Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

"Martha, Martha, Martha...!"

You are busy about many things. Only one is necessary.
(When that Gospel is read, I always, momentarily, sacrilegiously? hear Eve Plumb's voice.
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha...! -- Jan Brady)

I often think at Mass, after centuries of clerics sacrificing their opportunity to just sit at His feet and listen, so that most of us can choose "the better part", we have stupidly taken on, ever more aggressively, being busy about many things.
How often it seems that the planners of them think the most "successful" liturgies are those where the largest number of people are "participating," not as the participation of the Faithful was envisioned by the Father of VCII, but by being assigned, by being engaged "jobs." (This is a particular problem in "Children's Masses," with the danger of their near-guarantee to mis-catechize their participants as to their real obligations at Mass.)

Engaged in busy-ness.

Two psalmists trading off verses, tag team readings, ten different readers for ten different intercession at the Prayer of the Faithful, com'on, doncha wanna be a minister of hospitality? we need some more, some to greet, some to hand out hymnals, some to take up the collection, and some to play traffic cop for the Communion procession, at least one Extraordinary minister for each dozen communicants...

I have, more than once heard "I'm not doing anything at Mass this weekend," from adults and children.
Perhaps they have not thought through the implication of the wording, (well, you know what I MEAN!) but it does betray a certain mindset, doesn't it?
In fact, I have heard it as a justification for blowing off Mass.

I think the obsessing over visible, audible activity has mis-catechized a generation or two of Catholics as to of what their active participation primarily ought to consist.

I heard Mass recently and by the time of the priest's greeting I had annoyed myself, (and not for the first time,) by following along with a chanted introit, rather than really watching the procession.
And it had really been something to watch, (I append that because a reply to someone voicing a similar regret on MusicaSacra recently challenged, essentially, what in the world is there to watch? well, nothing, I grant you, if it's just your regular parish Sunday celebration with a string of EMs and others of the demi-clerical class shuffling along, a few acolytes who have trouble keeping their candlesticks perpendicular, and one celebrant who isn't sure whether he wants to emulate a pol arriving at a nominating convention or a prize-fighter entering the ring...)

And I didn't mind giving up my ability to just concentrate on worshiping as a music minister, I was glad to Martha, but I did resent others making it harder to work in moments of Marying, by ever-changing routines (and uselessly, meaninglessly so, the very anti-thesis of ritual,) , and also by urging the enlistment of evermore Auxiliary Marthas.
And mind you, when I am a pew-sitter, (or even a choir member,) I am very grateful for the necessary Marthaing done by others, that allows everyone else to Mary.

I was reminded of this bete noire of mine by a post having nothing whatever to do with it, (what can I say, that's the way my mind works....)

Fr. Ray Blake references this from Chiesa.
I am not prepared, heck, not competent to address the umbrage taken by those who will brick no criticism of St Thomas Aquinas' theology in the combox, but I am more than intrigued by this monkish endorsement of doing nothing.
In the West, action rules; they ask us how we can stay here for so many hours in church without doing anything. I reply: What does the embryo in the maternal womb do? Nothing, but since it is in its mother's womb it develops and grows. So it is with the monk. He preserves the holy space in which he finds himself and he is preserved, molded by this same space. The miracle is here: We are entering into paradise, here and now. We are in the heart of the communion of saints.
Unless ye become as little embryos... they are most emphatically not "busy about many things," are they?

Their existence, like that of the angels in the Beatific Presence is pure Marying.


cantatrix said...

All so true. As a church musician, you don't always realize how much of the time you operate in Martha-mode until you get a chance to 'Mary'. Then it seems like everyone around me is scrambling for a part in the play and I just want them to sit down and stop distracting me ;) Maybe my pastor will understand the Martha/Mary analogy better than he understands my explanation of active participation (fingers crossed!)


Scelata said...

Thanks for dropping by.
I was often secretly happy when a leak in the roof or a cypher in the pipes forced us to abandon the loft for the nave temporarily.
The choir members who were pathologically unable NOT to bother me during Mass under ordinary circumstances had to sit down, stay put and shut up.
It was very peaceful.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)