Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Good MORN-ing, everyone!

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 23, 2003

Not infrequently, when I catch sight of khakis and running shoes under a priest's Mass vestments, I wish I could call a time-out and ask him what he believes is taking place in the Eucharist and what role his priesthood serves therein. Some weeks ago I posted observations on the nature of ritual excerpted from C.S. Lewis's A Preface to Paradise Lost, including this remark:

The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is not proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual.

Most of us, alas, are acquainted with priests who feel it their duty (or grant themselves the liberty) to make the Eucharist chatty, informal, spontaneous, commonplace. Awe is the enemy. The altar and its ministers are to be approachable. The celebrant who cracks jokes into the microphone from the presider's chair sends the assembly the message that, whatever might take place in the sanctuary, it's No Big Deal.

Many Catholics feel uneasy with liturgical informality and, without being able to put a name to the problem, intuitively understand that something important is missing. Here too Lewis's insight into ritual is helpful:

A man performing a rite is not trying to make you think that this is his natural way of walking, these the unpremeditated gestures of his own domestic life. If long usage has in fact made the ritual unconscious, he must labour to make it look deliberate, in order that we, the assistants, may feel the weight of the solemnity pressing on his shoulders as well as on our own. Anything casual or familiar in his manner is not 'sincerity' or 'spontaneity' but impertinence. Even if his robes were not heavy in fact, they ought to look heavy.

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