Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Fond Farewell to the old Sacramentary

One of the things about religion is we can get caught up in intellectual and aesthetic debates about many things: what people should wear to Mass; what songs should be sung; whether the Latin Mass is more reverent than the one in English and on and on. These debates, which play out all over the Catholic blogosphere, distract me from my relationship with the Infinite.

The various debates over the third edition of the Roman Missal in English are a case in point. Just google "new Roman Missal debates" and to see what I mean. This morning at Mass I began to tear up  when the celebrant, Father Jeff Calia, C.O. ,shared in his homily his personal relationship with the old Roman Missal, how the prayers and the liturgy had drawn him, raised without belief, into the Church and eventually the priesthood. I was moved because he wasn't speaking in abstractions, he was sharing pieces of his life.

I was moved because I'm trying my best to live my faith day to day, without preconception, and to live as intensely as possible in the present moment, not subject to ideology, or to abstracting my relationship with the Other into an intellectual or aesthetic relationship. And so to hear a young man talk about what the old Roman Missal meant to him during his journey to belief me provoked me. It reminded me that I've been listening to and saying these prayers my whole life, through so many years and celebrations and how they are so deeply familiar to me.

Saying goodbye to this book is bittersweet to me. Learning the new prayers, prayers that are more Scriptural, more poetic and which hew more to their Latin source will be an opportunity for me to reflect more deeply on what I am saying at Mass, on the Who I am worshiping.  It will also connect English-speaking Catholics with the rest of our brothers and sisters who share our faith throughout the world.

After Mass, as we chatted outside the church, Father Jeff shared with me and some friends he will be celebrating Mass Saturday morning, the last Mass of the liturgical year and the last day with the old Sacramentary. And then his community of Oratorians will process outside and bury the books behind the church with prayers of thanksgiving.

How beautiful our Church has such rituals to mark the changes, that She holds these books sacred and dear and worthy of a formal farewell.

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