Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pentecost
Or, Liturgy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Pentecost Mass was, well, interesting. As Father Keyes was back in Bond Chapel for his last Gregorian Chant Mass with us, I was sitting in St. Luke's of Flint verifying that it defied the GIRM to skip the Creed and to forgo kneeling at any part of the consecration. The priest, who looked like Sean Connery, began his homily by talking about Memorial Day; he noted that while in World War II those at home sacrificed many things for those in combat, the current war leaves all the sacrifice with a few men and women, and their families. He urged us to sacrifice substantial time every day to pray for the soldiers, pray for peace, and to consider our democratic role in the context of a poorly planned and in many ways unjust war. So far, not a bad homily.

But then he spoke on the account of Pentecost (actually, also on the Ascension) by saying, "All the stories in the New Testament are true, but not all of them happened." He spoke in terms of narratives of God's love, that don't matter whether they actually took place. At this point, I started to pray for the man and for the small congregation (in a church built for ten times their number); it's honestly ugly to see a priest who has lost faith, but has found an intellectual (usually postmodern) hermeneutic for continuing in his job without feeling like a hypocrite. He reconciled his disbelief of the Gospels, it appeared to me, with the duty to preach by telling himself that believing in the kerygma was irrelevant to one's relationship with God. I kept recalling Paul's line, "If Christ is not raised from the dead, then we are the most pitiable people of all." It does matter.

After Mass, I was preparing to tell Mr. Connery just what I thought when Katie (who knew to kneel as well, regardless of the rest of the congregation) stopped me and asked what I thought it would achieve, and reminded me that our aunt and uncle are well-known here and would be exposed to criticism. And she was right; what I wanted to say, as much as I would have prefaced it with "I can't judge your heart", would have been a boast and not a remedy. It's honestly difficult to surrender to God's will when, you know, I could show off how clever and virtuous I was. Or rather, how clever and virtuous I was. It's not my task to redeem the world; that job has already been filled. In this case, it was my place as a stranger to pray for them.

And now I have a better appreciation for reverent liturgy, even if the taste differs from mine. The 5 and 9 at Calvert are good Masses, properly done, with music as prayer and not as show; I shouldn't look down on them just for a Marty Haugen song I find insipid. If I should get to choose in music ministry, the silly stuff would go. But today reminded me that some things are more important than matters of taste, and those at Calvert House usually get those things right.

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