……from your Pastor’s Desk
Hello friends. Here is something I found on the ‘net’ by Donagh O’Shea. I offer it because it addresses a most contemporary issue… Fr. Ron
In my childhood an elderly farmer, renowned for early rising, used to sit in the village church while waiting for the creamery to open. No doubt he used to pray a bit, but he also used to have a look at the newspaper. One morning the peevish curate found him there and protested loudly about the newspaper. “It’s ok, Father,” said the farmer, “I was reading the deaths column.” That stopped the priest in his tracks; he retreated with apologies. You can browse death in church, but not life.
In those days everyone looked dead in church. In the Tridentine Mass there is no interaction between people, no common responses, no sign of peace. People used to sink into their private thoughts or devotions as soon as the Mass began; many said the rosary, and the less devout looked around them (but not behind them: that was taboo). Only the consecration bell brought them together; and for a few moments there was total silence. Then at the sixth bell there was always an outburst of coughing (that was the only common response). Few received Communion. We have forgotten how privatized the Tridentine Mass was.
The reform of the Liturgy in the 1960s was an attempt to correct this eccentric development. There was nothing privatized about Jesus’ way of life or his way of worship. He spoke frequently of heaven as a banquet; he sat at table with all kinds of people; he miraculously fed the crowds. Sharing food is a frequent theme in the gospels, a favorite in Luke’s (see, for example, 5:29-32, and chapter 14).
Is all privacy suppressed, then, in our religion? No, but the chasm between the private and the public is bridged. Eating is at once a private and social affair. If we break a biscuit and you eat one half while I eat the other, my half becomes me and yours becomes you; biology is very individual in that sense. Yet eating is one of the most social of all activities; when people want to celebrate together and have joy in one another’s company, they think first of having a meal together. It is a wonderful bridging of the chasm between individual and community, between private and public, between selfish and unselfish desire. Neither is neglected or suppressed. This contains a profound wisdom about human living, and about the life of grace. My desire for God is not the enemy of my desire for my dinner, it is in continuity with it. The discontinuity is with greed, not with the natural appetite. In this sense the Eucharist is also a bridge between nature and grace.
At the Eucharist we are not always fully present: sometimes, however new our Liturgy may be, we are half asleep; but that is not the worst kind of absence. The worst kind is when our hearts remain shut; then we are making community impossible, we are emptying the Eucharist of its meaning; and we are not allowing it to be a bridge between ourselves and our neighbor. The Lord is present on the altar so that he may be present in us; “this is my body” so that you can be my body, my bodily members, my completion. Jesus is the head of the Body, we the members, said St Paul. The Eucharist is not only what happens on the altar, but what happens in the entire church (and what happens in our lives for the rest of the week). Listen not only to the readings and prayers, ‘listen’ also to the people around you: be aware of them, be grateful that they are there, don’t see them as strangers even if you don’t know their names. As St Cyprian said: The one who said “I am the bread of life” wants us to share that bread – his life, his care, his love – with others, “so that we who are fed by God may live in his way”
– Donagh O’Shea
Stay tuned. No doubt – more to follow.