Week 30

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Today was an absolutely beautiful day, and the advance scout had identified a promising prospect slightly less than a two-hour walk from where I live, so I grabbed the bottle of sun screen lotion and set forth on the journey at about 7:50 AM. En route, an idea for a message for the singles section popped into my head, so I knew that the walk would not be totally unproductive. About half an hour after that, a car full of people pulled alongside me and demonstrated that they were totally lost, but fortunately one had a good map, so I was able to set them straight by locating their current position on the map and send them on their way. I always feel like an instrument of God's peace when I help people out of jams such as that (although I would sooner undergo a tooth extraction than ask someone for directions myself).

I arrived at the church at about 9:45 AM for the 10:00 AM Mass, which the scout, who briefly had poked his nose inside the vestibule just before Lent, recommended highly. I neglected to look for the cornerstone, but once again hat hooks in the pews pretty much tell the story. The layout is fairly simple: a rectangle with two sets of wooden pews divided by a center aisle and lined by side aisles. The pews probably seat eight to ten people across comfortably, with a small wooden detail in the center. The domed sanctuary has been pulled forward, but not as much as in many other parishes; only about three or four rows seem to have been removed. The wooden ambo is to the right and ahead of the altar. The tabernacle has been moved to the right side altar, which now has two or three rows of pews facing it. The left side altar niche has a tapestry on the rear wall bearing a quote from scripture. The rear wall of the otherwise white sanctuary has a gray curtain running from the ceiling to the floor behind a large, gray, traditional crucifix. Beneath that is the presider's chair, particularly large and impressive. Large stained glass windows depicting various scenes from the life of Christ are on the lower walls; a raised section of the high roof bears smaller stained-glass depictions of the apostles. Some columns fall directly into the pews, but the width of the building does not appear to have been expanded, as it would otherwise have been too small to start. The basic decor is white paint and dark wood.

The large choir loft remains, but it was not used at today's Mass. Instead, the choir, consisting of about ten middle-aged people, served from the left front of the church, in a section of pews turned to face the congregation. (Pews on the opposite side of the sanctuary face the altar.) An organ and piano are located here as well; both were used for this Mass. As I was fairly early, I was a bit concerned when the choir started singing what sounded like a honky-tonk tune to the accompaniment of the piano, but perhaps that was just a way of warming-up and getting into tune, because the remainder of the Mass was within reason. The organist then played a prelude.

The cantor began the Mass by announcing the Mass intention and the opening hymn, "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus," which was sung to an organ accompaniment as a server, the reader, three lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the priest processed through the center aisle. Form C of the penitential rite (the Kyrie) was recited but without any invocations. Then the Gloria was sung to a piano accompaniment. The verses, mostly sung by the choir but with some solo parts for the cantor, were kind of subdued but the responses were more vigorous.

The reader was a nun in full gray habit, which I don't see too much these days. She read well from the new Lectionary. Psalm 27 was the one for the day, sung to the piano accompaniment, but the response was verse one, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; of whom should I be afraid," rather than the one printed in the OCP missalette, verse 13, "I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living." The verses were slightly different too; it could be another musical arrangement.

The priest held the Book of Gospels high as he went to the ambo to read the Gospel. It must be an older copy, though, because the reading differed from what was in the missalette. His homily was reasonable, focusing on an Egyptian philosophy that the meaning of life is to receive joy and to give joy. (The priest seems kind of joyful; he made sure to greet several people as he passed down the center aisle and smiled at some people in the front rows before reading the Gospel.) He mentioned that an archbishop asked a woman who had worked very hard all her life what she would say to God when she saw Him face to face, and she replied that she would simply show Him her hands. The woman, who was terminally ill, was in fact the archbishop's sister. The priest also told about how Mother Teresa once said that one of her primary complaints is with "professionalism" and that she has to reclaim her nuns after they obtain various degrees and credentials they need to do their work; they get concerned with status and privileges such as reserved parking places, so she has to send them to a hospice for six months to get their spirituality straight by tending to terminally ill people. He tried to stress how we can get closer to God in the ordinary things of life-- even things such as the Creed and Our Father can help if we don't allow them to become rote recitations.

After the Creed, a standard Prayer of the Faithful was recited. The priest then took a few moments to remind parishioners that the cradle at the front of the church is for donations to help single mothers care for their babies and asked for additional donations of baby items for that cause as the parish had agreed to support a third mother ready to give birth. A collection was then taken using long-handled baskets. At this time, the choir, on its own, sang "We Are Marching in the Light of God" to a piano accompaniment that began with a long series of "oooooooooh's." I don't mean to make that sound silly or stupid; I just don't know how else to describe it, although I had been concerned that the hymn had no meat to it at first, since that introduction was so long. (Perhaps that has a respectable name?)

The chalice was made of ornate glass, and a small glass flagon was also used. The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation. All of those were sung to organ accompaniment. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used, and the priest sung the invocation to the Memorial Acclamation and the concluding doxology. The Our Father was recited; a smattering of the "orans" posture was to be seen, but that was all.

One of the three lay ministers retrieved additional ciboriums from the tabernacle before Communion. The choir received first before beginning the hymn "Bread of Life." Two stations for each species were located at the front of the church. The congregation was not particularly large, so Communion proceeded fairly quickly.

After a short pause, the nun returned to read some announcements, and then the priest offered the closing prayer. I noticed throughout the Mass that he used the phrase "through Christ our God," rather than the usual "through Christ our Lord." I have to leave the significance of this to greater minds than myself, as it has me more or less stumped, but it was noticeable, though relatively inocuous as changes go. A simple blessing was offered; the closing hymn, sung to a piano accompaniment (I think) was "Glory and Praise to Our God." Two verses were sung; I was pleased to see that most people remained for both verses.

I should take advantage of the services of the advance scout more often; he pointed me in the right direction today.

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