Week 9

Fourth Sunday of Advent

This week, I selected a parish which is a 53-minute walk from home. As we shall see shortly, every week offers something a bit different, even after I think I've seen just about everything. Once again, I forgot to look for the cornerstone, but it appears to date from the 1950's. The design is very straightforward, consisting of a long rectangle housing two columns of pews, side aisles, and a center aisle, with a break about two-thirds toward the back of the church. A simple but traditional crucifix is mounted over the sanctuary, which has not seen significant renovation apart from a simple relocation of the tabernacle off to the right of its original location. The ambo is an older style, significantly raised. The interior is plainly decorated in beige and white paint.

Two altar servers accompanied the priest and other ministers in the entrance procession. The cantor was dressed in what appeared to be a sweatsuit, but perhaps my plugged ear kept me from seeing straight. I hope that a different cantor was originally scheduled and called in sick at the last minute, and this woman had to race to the church in whatever she happened to be wearing and had no time to change, or perhaps she had some sort of injury (a broken leg and cast, perhaps) that would keep her from preparing in the usual way for Mass. Otherwise, I have to be disappointed; when the folks in the pews dress down, that's bad enough, but I like to be able to expect more from those in the sanctuary. (Only in my nightmares do I dress for Mass in a sweatsuit.)

The entrance hymn was a traditional-type hymn (though one with which I was not familiar) from (I think) the 1800's. The cantor sung "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison" as did the cantor in last week's parish, but without invocations of any sort.

The readings were taken from the new Lectionary, as I noted when they differed from those in the OCP book. Oddly enough, the pews are stocked with not only the seasonal OCP booklets and the annual Music Issue but also NALR's Glory and Praise as well as GIA's Afro-American hymnal (whose name I forget). I guess the powers that be wanted to cover all bases (although I guess somebody there has a grudge against Paluch [grin]).

The priest, listed in the bulletin as having a degree in canon law, gave a decent, workmanlike homily related to the Scriptural reading. A memorable quote based on someone else's quote: "Mary gave her 'today' for our 'tomorrow.'" After the homily, he briefly mentioned the presence of stewardship pledge cards in the pews and suggested that they could be completed and placed in a collection just for the cards after Communion. This was infinitely preferable to the awful "talk" by a lay man that totally replaced the homily in the parish of week four. I guess a canon lawyer knows his duty under canon law to give a homily (or else this parish had its "talk" one other week).

Although the Mass was primarily an organ Mass, a small choir of about half a dozen youth sang. For the offertory hymn, a flutist (and maybe a low guitar) accompanied the choir as it sang "O Come, O Come Immanuel." Those in the choir were about the only ones singing; the rest of the congregation was rather quiet throughout the Mass, which I have to say I find disappointing. I know they could be actively participating somehow even without singing aloud, but, still, I'm left with an uncomfortable feeling (if only because I like to sing-- but not louder than the rest of the congregation combined).

The third Eucharistic prayer was used, and the Mass setting once again was from Haugen's Mass of Creation. If he gets royalties per use, he must be doing well based on what I've seen. Also, the altar server rang the bells at the consecration. The Our Father was sung as well-- often it is not, even if the rest of the Mass is sung.

I was a bit disappointed to see the pitcher with the Precious Blood passed to a lay minister to be taken to a side table to be poured into smaller vessels, and I grew concerned that they may self-communicate, but everything was brought back to the altar and the priest distributed Holy Communion to the lay ministers. I noticed that some rather tiny-looking cups were being used in addition to ordinary serving cups and couldn't understand what was happening, because it was something I haven't seen in a long, long time-- if ever. I needed a few moments to solve this puzzle.

I guess Jesus gave me a bit of a treat for going to confession yesterday afternoon. After the priest and the four lay ministers began to distribute Communion, I realized what I was seeing. The "tiny-looking cups" were actually combination chalices and ciboriums-- Communion was being offered by intinction! Those who received on the tongue were given Communion by intinction at the three center stations, while those who received in the hand at the same stations could proceed to two additional side stations where a more typical serving cup was offered. I elected to receive on the tongue by intinction, which I kind of liked since I never receive from the cup. (I hasten to add that if the cup were the only way for me to receive Holy Communion, I would gladly do so.) I just hope I understood the custom at this parish correctly, as no announcements were made beforehand. I presume that someone allergic to wine would have to indicate this somehow.

Two Communion hymns, one of which was "Gentle Woman" and the other "Here I Am, Lord," were sung. I think the flutist accompanied one or both of those. After that, the Mass ended with two verses of "Sing of Mary," but almost everyone left right after the first verse. Something about that leaves me with an empty feeling inside. :(

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