Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Synod 2020. Liverpool. Number 12. The Priest, the Mass and the Liturgy. "No social project, no act of solidarity can reach the level of communion we have in the Blessed Sacrament."

It's been my experience that most priests, when asked, very quickly point to the celebration of Mass as a source of joy and a sustenance to their Priesthood and a way of giving meaning to their lives. 

To set the scene here, I would like to quote from Dominique Rey, Bishop of Frejus-Toulon in a recent talk given to the Association of Catholic Clergy in London.

"If we want to avoid doing nonsense, we need to get back to our identity, to the One who we are, Jesus Christ. Once we know something about our identity, we will be able to breach the spiritual combat of the priest in today's world.

Many people understand the word "communion" in a horizontal way; it would be the search for a workable consensus between persons with different opinions, traditions and sensibility and many people present such "communion" as a patient and reasonable claim for unity in order to guarantee a certain plurality of expressions and convictions. This is a sociological, political or affective understanding of communion clearly insufficient to give definition of ecclesial communion. Indeed our communion takes root in the Eucharist. The source of our communion is the Eucharist. 'The blessing cup that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ..' 

All the works, apostolates and services of charity spread out from the Real Presence of Christ in this sacrament. 

Therefore at each Mass the vocation of the priest is to "incorporate"; in eating the same bread, the same Christ, the Eucharist wrestles us out of our closed individuality, out of our lonely existences. We become identified with Christ and thus identified one to another through the communion with Christ. Every person who receives Christ in Holy Communion is for all, for me "the bone of my bones, the flesh of my flesh" according to the biblical expression.

No social project, no act of solidarity can reach the level of communion we have in the Blessed Sacrament.

Every Mass shapes the priest who celebrates. Little by little the celebrant becomes what he celebrates. Given body, poured out blood, true offered love; that is, a love identified with Christ"

The Mass is obviously important to all of us. The Mass is important in and of itself. It is the foundation on which we build all our social and charitable activities - to tackle them without the Mass takes away our reason for doing them - we may as well be atheists doing charity work (but what counts as good work then has no basis on which to be judged, so providing euthanasia can become "good work").

We should rightly then give care to the manner in which we celebrate Mass, if it is true that the priest becomes what he celebrates. Thus the "circumstances", the practical liturgy is not some minor concern but an important aspect. Hence we have guidelines about how we should go about that.

Secular innovations, experimentation, imports from other religions, lack of care, lack of knowledge of the rubrics, nice things for the kids to do, clericalizing th laity and laicising the clergy... are sometimes held forth almost as badges of honour in some circles. A knowledge of the liturgy and a care about being in communion with the Church on this level is not the sign of the anti-Christ, some nerdy or outdated facet of the Church, it is rather something all who love Jesus should have a care of. Surely our people deserve the best in everything in connection with this central act of the Faith?

Question: Little by little the celebrant becomes what he celebrates. If I celebrate a clown Mass, do I become a clown? 

Answer: Know what you are doing, imitate the mystery you celebrate, model your life on the mystery of the Lord's cross.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Earlier on in your series of posts about Synod 2020, one of your priestly interlocutors observed that Vatican II seems to have been distorted in some of the synodal presentations. For the average lay person less well-informed about the Council, and what has been done in its name, there is an excellent article by the Jesuit theologian (later cardinal) Avery Dulles which can help them to separate the wood from the trees as they prepare to take part in the Synod 2020 process. The article can be found here:

Thank you for writing about the Synod!