Friday, January 4, 2013
Liturgy in the Language of Our Lord
A change in work responsibilities, coupled with the fact that I am the sole bread-winner for the foreseeable future, has made daily Mass at the start of my day impossible, at least for the time-being. Until Lent arrives, my opportunity for a weeknight Mass will be limited to once a week. Or so I thought. I discovered that the Maronite-rite church a few blocks away offers evening Mass a few times a week, so long as there is a priest available to celebrate the liturgy.
Few, if any of you know that my maternal grandmother was a Maronite-rite Catholic up until the time she married. We occasionally went to a Maronite church for Mass, but I could probably count the times on one hand and have fingers left over. I remember very little except that parts of the Mass were spoken in a foreign language and a good deal of the time I had no idea what was going on, with the exception of the Consecration.
At last night's Mass, I seemed to be the only person outside of the priest and the altar server who bothered to come but at the last minute, a nun in full habit arrived. While I wish she had sat in front of me, she sat close enough so that I could see out of the corner of my eye what the appropriate posture was. The Missal provided direction at times but not at others.
The "foreign" language the Maronite-rite is spoken in happens to be Aramaic, the language many historians believe was the language of Our Lord. My grandmother spoke Aramaic with considerable fluency and my own mother knows a few words but not much. The Mass last night was spoken mainly in English, except where the rubrics demanded Aramaic. The Consecration, for instance, was sung in Aramaic.
I had expected that the Mass would be about 30 minutes in length at most but I was wrong. It was 50 minutes long and I am not in the least complaining. It could have gone on forever, such was its beauty. It was a liturgy rich in the kind of mystery and reverence that is too often lacking in the hit-and-run weekday Masses I encounter on an all too frequent basis. Despite the fact that only Sister and I were in attendance, a homily was still given. Incense and chant played an important role in the Holy Sacrifice. The Creed is apparently prayed at every Mass, Sunday or weekday. The exchange of peace was nothing like the slap-happy yuk-it-up that goes on at the Novus Ordo and takes place, as it rightfully should if it must, before the consecration. Holy Communion was given under both species by intinction so there was no reception in the hand. More importantly, the paten was used because reception on the tongue without one is no guarantee of particles not being dropped to the floor After the dismissal, the nun remained in her pew and chanted a prayer in Aramaic. It was a beautiful way to offer thanksgiving after the Eucharist.
If I get there again, I will take some photos (with permission) before or after Mass. What's shown above was borrowed. Although the church itself is a very simple structure, the altar,with an appropriately-placed center Tabernacle, was adorned with a gorgeous nearly life-size Crucifix. The Creche appeared to be a replica of a shelter hewn out of rock. Recently, the church installed the kind of traditional stained glass windows that are too seldom seen in contemporary church buildings.
I had to practically tear myself out of the pew to go home and start dinner. I look forward to going again.
Posted by TLW at 5:40 PM