Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Nightmare of Modern Praise

Yesterday, I learned about Miserere Mei, Deus. It was first written in the 1630s by Gregorio Allegri for performance in the Sistine Chapel, and its composition sheets were kept secret. When Mozart was 14, he heard the piece twice and was able to transcribe it from memory. Apparently, the song stuck in my head too.

I had a dream last night; my parents and I were visiting a church. It had a wide nave with white walls and green, theatre seating. I took a seat and could hear Mozart playing, but then the bass guitar started warming up right behind me. Imagine the Seinfeild riff playing over Miserere Mei, Deus. I turned to the guitar in bewilderment. I started to sing Mozart’s Kyrie over his noise. Defeated, I got up to find a different seat. Only, there were speakers all along the wall, so my mom and I couldn’t find a quiet corner; we would have to endure the noise. My dad had found a seat in the middle, which was further from the speakers but right in the middle of the people. The people were nice, friendly, but seemed to have no sense of being at church. They spoke of jumping up to sing and dance and didn’t understand my reservations. Finally, I snapped, turning to the people behind me. “There is no beauty in that music! There is no soul!” I was literally thumping my Bible on the back of the theatre seats. “I want beautiful music! I want to dress up for church! We’re in the presence of the Eucharist—!” At this point, I looked up toward the altar for the first time. It was on a slight stage, as white as the rest of the walls. There were no candles, no flowers, no statues. And I could not figure out where the tabernacle was. There was no love for the Eucharist here, no real worship. There was nothing that indicated this was a Catholic church other the name on the sign outside. Defeated, I knew I could not worship there; I had to get out before the service began. 

I don’t hide my distain for modern/contemporary praise music and settings, but I do keep it toned down. Some people sincerely respond to rock band music, industrial architecture, and jeans-only dress code. I don’t want to be critical of their spiritual experience. And yet. It seems so shallow, so bland, so empty. Jesus is a buddy, church is a community center, worship is a concert. There is nothing reaching out beyond this world. There is no reverence. There is nothing to jolt you out of yourself, pull you to Heaven or notice God crashing into you here on earth. Is God pleased to see his children sing “Yes, you’re my God” [x12]? Probably. But worship can be so much more.  Hillsong and Dan Schutte have nothing on chant and Gregorio Allegri. I don’t want church to be hip and relatable. I want it to be timeless and authentic. I want it to be more real than I know reality to be. It all makes me want to thump my Bible and loudly sing Mozart’s Kyrie.

Friday, August 7, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 105)

1. Jon Stewart’s last Daily Show was last night. It was really fun seeing all the correspondents that had worked with him over the past 17 years. And Colbert even worked in some Tolkien.

2. And how pointing that Jon’s last night was the same night as a GOP date. Even though it was a comedy show, Jon did a lot to explain media and politics to my generation. What a state of affairs that it still takes the court jester to speak the truth.

3. Speaking of the debate, a combination of drinking games and Twitter feeds got me through it. It’s a long time until November 2016. #feelthebern

4. To add to the depressing news, Kermit and Piggy announced their break-up. Which would be quite sad but it really indicates that the new Muppet show is on its way.

5. I don’t know if this applies to a particular situation this week, but it does encapsulate my life.

6. My job search is having some stop-starts; my stress has been out of control this week. It’s difficult for me to write when I’m doubting so much about myself.

7. I have little things like mini zen gardens to occupy my time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Say the Black, Do the Red

I recently read the article “10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass.” As someone who can get grumpy at a sloppy mass, I enjoyed this. People talk about Catholic mass being hard to understand and involving a lot of movements, but really, it's mostly applied common sense. And if someone is confused, there's a handy-dandy Order of Mass that outlines all the words and movements. Pair that with a catechism that explains the beliefs behind the words and movements, and you've got the keys to not mucking up mass. A lot of these are points I have wanted to talk about before. Since I certainly hope my blog doesn’t become me legalistically complaining, I’m going to quickly hit all the points in the article instead of making them separate entries. 

1. Changing posture early.
I haven’t actually seen this one a lot, unless I count the people that lower the kneelers with their feet several minutes before kneeling. The only time I can think of this being a problem is during the Preparation of the Altar when the priest says, “Pray my brothers and sisters…” and the people respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice…” Seriously, when do you stand? It seems no one knows, varying from parish to parish and sometimes pew to pew. The rubrics say stand before the priest speaks, but no one does that. Sometimes it’s as the priest starts (what I try to do), and sometimes it’s as late as halfway through the people’s response. Stand, then speak makes more sense than stand while speak, and it grates on me when I’m one of only three people standing.

2. Leaving before the Mass is over.
That’s just rude. And unless you have to work at 9 a.m. on Sunday, I don’t get why people can’t wait all of six more minutes. I loved the article’s term “Judas Shuffle.”

3. Genuflecting toward the altar.
I didn’t know this was an issue for a long time because my church’s tabernacle is at the center right behind the altar. Kneel to Jesus—thought that was obvious. Then I started attending the campus center, where the tabernacle is far to the right and set a bit back. People would walk right past it and genuflect toward the altar. 

4. Nodding your head instead of a proper bow.
There are lots of oldies at the mass I attend, so I get that sudden, deep movements aren’t always possible. Plus sometimes twentysomethings get dressed fast in the morning and don’t realize how short their skirts are until they are already at church and feel self-conscious about motions that would pull the material up any more (not from my summer wardrobe experience or anything). So if someone nods or slightly bows instead of profoundly bows, I feel like they might be doing the best they can to acknowledge their reverence. But at least do something. I’ve seen a lot of people who clearly have no idea about bowing in the middle of the creed.

5. Standing in the Orans position during the Our Father.
This includes holding hands! We can play Red Rover after Mass. If you reach out for my hand, I’ll hold hands with you, but I’ll count it as an act of charity on my part—forgoing prayer to help a poorly-catechized person feel happy for a few seconds.

6. Walking around at the Sign of Peace.
I haven’t experienced this much; most times everyone makes the tiny circle where they are standing. Just don’t use my captive attention to hug me.

7. Not saying “Amen” before receiving Communion
I don’t really paid attention to other people receiving, so I don’t know if this happens around me. I thought the priest just stood waiting for you to say “Amen” before giving you a host; I didn’t know silence was an option.

8. Not singing.
Well, I fail at this one a lot, but that is because the music is horrible. Horrible as in weird 1980s melodies, hard to follow time/key changes, and words I theologically disagree with. But when it’s a good 1700s hymn, I sing! I sing because it’s beautiful music, expressing how I feel about God and Church, and because I want the music director to know that if he wants congregational participation, these are the tunes to stick to.

9. Not saying the responses.
I haven’t noticed this. But of course, say the responses! That's what makes it responsive.

10. Arriving late.
Even though I’m a five-minutes-early-is-getting-there-just-in-time person, I have more patience for this than leaving early. Still, mass is the same time every week, so habitual lateness makes no sense. Jesus is there; run to him!