June 22 Cathedral Mass part 1

Overall, Tuesday’s Mass was a step in the right direction.  Although I did not take the opportunity following the Mass, I would like to take the opportunity now to thank Bishop Clark for inviting Archbishop Dolan.  Thank you to Bishop Clark of making and/or allowing Tuesday’s Mass to happen.

What was good about the Mass?  In addition to Archbishop Dolan’s excellent homily, I recognized people who normally attend parishes representing both ends of the orthodox-progressive spectrum, people who normally would not be caught dead in a parish of “the other side.” Yet, here they were, attending the same Mass. I have no illusions that there will be a discernable difference for any of the people present today than on Monday, but one has to start somewhere and I think Tuesday’s Mass will be a reference point in the future. Having said that, some of what follows – okay, much of what follows – will be less laudatory. 

Masses at Sacred Heart Cathedral are known for “progressive” music (among other things); Archbishop Dolan is known to be orthodox. Not surprisingly, there were wonderings about what “liturgical style” the Mass would be.  As it turned out, the Mass was an attempt to combine both.

The processional hymn, Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy, is a standard in many parishes, although probably less so in the more progressive parishes. “Halle, Halle, Halle” as the Gospel Acclamation is frequently sung in progressive parishes and equally frequently grates on orthodox ears.  With probably good intentions for both ends of the spectrum, the Agnus Dei was the most conspicuous example of the incompatibility of trying to do so.  It began with Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, misere nobis and ended with Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem. In the middle however, were several “verses” (some in English, some in Latin?).  It was a clear example that the differences in this diocese are not about Latin, or which Missal, but catechesis on one hand and dissent on the other.

Before Mass
The parking lot was full a half hour before Mass started, so I parked on a side street and walked back, dodging the a first few raindrops as I neared the church doors. In the nave, near the altar on the right side were a couple of rows of seated white-vested priests, some with walkers in front of them. 

As I walked down the left side of the church towards the tabernacle, a sprinkling of people had taken their places, but not many. That was also true for the section in front of the tabernacle.  Beige papers with the outline of the Mass were place on the end chairs of the first three or four rows.  Thinking they had taken the sensible step of reserving a place while elsewhere, I followed suit and “reserved” the end chair in the following row by similarly placing the beige paper on the seat hooking my umbrella over the back of the chair. It looked like the perfect seat, close enough to hear and see and off to the side, behind a column from the main congregation. It was also close to the tabernacle, where I could spend a few minutes before Mass and still get to my seat quickly. Well, it sounded like a good idea.

During the announcements before Mass, as I saw the large number of white-vested priests waiting to process in, it dawned on me that they would not be sitting where I had expected them to be but in the reserved rows in front of me. Clearly, I was not used to “church in the round.” Priests processed in, filling the center front rows, and then indeed to the rows in front of me. I left an empty row between ordained and laity and sat in the row ahead of some other lay people.

Introductory Rites through Readings
After the processional hymn came a Sprinkling Rite while the Gloria was sung. It puzzled me and I looked it up later.  The Sprinkling Rite can be used in place of the Penitential Rite, which has an entirely different focus than the Gloria. No wonder the concurrent use of both was confusing. At the time though, my immediate attention was on the Gloria. I call it a “refrain Gloria” and it’s a pet peeve because a) the people don’t sing the entire Gloria and b) the congregation doesn’t come in at the right time.  Personally, I find it very confusing to know when to come in even when I try to sing the rest of it sotto voce.  It turns out I’m in good company. Andrew Brownell wrote this piece for the Adoremus bulletin: Rethinking the Responsorial Gloria.

After the Opening Prayer, the readings were taken from the Common of Martyrs: Sirach 51:1-8, Psalm 126, and John 12:24-26.

Sirach 51:1-8
I give you thanks, O God of my father; I praise you, O God my savior! I will make known your name, refuge of my life; you have been my helper against my adversaries.

You have saved me from death, and kept back my body from the pit, From the clutches of the nether world you have snatched my feet; you have delivered me, in your great mercy From the scourge of a slanderous tongue, and from lips that went over to falsehood; From the snare of those who watched for my downfall, and from the power of those who sought my life; From many a danger you have saved me, from flames that hemmed me in on every side; From the midst of unremitting fire,From the deep belly of the nether world; From deceiving lips and painters of lies, from the arrows of dishonest tongues.

I was at the point of death, my soul was nearing the depths of the nether world;  I turned every way, but there was no one to help me, I looked for one to sustain me, but could find no one.
But then I remembered the mercies of the LORD, his kindness through ages past; For he saves those who take refuge in him, and rescues them from every evil.

The Sirach reading is self-explanatory in context of a martyr’s feast day.

Psalm 126
The responsorial psalm was listed as “God has done great things for us, filled us with laughter and music.”  The psalm response in the lectionary is more more appropriate for a martyr’s feast day: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”

John 12:24-26
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

Archbishop Dolan picked up on the Gospel in his homily, which will be described in the next post.

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