Monday, March 29, 2010

Gospel Sitting

Happy Monday of Holy Week to you all.

Our celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion yesterday at my parish, St. James, went quite well. The music really served the many movements of this liturgy. It has been a long time since I have cried at Mass. But I did so this weekend when the choir and our two wonderful soloists sang Patrick Bradley's Only Love. The lyrics: "Only love held him there on the cross; he could have called ten thousand angels to come to his rescue; only love held him there on the cross." The verses are a variation on the verses of The Old Rugged Cross. This is a real gem. I was so proud of the choir for all the work they have put into their ministry. And I was proud that this fine piece is published by WLP.

I did have one uncomfortable moment at Mass. And this has happened to me before at St. James and at other parishes. We chanted a lovely unpublished Gospel Acclamation (duh, maybe I should submit it to WLP!). Then the deacon began, "The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke." We all responded and then he announced, "In order to properly meditate on the Passion of the Lord, please be seated." Now I completely understand why parishes do this. There are people who simply cannot stand for that long a period of time. But most Catholics can. This is a day of the year when one of the most important Gospel texts is proclaimed. Of all days, this is the day we should be standing. We stand because we honor the real presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel. To me, it just seems too comfortable to sit during the proclamation. Besides the three readers, I was the only one standing, all by myself in a corner. Did my feet hurt? Yes. Was it uncomfortable after the first ten minutes? Yes. At one point I thought of the hours I have spent standing in lines at places like Disneyworld. I also thought about the years I spent as a kid at these liturgies standing through these long Gospels and developing an intuitive sense that because of the fact that I was standing for so long—much longer than at other Masses—there must be something extra special about Palm Sunday and Good Friday. What do you do in your parish?

Anyway, that's my rant for the Monday of Holy Week. Even though we all didn't stand yesterday at St. James, the presence of the Lord was so real, at least in my own heart.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Adam said...

I am not in favor of the common practice of sitting during the Passion. (Some parishes also have us sit through the scrutiny gospels).
Is standing uncomfortable? Yes.
But, as I have been saying more and more to liturgical complainers: "Jesus wept."

That being said-
If you are going to ask people to sit, there is a better way to do it than how you just described (which is what my parish did, too).
The better way: after the Acclamation, BEFORE "The Passion of Our Lord...". A simple "Please be seated."
Shorter. Less interruptive. No need for explanations. And there shouldn't be a break between the announcement of the Gospel and its proclamation.

While I'm on the subject:
My parish also thought it was a good idea to intersperse the Gospel with a sung refrain. To, you know, break it up...
Like, what? The Passion isn't interesting enough? We need to make it more theatrical?

Oh- and, if that weren't enough...
The sung refrain was "Now We Remain." Now, I like that song (enough), but... um...
it's a bit folksy for such a solemn function.

And let's not even get into the Liturgical Dancers. (No joke).

I'm a liberal. I'm a progressive. I love contemporary music. I like guitars and tambourines at Mass. I even like having the occasional liturgical dancer in the occasional processional.


Oh my goodness- this was way too much, even for me. When I experience this sort of ridiculousness, I get a bit angry because I feel like it gives more and more ammunition to the Reform of the Reform movement. They're giddy to point out how tacky we all are.

But we're not ALL tacky. Really.

John said...

With respect:

As a pastor with 5 Masses and no associate or deacon, I regularly welcome the services of two retired priests (one 78, the other 92) both of whom have had hip and knee surgeries. Whether or not they or the assembly would prefer to stand for the Passion, it is simply not physically feasible and it seems cruel to me to require it of them (and if not of them then how to ask the assembly to stand while they sit?).

I find parishioners are pretty good at dispensing themselves from arduous gestures during the liturgy (most notably by sitting rather than kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer). It used to fire up my subliminal resentment, low-grade hostility, and passive-aggressive behavior. I've learned my expectations are often just a projection of my compulsion to perfection and hardly have anything to do with giving thanks, praise, and glory to God, nor with accepting God's grace, mercy, and providence for my imperfections.

Something I've had fun doing during the Passion, is to give the assembly different voices during different accounts; that is in Year A the people voice the crowd, in Year B the other voices, and in Year C the assembly takes the part of Jesus. People like being freed from the role of constantly demanding crucifixion and it helps them see other viewpoints in the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

The USCCB does allow for chanted refrains during the Passion. Not that I'm advocating it. But, it is allowed.

anne said...

Our pastor actually waited until he was about to read the first line as spoken by Jesus. He paused and said "Sorry, I meant to instruct you before mass to sit for the reading of the Passion. So please sit." My husband and I looked at each other. What?!! Announcements of any kind are not necessary. People who have difficulty standing for long periods can make their own decisions.

Anonymous said...

Episcopal tradition is to sit for the first part and to stand at the verse mentioning Golgotha. This is specified in the Book of Common Prayer in a "may" rubric. Especially helpful if the Passion is being chanted or sung in a composed setting by Victoria, Byrd, &c.

Anonymous said...

Is God not with us when we sit and when we stand both? I do understand the symbolism of standing (suffering), but I also think we put too much emphasis on the rubrics as Catholics. Perhaps we can give more attention to the Word if we are comfortably sitting instead of standing. Something so small yet so divisive.

Anonymous said...

For those of us belonging to the Churches of the Byzantine tradition we stand for the majority of every liturgy, if not all of it. If somebody needs to sit, they move and sit, but the most ancient of liturgical postures of prayer is standing.

kerrnal said...

'Only Love' is a beautiful piece. Used it for the Theology on Tap finale mass last summer and the choir loved it. Probably didn't hurt to have Elliot Wimbush as a soloist.

That said, I think the refrain could easily be sung be the congregation, but there was no box on the octavo. If only you knew someone who could fix that. :-)

Anonymous said...

Those who wish to sit can sit. Those who want to stand should stand. By announcing for everyone to sit, you violate the views of those who wish to "do the right thing" and remain standing. Such announcements are both unnecesary and improper. It would be equally impolite (and improper) to announce "Out of respect for our Lord, you MUST remain standing throughout the complete reading of the Passion".

We're all big folks out here, and generally have a pretty good handle on our ability to stand and sit. At least give us that...