Saturday, September 08, 2012

Hope which is in you

"But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you." 1 Peter 3:15
These words have been buzzing around my head, and those nice people at Gloria TV have reproduced my words too, it always sounds different when other people quote you, and a conversation I had with an old Irish man some years ago came back to me. He said he stopped getting up on Sunday mornings, "when I realised Mass was about our community, I didn't think it worth getting up for that", he was talking about the time of the liturgical changes and they had recently knocked down and rebuilt his parish church.
The Mass is not about us, it always has been about Jesus and giving us glimpse of heaven, "and so with Angels and Saints we sing...", it is a vision of the triumph of the Lamb, it is about our ultimate re-orientation, the end of  our earthly pilgrimage. Frankly, some liturgies I have attended speak more about Hell than Heaven. I really do think if we have nothing to say about the world to come, if we do not have answer for those who ask of "that hope which is in you", we have nothing to say, because it we are ultimately hopeless.
When thinking about liturgy we have to ask whether it does point us to heavenly realities, or does it merely say, "this is it, there is nothing more", is it hopeful or hopeless? Does it point to something the mysteries of the Life to come or is it merely about earthly realities.
Buildings music, words, actions, vestments, community life, everything are supposed to deepen "that hope which is in you". Our work as local churches with the sick and the poor, for social justice, they too are supposed to speak of that hope, so too our prayer, our devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Angels and Saints.
The big question about liturgy and the life of a local church is surely is this worth getting out of bed for, and having done so, does what is happening at the local church offer anything different from the type of experience found in the local pub, or football match, or shopping centre or the other events that are available as an alternative to Sunday Mass? If we only have "community" then this can be found in a so many alternative places today.
One of my parishioners is dying, she is young mother, pray for her, she has deep faith, and therefore hopes: she told me she felt surrounded by love but actually this love comes from her young son, her sister, her extended family, her neighbours, her work colleagues and her carers, it does not really come from fellow parishioners but her faith comes from the Church and her attendance at Mass.
I wouldn't enter into a discussion about which form of the Roman Rite speaks more clearly about the heavenly mysteries, the things we are called to hope in and for but the ars celebrandi should point to these mysteries, in either form. When the Mass merely celebrates us, "the community gathered", when music is about community singing, or is trite and sentimental, when participation is more about action than interiority, when as Joseph Ratzinger says we "form a closed circle" or a "significant absence of silence", then there are problems with the Eternal. The loss of hope in the Church does seem be related to how the liturgy is celebrated when it is done badly it destroys hope.


Unknown said...

As a new Catholic I could not agree more with this! The liturgy done right does point to heavenly realities, and this gives hope! Thanks also for the gorgeous photo.

Delia said...

Spot on, Father, as usual!

Supertradmum said...

This is so true, and Father, I have had to go to Church despite the "community", when all talk loudly before and after Mass, or talk during Adoration. Or, as they do in the States, come in wearing beach clothes and chewing gum.

I walked out of a community gathering recently, which was supposed to be a Mass, as the priest was spewing on about Liberation Theology to a Mass going attendance of way-over-sixties. I mean, really.

Unless Christ in His Passion is the Center and Focal Point, and worshipping Him is why we gather, what is the point?

Many of my friends are not even Catholic, and I can find community in other places. I do not go to Mass for community but because I am in love with Jesus Christ. Thanks so much for this post.

Православный физик said...

I definitely go in spite of the community, great post Father.

Anonymous said...

'The Mass is not about us, it always has been about Jesus and giving us glimpse of heaven, "and so with Angels and Saints we sing...", it is a vision of the triumph of the Lamb, it is about our ultimate re-orientation, the end of our earthly pilgrimage.'
So beautifully described, and this is exactly why Catholics get up on a Sunday and tell their off-spring children that it doesn't matter if they're 'bored'it's about loving Jesus in the Eucharist.
Thank you for this post.

parepidemos said...

There is no dichotomy between the two: "They went as a body to the Temple every day and met in their houses for the breaking of bread..."(Acts 2:46). They went "as a body", not as individuals. For Catholicism it is not about "Jesus and me" but about "Jesus, others and me".

Fr Ray Blake said...


Quite right! But if we forget they "went" as body to the Temple and forget the forward movement implied by this verb we have problems. We also have to be cognisant of the what is meant in the NT by "as a body", what type of "body"? Whose body? A body animated by what? There is a pneumatic character to the post-Pentecost "body", it is a risen body called out of the tomb of the Cenacle to worship.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I avoid parochial life and attend a private religious house for the simple reason that nobody talks before Mass.

John Nolan said...

@ Sadie

Parochial life is poisonous. I avoided it assiduously from 1969 onwards until two years ago after a house move I was asked by a local PP to run a schola and reintroduce Gregorian chant. Within a year he had been suborned by the unreconstructed four-hymn-sandwich merchants and I was unceremoniously sacked by e-mail. Never again.

Sadie Vacantist said...

John Nolan

By coincidence our PP, with no little fanfare, formed a choir. One of the Cathedral professionals was summoned to engender some pizzazz and one would hope some Gregorian chant. Although, sadly, the Cathedral choir tends towards the Classic FM school of liturgical offerings for as much as I like Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Mass, it doesn’t work with the novus ordo (it’s too long for starters) and arguably represents the very excess that the Council father should have looked to curtail. No matter, our choir’s repertoire does not extend beyond the “sandwich”. The convent where I attend is no better and these otherwise delightful sisters wonder why they have no vocations?

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...One of my parishioners is dying, she is young mother..."

She has already won.

She is a Mommy.

Commend her Padre, to the Holy Mother and her Son.

Pray for her soul and give her the proper Extreme Unction.

Ask her to remember us all when she gets to Heaven.

I will ask a Mass be said for her, and that a Padre I know remember her in all his Masses.

Fight hard for your sheep, Padre.

We will continue to pray for you.

There is on;y one Mass that takes us all to Calvary.


Tony said...

We are, of course, the body of Christ. That body needs to be animated by the Head, who is Christ Jesus.

In a prior parish, I had noted the distinct shift from worshiping God, to worshiping ourselves. The worship of God compels us to come together as one. Just hanging together singing does not compel us to worship God.

I had a taste of this again last Sunday when I attended a Mass in a different church prior to a relative's baptism.

Father played fast and loose with the liturgy, leaving things out, making things up, adding new little "cutesy" rituals that weren't included to make everyone feel "relevant".

The taste was as I remembered it. Like lukewarm gruel when I was used to a sumptuous banquet.

Hakuna Matata said...
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