In April, on my blog I wrote a post entitled, “The Mass 101: It’s Jesus and It’s Really that Simple“, where I laid down the basic schema of The Mass. After detailing the Christocentricity of everything leading up to the Eucharistic liturgy, I wrote:
Like at the Last Supper, drawn into the very mystery of the God-Man, we wait to hear what the Holy One will say. We have been at meals before and know what might come next. However, everything is different this time. The God who with His Word created the Universe and set into motion the galaxies, the same God who with His Word entered time and space as a Holy Blastula in the womb of the Virgin, turned water to wine, stopped the raging storm, and walked on water–took bread in His sacred hands.
And then we are left speechless when He says…
“This is My Body”
“This is My Blood”
And it is at this moment that I bend down and whisper into my son’s ear, “That’s Jesus. The entire universe is focused on this one moment.”
And so I followed up that post with a post entitled, “Mass 201: It’s Not About You and It’s Really that Simple“, where I wrote:
Maybe the term “celebration” got us confused. It’s not The Mass’s fault, but rather the poor devolution of the term celebration in our society. If you look at the etymology of the word celebration, you can plainly see the religious connotation. However, today the word celebration typically implies something we are doing for ourselves. We celebrate birthdays, super bowls, or a graduation. We mail out cards, plan games, buy drinks, etc. These are really fun times, times when we feel close to the people around us, times of real community.
Then there is this turning. Where nothing we can do could make it truly come to pass. Only by the gift of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and through the authority vested in His Church can we receive “the gift”. I am, of course, speaking of the Holy Eucharist. It is there that we enter into the mystery of Calvary, that we partake of the divine nature as St. Cyril of Jerusalem instructs–it is truly the Body and Blood of God. He becomes our paschal lamb and we partake of him not as in a type or shadow of salvation but for our salvation (John 6:53). We are not a part of a cosmic foreshadowing like the Israelites in Egypt as the death
angel passes over, but rather we experience what that was anticipating. The Creator of the universe stoops so low as to allow us: creature, fool, sinner, beggar, finite, pathetic partake of uncreated, wisdom, sinless, omnipotent, and infinite. And so we begin this work with “Kryie Eleison!”
If you don’t get anything out of that, if you find the local pub, party, or picnic more spiritually nurturing than The Mass, if you can’t help but nod off during the readings, roll your eyes at the incensing, or check an email during the homily, I suggest you re-read the above paragraph, pray, and ask the Lord to help you experience His descent, His condescension to us and resist that age old tendency to want to ascend, like at the Tower of Babel, brick by brick in our own way to God. Let us not be confused that we will only meet ourselves at the summit of that journey. He has given us the way in the Holy Liturgy, let us simply work at allowing it to envelope us with His infinite mercy.
What does Paris Hilton have to do with the liturgy?
Good question. It was one I would hope you would have asked given the title and its less than ostensible meaning. Paris Hilton has nothing to do with the liturgy but everything to do with our response to the liturgy:
“That was like, uh, yeah, like, so boring. I was like, what was he doing? Somebody needs to tell him that vestment didn’t match the carpet. Did you hear that cantor? OMG, her voice was so shrill. Upgrade anybody? Come on, like my time is like so like more important than this to waste it like being here.”
Boredom is the peel of disinterest; disinterest the fruit of egoism. A lack of care or interest about something is always the result of the ego putting itself above the object of interest. It is like trying to find the world in a mirror. In our western, affluent culture, we are anesthetized to the poisonous effects of self-interest. It is, after all, the American dream to be the radical “I”–the ego–conquering all and having all in the name of me, myself and I. Paris Hilton isn’t (wasn’t) so popular because she was so much not like us. It was precisely because we could look at her and get away with acknowledging that we were not that bad while nonetheless acknowledging–inside–that we wish we were that bad. Not in her self-projected stupid way, but in a top-of-the-heap-fill-my-life-with-only-the-stuff-that-interests-me way.
…books, things, awards, haute couture, trips, blogging, cigars, fine wine, iPhones, premium this, premium that
The liturgy doesn’t fit any of those categories. The liturgy is not of this world, and this world is not our end. We are made for something grander, something beyond the mere temporal fleetingness of the present. When we embrace beauty of this present age, we are not saying that it can save us, but that its mere existence portends a good chance that there really is a Savior. One is salvation, the other antichrist.
Boredom is a worthwhile temptation to resist–especially in The
Mass. Of course, interest is a matter of perspective. A man is not interested in his forearm, but when looked at under a microscope he will find it a wild sort of microbial place–full of grotesque mystery and wonder. When you change your vantage at The Mass–from observer to participant–not through self-congratulating participation that seeks to affirm “your place” in (imagine everyone in Mass running around doing “their thing”), but rather an internal movement that affirms the reality that has broken into the mundanity of your theatre and has supplanted your radically egotistical vantage with an invitation to truly “see that the Lord is good and His Mercy endures forever”–The Mass can never be boring to you.
The procession will be cosmic. The readings grandiose. The Eucharist: otherworldly.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word…”
We are not worthy to receive the gift of the Liturgy, but it is what our Lord gives us. May we continually be challenged to allow the descent of God in the liturgy to change our temporal palet, and to desire the things that are eternal. May we all resist boredom and all the urges to self-centeredness that draw us away from the reality of God’s wholly otherness–and to worship and live etsi Deus non daretur. May we evangelize our friends and co-religionists who find the The Mass mundane, who wish to make it fit their fancy or who shrug off the moral obligation. And may that evangelization start in our own hearts.
“If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.“- St. John Vianney