Wednesday, May 8, 2013

One Less Mass: A Silver Lining?

In my diocese, the feast of the Ascension is not celebrated on Thursday, 40 days after the Resurrection, but is transferred to the following Sunday. Well, of course, that makes so much sense (she says, rolling her eyes). You can kill two birds with one stone – both the Sunday obligation and the holy day obligation. How economical! How efficient! (How American.)

Sigh. I find that annoying. “Forty days” is significant, symbolic, sublime even! There’s a reason it’s called Ascension Thursday!

So, every year I go through a mourning phase over Ascension Thursday. Thanks be to God for the Divine Office, which I can celebrate at home, observing the feast through the psalms, readings, and responsories of the Hours. That gives me some solace, though it would be nice to go to an Ascension Thursday Mass, as well.

This year, though, a thought came to mind that made me realize that there is in fact a silver lining to that cloud called “transferred to Sunday”.  

If the feast of the Ascension were not transferred to Sunday, then Thursday would be a holy day of obligation, and I would have to attend Mass. Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will probably be aware that the extraordinary form of the Mass is not available in my neck of the woods, and the Novus Ordo Masses in the closest parishes leave much to be desired. There is no Latin, no Gregorian chant...but plenty of altar girls, chit-chat, and happy-clappy music. Etc.

So, if the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord was celebrated on Thursday in this diocese, there would be one more Mass I would be obligated to attend where I would be saddened by the apparent lack of interest in our Catholic identity and tradition, if not annoyed by various liturgical abuses.

Instead, since the Ascension is transferred to Sunday, I will only have to tolerate one barely tolerable Mass, which will fulfill both my Sunday obligation and my holy day obligation. How economical! How efficient!

How sad.

If I were a priest reading this, I think I would be quite dismayed at those thoughts. I think I would be saying to myself, “Oh my gosh. Are people really feeling that way about the Mass? Are faithful Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday and every holy day, really so upset by the way Mass is celebrated that they don’t really want to be there?!”

Yes, Father, there are many faithful Catholics who feel that way. One of them mentioned to me that the EF Mass she is able to attend twice a month is said by an elderly priest "so that Mass is very long, and he just rambles about nothing at the sermon.  And there’s no music – just a low Mass." I commented that it must still be better than the typical NO Mass, which is very bad where she lives. She agreed, saying,

Yup. It's amazing. No one talks, comes in late, or leaves early. And I don't have to hide out in the back to avoid having to hold hands, etc. Nice! And I don't have to avoid the eyes of all the EMHCs behind the altar. Gosh, just thinking of the pluses is great.

I know for a fact that some priests quickly dismiss people who see it this way as just too “critical”, too “divisive”; they say that nothing will make us happy, and that we need to realize that “this isn’t Rome, you know.”  

But I guess my hope is that reading this might prompt some priests to examine just exactly what Vatican II had to say about the Mass, and what the GIRM really says about celebrating Mass, and what the rubrics clearly dictate. And I know some priests – maybe even many priests – have done this without reading my blog. Unfortunately, most of them apparently live in some other diocese.

For a little comic relief, go here.

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