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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Habit vs Custom vs Tradition

I am happy to report the Angelus was indeed recited before today's community Mass at 11:30 at the Center. If this does successfully evolve into a custom and then a tradition (that is, something done around Maryknoll more than three times in a row), this most excellent reminder of the Incarnation and devotion to Our Lady may rekindle the smoldering embers of our quickly fading spirituality.

And not a moment too soon. In an earlier post I already kvetched about priests who sat in street clothes amidst the congregants and then raised a hand during the consecration under the mistaken impression they were concelebrating, in violation of two distinct liturgical rules.

Now I focus my crosshairs on those who vest for concelebration and think that's all that is required of them. Um, no.

Nothing is more distracting during a liturgy than concelebrants who don't realize they are now "on stage" and can be clearly seen by everyone. Liturgical and prayerful "presence" require more than the minimal sitting and standing at the correct time.

As a graduate of the same high school alma mater as Isador Danielovitch, a.k.a. Isador Dempsky, a.k.a. Kirk Douglas, I know from stage presence, especially for extras, i.e. actors not in lead roles. Every gesture, every glance must add to the scene or it will diminish and distract. In recent liturgies the body language of some concelebrants bordered on disrespectful.

One maintained the classic "padrone stance" (hands behind his back) throughout the entire Mass, while he checked out various people in the congregation. News flash: we can see you. What's more, we can see exactly what and whom you are looking at. Cut it out!

Another kept his arms crossed in front of his chest. This is the classic self-defense pose, nonverbally seeking protection ( lest the Word of God upset you?)

Some held onto the hymnal for security even when no hymn was imminent.

Many maintained a minimalist pose: hands folded but lowered, as if praying apologetically.

Now to their credit, those concelebrants who do maintain a respectful prayer stance all seem to be from Asia. (But I could be prejudiced). To dissect further: the most prayerful stance seems to be of guys from Japan, Taiwan and Korea in that order. (Demerits to two old Korea hands, however, whose posture indicated boredom or a desire to be elsewhere.)

A suggestion: if you are that uncomfortable or embarrassed to be seen praying in public then do not concelebrate.

I just returned from Istanbul where, let me tell you, Muslims know how to pray with their bodies. I have seen Buddhists---and Maryknollers---express reverence during prayer in a Buddhist temple. Pictures in Maryknoll magazine of people at prayer leave no doubt what they are doing. A snapshot of Maryknoll concelebrants would leave most people scratching their heads.

If the Eucharist is our central prayer and if we are privileged to concelebrate, shouldn't our bodily posture reinforce this? How can we proclaim the Incarnation yet be reluctant to pray with our bodies? But will it take more than the recitation of the Angelus and this petulant post to whip us into shape liturgically????

Sent from my most excellent  iPhone & iPad.

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