a downer,” that we die daily (implying that we should not fear death, I think: it was metaphor city in that obfuscatory sermon), that we have crosses enough to bear in daily life.  I agree with much of it that I could understand, but the good-natured morale-boosting of it all is thin gruel that insufficiently nourishes people.

Nonetheless, it was nice on Thursday to experience the two kinds of Catholic worship back to back, with good results at lease on one day of the holy triduum.  Now for midnight mass tridentine-style.

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Comments

  • Jim Bowman  On June 9, 2017 at 9:44 PM

    Reblogged this on Sunday sermons, weekday observations and commented:

    This was a good solid boost to faith. Music fit the situation, etc. We were all with it, a churchful of attentive, even (quietly) enthusiastic people. It didn’t hurt any that the priest on parade is a Jesuit I have known since we were novices together in 1950 and, more important, that he is a transparent guy without apparent agenda except to do the work of the moment.

    Like

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