Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Southwest Liturgical Conference: Night 1.

Greetings from Salt Lake City, UT! I'm a block and a half from the famous Temple, so... Father and I are going to go march around it 7 times. (joke)

No, really... I'm going to give you my impressions thus far-- check back late tonight or tomorrow to hear how day 1 goes.

First, the organization of it all is really good. There is a lot of support from the folks who live here locally, from the school kids to adult volunteers that know exactly how to direct you to the brew pub. Kudos to them!

At first glance, the schedule looks promising! Evening prayer with the Bishop prior to the first talk!

Why, oh WHY do these folks always have to be cut from the same mould?

"Evening prayer" was not that at all. There was a psalm, yes, and some intercessions, yes. There was a bishop vested in a beautiful cope. And there were vietnamese women dressed not dissimilarly to geishas walking in with raised bowls of incense (I realize geishas are Japanese, but it's the nearest thing to compare to). There was a whole "dance" of sorts up the aisle, though very graceful, I couldn't quite help but miss the point entirely, even though I tried.

Next, the bishop, at the beginning of the psalm "O LORD let my prayer rise before you like incense," places a heaping spoon of incense in to the most prominent thing on the stage: A space-age looking stainless steel hospital bed pan type thing.

Guess what? No incense arose. For me,  not many prayers arising, either. Why can't they just use a thurible??? It's designed to make incense do its thing!  Instead, we have this dramatic thing, but it doesn't work. Ah well.

The music was a good effort by the choir of children. They actually used some traditional chant! They did a very good job. Unfortunately, it was ruined by things like a really cheap electric keyboard, and the handbell choir, which was a good effort, didn't seem to fit with the "mix."

Again, what with the multi-cultural expressions? It doesn't look like a terribly diverse crowd. Our response to the intercessions was that sung-response "Lord here our prayer" repeated ad nauseum in English, Latin, and Spanish. Again, the tinny keyboard ruined what wouldn't have otherwise been totally unbearable.

Before I get in to content, let's just point out that, after the night was over, there were AZTEC DANCERS who were meant to come and do a prayerful expression (by praying to the four directions, no less), and then process us down to the exhibit hall for refreshments. We stood there, trying to comprehend what kind of prayerful expressions these were, and how they spoke to the Genius of the Roman Rite (drums and all)... and then decided to go find that brew pub. I figure, those kind of spirits are much easier to handle than any spirits that might have been invoked upon us.

Okay. I'll stop now before I get too carried away, and get to actual content.

His Excellency, Bishop Wester, was given a topic: Liturgy and Justice. 

God bless him. He did a phenomenal job, and, I think, even though I have no idea what the intention was of the person who gave him this prompt, spoke to the deeper meaning of liturgy, and, I think, gave us a picture of what real Justice is. He spoke of how the Sacrifice of the Mass as divine justice is essentially justice par excellence. I think I could listen to him speak for the rest of the week!

Unfortunately, "the Main Act," Rev. Paul Turner, wasn't nearly as compelling.

Okay, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have no doubt that he has a love of God, the Church, and the Liturgy. He seems very sincere in his delivery, and very good at breaking down ideas to the practical for those who don't really know about liturgy.

The thing is, in order to talk about the new Missal, he used Eucharistic Prayer II as his main thread throughout the talk! I couldn't help but feel like an agenda was being foisted upon us, and if it wasn't, then my back was up the whole time so much that I probably missed out on some really great points to help practically implement the Missal.

He enunciated how EP II has become THE prayer of the Roman Rite, and the type by which the others can be understood by. He went through the history of the Apostolic Tradition, and talked about mystery, and how this might have been "the Roman Canon, " if it hadn't got lost. Thanks be to God for those folks of the Consilium who re-found it for us.

He neglects to mention that more recent scholarship doubts whether or not it was ever even used-- and the one in the Apostolic Tradition isn't even the prayer that we have at Mass today. He doesn't mention that some think it to be a compilation of various examples of Eucharistic Prayers. He simply says, "it was lost".

The complete lack of information about this prayer is one of many reasons why I think I would be dubious about it, even if I didn't know anything about it.

The question that remained unanswered in my mind was "Wait a second. The most holy prayer of the Mass, that is the type of every other eucharistic prayer, was simply lost? Surely, there's more to it. Surely there's a reason that the great Roman Canon, venerable in our Tradition for 1400+ years, and the only canon used in the Roman Rite for that time as well,  should be the primary one, if not for the fact that we just don't know anything about this alleged anaphora of Hippolytus (not to mention he was an anti-pope)."

Anyway, it seemed to end on the note of, "praise God for new prayers that can be used in new ways, even though they were made up completely by a committee of folks, and have very loose connections with the traditions of our apostolic faith, praise God for new prayers that we can make up, rather than be stewards of what we have received."

As I said, I genuinely think he was sincere, and really has a heart for helping implement the New Missal, but I can't help but think this is an opportunity to push an agenda on the Mass. Not what I need to be educated on to implement the New Missal. Whether he is complicit in that, I don't know. I know that the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome is full of the Consilium crowd, and that's where he received his education. Even still, I think I would really like the guy, and love to get into conversation about things if we were having a pint, rather than watching Aztec Dancers.

And for your reference, here's what the Sacred Congregation of Rites had to say about the Norms for which Eucharistic Prayers to be used.

I'd also point you to Fr. Cassian Folsom's article from Adoremus Bulletin, "From One Eucharistic Prayer to Many".

Needless to say, I'm not a true believer yet. But it is fun discussing these things with my colleagues. Say a prayer for me, please, that I survive the week. Today, we are off to the Cathedral of the Madeline. Apparently, they normally have beautiful liturgies-- I hope it isn't hijacked by committee.

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