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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Irish Archbishop Tells It Like It Is

From Rorate Caeli comes this refreshing bit of news.  The Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, preached a homily this past Sunday during the Dublin Diocesan Liturgical Resource Center.  In light of the precarious situation concerning the Association of Catholic Priests, an Irish clerical group vehemently opposed to the coming translation of the Roman Missal, Archbishop Martin's words provide a much needed spiritual boost to Ireland's faithful:

You do not simply go to Mass. The liturgy is not a performance but an action in which God’s people actively participate. The liturgy is however in the first place the action of God. Active participation is not just about us saying and doing things. There is an active participation which is fostered through silence and reflection and interiorly identifying ourselves with what is taking place. In today’s world there is anyway a superabundance of words and a fear of silence. The liturgy must always lead people beyond the superficial and fleeting character of much of contemporary culture.

Where the liturgy becomes performance we can very easily end up with banalities and with what some have called the "disneyisation" of the liturgy. Such banality is often linked also with a sense of personal protagonism, at times by the priest or of a musical group or even of guest speakers. Our reading this morning reminds us that “we have nothing to boast about to God”. The liturgy is not our work.
Archbishop Martin's characterization of the "disneyisation" of the Mass is particularly on target.  Sadly, a lot of the musical settings for the Mass wind up sounding like something from Shrek or Beauty and the Beast.  The musical interludes certainly appear to place the liturgy at the service of the music, as opposed to making the music serve the liturgy. 

The archbishop's words serve to reinforce what Pope Benedict XVI has said about banality.  In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict uses the word "banal" to characterize the infiltration of the "pop/rock" genre into the Mass.   A lot of the songs seem to turn into elaborate musical numbers that emphasize the "performance" more than the prayer.

A huge tip of the Texas stetson certainly goes out to the blog Rorate Caeli for posting this key part of Archbishop Martin's homily, and, a bigger tip of the stetson goes to Archbishop Martin for his wise words.

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