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Monday, 8 September 2014

Not Sex, but the Mass

Perhaps my worst post title ever...

But after reading Peter Kwasniewski's article about Liturgy and FOR the Poor.

Although some may find it surprising, I find it utterly fitting that the Missionary Servants of the Poor of the Third World—an heroic apostolate whose priests, nuns, and laity work with people of desperate poverty—have in recent years discovered the treasure of the usus antiquior and have embraced its celebration as a potent source of life and energy for their work. The same has been true for other congregations, such as the Missionaries of Charity and the once-flourishing Franciscans of the Immaculate. As for the congregation, it is well known that the poor, contrary to all the prognostications of clergy and experts, have flocked to Masses in the usus antiquior. 

The manifest reverence, pregnant silences, and redolent symbols of the old Mass speak eloquently to simple souls who find in it an encounter with the Passion of Christ that can give meaning to their own sufferings. The traditional Roman Rite has a purity of focus and a strength of passion that make it particularly suitable for radically poor missionaries to the poor. It is a liturgy that pulls down the ego of the celebrant by plunging him into a ritual that is his demanding master, not his plaything; and yet, it is a liturgy shot through with a lover’s gestures: the altar is kissed many times, and telling phrases are repeated, just as we often do in intense situations. This Mass has the virtue of purity of heart, which Kierkegaard defined as “willing one thing.” It wills the Sacrifice of the Cross, and subordinates everything to that. As such, it is an incomparable school of poverty of spirit, conforming the worshiper to the single-hearted Christ. 

Among poor people huddled in a hut, before whom a scrubby priest dressed in rags celebrates the Eucharistic sacrifice with total focus and passion―here, amid woes that drive desperate souls to meaningful prayer, there is likely to be a real participation in the ecstasy of the crucified and risen Savior.

The photo that accompanies the piece shows a priest wearing a grandly embroidered stole and swinging a thurifer that, (although not particualrly grand,) is probably worth more than some of the congregants make in a year.

Such ruminations and such sights always remind me of learning what, IIRC, is a Neapolitan saying: "Sex is the Opera of the poor," in other words, the activity both entertaining and hopefully transcendent that even they can afford.

Even at the time, I knew that was wrong, and as Italians and putative Catholics, whoever coined the aphorism should have known it - the Mass, the Mass is where anyone always and everywhere has access to the transcendence, (that may, let's be honest, elude one at La Scala or in bed,) and is without doubt the only access for many of us, to beautiful aromas of clouds of incense, to gorgeous and gorgeously sung music to which we can even contribute, (a simple three note "amen sung by 500 people can thrill ones very bones,) to the visual splendour of great buildings and great art, and (forget Parisian ateliers,)  the absolute height of  accomplishment in textile and lacework and embroidery.
There were many times in my school days when I could not scrape together the money for a ticket even to a score desk at the Met, but was blessed to stumble upon a church in Manhattan where they did the rite right.

All that earthly beauty  --- and Jesus too!!!!!!

No, not sex....

Liturgy is the opera of the poor.

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