Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Revelation about Rubrics

Gerald Augustinus reports on an article in America in which a "liberal" priest reflects on his first celebration of the extradorinary form of the Roman Rite. Whether the priest is "liberal" or no, his comments about the rubrics deserves attention.

Gerald particularly quotes the priest's revelation that the rubrics, far from leading to a sense of superiority over the laity, etc., actually focus attention on God and the Mystery of His saving Grace in the Liturgy. This revelation fits quite neatly with the orientation (no pun intended) of Byzantine rubrics. The complexity of the liturgical action forces the priest and deacon to empty themselves of attention to self and allow the Spirit to fill them for the accomplishment of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

Below are the paragraphs Gerald quotes.

Having decided to offer the Tridentine Mass, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the liturgy in a prayerful, intelligible way. As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.”

The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.
Gerald's report is here.

The America article in full is here.

No comments: