Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What's wrong with the liturgy?

So I'm reading the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) at the Catholic Center at Rutgers today, in between the C. S. Lewis discussion group and my class. Someone asks what I'm reading, I show them, and when I'm asked why I'm reading it in particular, I say I'm a "liturgist". I use this term to mean I appreciate and respect the liturgy of the Roman Rite and want to understand it to the best of my ability and be aware of the norms, if only so that I can (to whatever extent) make sure it is performed properly and reverently at my parish.

This person then says something like, "A liturgist? We make jokes about you guys." I responded with, "I'm a liturgist, not a liturgeist," to which he says, "Oh, so you have a soul."

I'm not entirely sure if he was just making a joke about geist meaning "ghost" (therefore, since I'm not a liturgeist, I've got a body and a soul?). What I should have said (although I suppose caritas intervened) was "It's better to make a joke of me than of the liturgy."

What's wrong with the liturgy? I don't mean, "what needs to be fixed", I mean, "why are people so bent on changing it". And I don't mean, "why are people pressing for more faithful (that is, accurate) translations of the Latin text of the Rite", I mean, "why should every Catholic and his brother have their 'own' liturgy"?

There are reasons we have documents like the GIRM, Sacrosanctum Concilium, and other texts on the proper conduct and form of the Mass. There's a reason we have norms and why we're supposed to follow them. There's a reason communion is a communal thing: we're worshiping God in the same way, together, as a family, not as pew 1, pew 2, pew 3a and 3b, pew 4, etc. We don't need separate liturgies and Rites of the Mass for separate age-groups or genders or occupations or political affiliations, we need to respect the liturgy we have and conduct ourselves accordingly.

Bring back Gregorian chant (and scholas)! Bring back Latin! Combine the two: let's return to praying the Sanctus and the Pater Noster and the Agnus Dei. I've recently started saying Night Prayer in Latin to the extent I can.

Let's regain some reverence for Jesus! Bow your head at his name, at the name of Mary, at the names of the three Divine Persons. Bow your head before receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament. I'm not making these up, these are norms, these are standards of Catholic behavior. Check paragraphs 160, 161, and 275 in the GIRM (see the link on the left side of my blog). Maybe we could work on our posture too. And not chew gum during Mass. Maybe?

It's not as hard as it sounds. Or maybe it is. And maybe it should be.

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