Monday, April 6, 2015

The Missal and Near the Missal, But Not Quite

Easter Monday greetings from Orlando. I am here to speak at the annual convention of the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association).

I hope you all had a wonderful Triduum. I was unable to attend the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper but attended the Passion at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Chicago. Paul French is the music director there, and has been for a number of years. This parish's choral program has to be one of the finest in North America. The chanted Passion was superbly done and really drew me into John's account. Individual veneration of the cross occurs after the final prayer at the end of the service at this parish, during which the choir sings a number of pieces from the sacred choral repertoire. It was moving and splendid and stunning. Everything was done right out of the Missal, and it was a beautiful liturgy.

Then came the Easter Vigil. I attended the Vigil with a few friends, one of whom is an occasional worshipper at a parish on the far north side of Chicago. I am not going to name the parish here.

The fire was lit inside a Weber grill actually inside the church, in the back. Pretty minimal. I am simply going to recount what occurred from there.

After an excellent proclamation of the first reading from Genesis, we all sang one verse of "How Great Thou Art." No psalm. After the Exodus reading, proclaimed amazingly powerfully, we sang a refrain about freedom. No psalm. After the Isaiah 55, we all sang verses one and four of "Come to the Water. Then the Gloria, then the Romans reading then the Alleluia, then the Gospel.

Then the homily. The celebrant talked about not being able to "wrap his brain around Easter" this year because of all the suffering going on in the world today. He said that the only conclusion that he could draw was that it was all "absurd." And he told us that there are two ways of reacting to the absurdity of it all. We can get lost in consumerism and fill our lives with things until we finally end up in the eternal dark abyss. Or, we can laugh. He said that Jesus probably simply giggled when he emerged from the tomb, then erupted into a big belly laugh.

The celebrant then took out a Kazoo and played a section of the "Hallelujah Chorus" on it, as a sign of laughing in the face of absurdity. He then invited the person being baptized and the three being received into communion to join him. They were all given Kazoos and they played the same section. Then, you guessed it. People suddenly appeared with large baskets filled with hundreds of Kazoos and they were passed to members of the assembly. We were all invited to stand and the trumpet and piano and choir led us in the final section of the "Hallelujah Chorus," with all of us playing Kazoos. The regular parishioners seemed to love it all. Folks, it was one of the strangest experiences of my life.

A young woman was then baptized in a large temporary font in front of one of the side altars. We were all invited to gather around the font for the baptism. Then three people were received into full communion. Confirmation was simple and lovely. Then we celebrated the Eucharist.

The singers, to the very last one, were wonderful. The Exsultet was chanted superbly. The music director used a baton, which she also used to conduct us, which I found kind of annoying. There was no Triduum program; everything was sung from the missalette and the singing was very strong throughout.

I don't have much more to say, except that I am not lying about this experience. This is exactly what happened. All I can say is that it is quite interesting to see how one parish on one night (Good Friday) can celebrate exactly as the Missal says and another parish, not five miles away on Holy Saturday, can have arrived at a point where some of what was done was an adaptation that had clearly gotten out of hand at some point and had veered away.

How was your Easter?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Kevin Keil said...

It was my first at my new parish in Tampa, and it could not have gone better. The liturgies were "by the book", solemn, but not overly stiff. The music was drawn from all over the map, traditional hymnody, contemporary music and chant. Tony Alonso's Easter Alleluia was a big hit, and of course we did a number of my own compositions. I made a Triduum Worship Aid, and everyone sang very well.

Stacy said...

Kazoos. I just can't.
Our easter was wonderful, no vigil this year for me, but I did stream ours from Georgia on my tablet. Attended Sunday mass with my kids and family at st Mary Magdalen, got roped into ringing handbells. It was truly a welcome home.

Robyn Dolan said...

Lol! I have had some less than satisfying experiences with Mass on the road this past year, but not kazoos! I, too, appreciate the Mass done out of the Missal. I like being able to sing and pray along. In light of your story, my Easter experience was wonderful.

Ken Macek said...

It's a shame , really, that the Elect will have to remember that as their initiation night. A vigil liturgy can really become a trainwreck under some of the best circumstances. It doesn't need actions that positively reek of "look at ME! I'll give these folks a unique Easter they'll never forget!"...whether those actions are from a pastor working out his neuroses, a music director producing a Lectionary-Lite lineup, or an OCIA coordinator convinced that (s)he has been put in charge of Prom Night.

Joseph Burgio said...

I have no doubt that the music at OLMC was sublime. But I have to ask why individual veneration was moved to the end of the service. I worked in a parish that did just that, at the insistence of the pastor, so that people could venerate the cross and then leave. But isn't veneration of the Cross the whole point of the Good Friday Liturgy? I think that is what I learned in grad school. As to your Easter Vigil experience, that is one of the reasons that I no longer work in a Roman Catholic Parish. Other music substituted for psalms, the Music Director conducting the assembly? Not the first time I have heard things like this. The Lutheran church where I am the Interim Music Minister, Faith Lutheran Church (LCMS), in Arlington Heights, did not celebrate a Vigil. But on Maundy Thursday the choir sang Mozart's "Ave Verum" (in Latin, with the English text in the worship aid), on Good Friday we sang Richard Hillert's setting of the St. John Passion, and on Easter Sunday, the choir and bell choir were present at both services, along with a brass quartet from Chicago Civic Orchestra. And I could hear the congregation singing above the organ and brass. It doesn't get much better than that.

Anonymous said...

The 1988 Circular Letter permits individual veneration to occur after the end of the Good Friday liturgy.