Thursday, 3 February 2011

Liturgy in times of disaster...dependence on God or dependence on man?

How should we respond to God in the wake of natural disasters such as the storms affecting Queensland and the US at the moment?

One would hope by turning to God, acknowledging our dependence on him, and in repentance and entreaty. By granting him the worship we truly owe him.

Unsurprisingly, though, there are some who would rather turn such events into celebrations of ourselves instead.

Cath News strikes again...

Cath News today has a classic  piece from the indomitable Sr Carmel Pilcher a Josephite described on the blog entry as a "liturgical consultant", arguing that one might obtain more sense of the sacred by a bare bones mass at the site of devastation after a disaster, than through attention to the solemn celebration of the liturgy with elements such as incense and fine vestments.  Sigh.

Sr Carmel argues that:

"...Mass in a burnt out paddock, or near a tree scarred from a collision with a motor vehicle might bring them more consciously into the presence of the sacred than would the sparkle of gold chalices or the rich brocade of vestments."

She also wants the liturgy to be shaped so as to allow people "to recount stories and share experiences".

It is not all about us!

I suppose it is to be expected, given her lead in, that Sr Carmel views attention to the solemnity of the liturgy through the lens of worship of the self and community rather than God:

"Some Catholic leaders believe that Mass is the time for us to leave behind our cares and distractions. Ensuring the dignity and sacredness of the celebration through the extraordinary is their primary preoccupation, leaving the expression of the human concerns of a community to personal supplication. [Perhaps Sister has never looked at the prayers set for our use in times of disaster - at the words of the litanies, the collects and texts for Masses for help at times of flood or storm, or for their aftermath which are rich in entreaty and lament?]

Particular attention is given to such elements as the wafting smell of incense, beautifully embroidered vestments and the gold of chalices and patens that are intended to lift us beyond our human lives and into the sacred presence of the divine." [Such elements may well help us to reconnect to absolute truth and beauty after the devastation, to remind us that this earthly life is but a short breath, to reorient us to what really matters.  But that is not their primary purpose, which is to give glory to God.]

It is worth remembering though that the real reason we should use nice vestments, demand well sung music, pay attention to the performance of the ritual is not just about us.

St Benedict instructs:

"If we wish to petition to men of high station, we do not presume to do it without humility and respect; how much more ought we to supplicate the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion."

Of course these days we often forget the appropriate respect in petitioning those in positions of power, so no surprise that we do likewise in relation to God (or is it vice versa?).

St Benedict stresses the need for appropriate reverence and awe in the liturgy - and yes, sites of devastation might help evoke that sense of awe in us. But our response needs to focus on Him, not us.

So please, in the wake of the cyclone, the floods and fires let's rediscover the worship of God.

Lest his scourging continue....

6 comments:

A Canberra Observer said...

Yes Terra, I saw that absolute travesty from 'Sister' Pilcher.

I am sorry to say, hasten the day when the last Josephite turns out he light.

A Canberra Observer said...

And followed today by another shocker of a blog post.

This website really is heterodoxy central and I think most of the bishops actually must love it.

Kate said...

Ah yes, let's redefine porn as nothing to do with explicit sexual material so we can have a go at the Church!

It was so bad I couldn't even bring myself to write about it...

BB said...

In my diocese a recent survey was put to some parishers on the mass and shock horror many thought that it was "irreverent", "irrelevant" and "boring". So the dear Sr Pilcher as been asked to run a few talks on the mass and to prepare the faithful for the new missal.
I think the titles for these were something like The People of God Gather for Eucharist and The People of God ... etc. Oh well.

Sister Carmel Pilcher rsj said...

With respect could I suggest you carefully read an article before making such a comment. In the article I clearly state the fact that the church provides appropriate prayers for disasters in the Roman Missal and it is my hope that more parishes will use these prayers at such a time.
Sr Carmel Pilcher rsj

Kate said...

Dear Sister,

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

You are quite right to draw attention to your endorsement of the standard prayers.

Nonetheless, my point was that you semed to imply that the traditonal forms of the liturgy did not give adequate "space" for the sharing of stories and pointed to the need for "imaginative" use of different elements, including location. My argument is that liturgy proper should be antithetical to creativity, but rather stick to the traditional forms as much as possible.