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Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Joseph and the Liturgy

I've long had a deep devotion to St. Joseph, but I've never considered him in the context of Sacred Liturgy. Reginaldus at The New Theological Movement has posted a brilliant reflection on St. Joseph as a model for priests, especially with regard to the Mass.

The following is an excerpt from the post which struck me as especially astute (emphasis mine):

The need for manly devotion in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy


The feminization of the Holy Mass is a serious problem in the modern Church. It is not that the Liturgy must be utterly masculine, especially if this be understood in such a way as to exclude women from participating (remembering, of course, that the truest and most active participation is spiritual and internal). Nevertheless, there is a growing recognition of the fact that the sanctuary is becoming a place where men (and boys) are losing their manhood and becoming more like women – this may then have the odd counter-effect of making some women act like men, but that is a problem for another article.


What are some indications of this feminization of the Liturgy and, together with it, of the men (and boys) who serve at the Sacred Rites? Consider, for instance, the hyper-relational emphasis of the modern Liturgy (rather, of the Liturgy as it is often celebrated in modern times). The focus is all too often turned from sacrifice to salutation, from worship to welcome. Obviously, greeting and welcome have their proper place in the Liturgy, but adoration and sacrifice must not be ignored. This movement from offering adoration through sacrifice to greeting and welcome is certainly an indication of a movement from a masculine to a feminine perspective – not that all men want to offer sacrifice, nor that all women want to build community; but these are certainly underlying drives in each gender, respectively. Nor do we say that one is bad and the other good – it only need be emphasized that the male priest (and the altar boys) are very often pressured to deny the masculine sacrificial focus in order to accentuate a more feminine form of community-building. Indications of this would be the use of modern hymns and modern musical instruments, increased “commentary” and ad lib speaking, the placement of the altar closer to the nave, and (above all else) facing the people throughout the Liturgy.

I couldn't agree more! Please go on and read the rest so as to get the full context.

This section was especially striking to me because I've touched on this topic before and of course with my own growing understanding of sacred liturgy, it is one of the modern problems that absolutely makes me crazy when it comes up at deanery meetings and the like. All too often, it seems like the (generally female) laity "in charge" of various parishes are in favor of stripping beauty, making us "more like other faith traditions" and push female "participation" in various liturgical roles.

Sadly, instead of highlighting the proper gifts of women, it seems to turn well-meaning and faithful women in to puppets for those with an agenda of power and the result, which we witness every day, is the "feminization" Reginaldus describes.

The reality is that the Mass NEVER needed to be "feminized".

Certainly some abuses needed to be curtailed and some development needed to occur, as it has, organically throughout the centuries, but the average person never foresaw the destruction and the "wrath of woman" that has done so much damage to our sanctuaries, our architecture, our patrimony...and therefore our sacred liturgy.

The Church as Bride

The Liturgy is, quite literally, the face of the Church. When we speak to non-Catholics, they know us by the Mass we attend every Sunday, and maybe every day. I've known many people who have attended Catholic weddings, funerals, and that was their only real contact with Catholicism. When they look at a Catholic, they are less likely to see our beliefs, but recall vividly our liturgy.

(Never mind there shouldn't be that kind of disconnect - but there it is.)

The Church is already feminine - deeply, deeply feminine. The Church as a whole is the Bride of Christ, and Holy Communion, the consummation of that Holy and Eternal Marriage. In the Mass, the Bridegroom offers Himself as an immolation for His Bride, and the Bride approaches, open to receive Him and offer fully of herself in sacred union.

This is why many Cathedrals and other churches built in the traditional style have a canopy (Baldacchino) over the high altar; it represents this spousal relationship between God and His people.

Look around you in a beautiful parish:  there is stained glass full of symbolism pointing to the purity of the Saints, the sacrifices they made, colors representing universal understanding of things like martyrdom, betrayal, royalty, purity, chivalry...the list goes on. The light of the sun falling through the glass is an adornment upon the Bride, reflected through the jewels created by human hands for the Glory of God. The statues of Mary, Jesus and the Saints are breathtaking, often adorned with floral arrangements, and established within a parish to give proper significance to them in relation to the people, the parish, and the Church as a whole. These things point to eternity and speak volumes of the sensuality and intuitiveness proper to the nature of women.

The clothing worn by the priests and altar servers are made often by women - nuns who have given their lives to their Lord -Brides in the individual sense, with Him, laying their lives down in sacrifice proper to a spouse. The chausables from any time in history therefore have a woman's touch, a sense of beauty that both pleases the eye and guides one to meditate upon eternity.

Consider the architecture of a great Cathedral or beautiful Church, and compare it to the beauty of a woman, perhaps as described in the Song of Songs. People of many faiths, and none at all, visit Catholic Cathedrals, Basilicas, and Churches as tourists, in awe of the magnificence.  One cannot help, when entering these buildings, but to recognize the feminine nature of our ancient decor.

And then contrast it with the more "feminized" buildings, vestments, and "art" of the modern culture - and wonder if someone drank too much kool-aid and decided to take up the hobby of the destruction of beauty.

The Masculinity of the Priesthood

As Reginaldus discusses, St. Joseph is the epitome of masculine worship. He is a protector, he knows about sacrifice, suffering, and in all that, was a compliment to his spouse and a father to Our Lord.

The nature of the priesthood is both one of service and sacrifice. There is a hard practicality to that sacred Vocation which is informed by the feminine nature of the Church as a whole, yet reinforced with a solid foundation so as to stand as a bulwark against the winds that try to buffet her about.

The Church needs BOTH of these natures, the masculine and feminine, in order to bear fruit, and do so abundantly.

The disorder we've been both witness to and suffered from in the last 50 years or so has confused the nature of the liturgy and has caused great divisions among the faithful. I truly believe that this is one of the reasons John Paul II wrote the Theology of the Body, and that this series of Wednesday Audiences was the harbringer of Pope Benedict XVI's liturgical reforms.

I have no solutions to offer, but post this only as an observation. I don't speak for any particular faction within the Church, but only as a faithful Catholic woman who has found freedom in the privilege of being a woman through understanding the true nature of the Church and her relationship to her head, the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

St. Joseph...pray for us

8 comments:

Reginaldus said...

Adoro, Your reference to the feminine Church by way of the veil is most interesting!
Yes, the veil (baldacchino) over the altar; and the dome of the Church is itself a sort of veil over all the people ...
I recall your comments on your profile page: "Lionesses have no manes. How do they know when they've grown up? They wear veils at Mass and kneel during the Consecration."

Cordelia over at the blog Catholic Phoenix had a good article once on wearing the veil at Mass ... something like "Mantillas are making a comeback"...

No doubt, the feminine heart will help many young men to realize their masculine heart.
Peace to you! +

Adoro said...

Reginaldus ~ Oh, of course, the dome, too!

Veils indeed are making a comeback, although one that still fluctuates. I began wearing a mantilla several years ago, and while some of my friends also did then, they aren't doing so any longer. Yet I continue to see more and more women veiling, whether a small chapel cap or even a much longer type of veil.

I should note that my home parish is not one that offers the EF and we rarely hear Latin, yet we do have a perpetual adoration chapel and one is likely to encounter a veiled woman at prayer there.

A few years ago I wrote a piece on why I veil, and while some of my reasons have changed a bit over the years, it's a post that still gets a lot of hits. I should really update it a bit!

David Meyer said...

When I was an anti Catholic Protestant, i went to see Messiah in the Cathedral of St. Paul. I was sooooo jealous! At the time (2004 or 5) I thought that Catholics still had mass in latin, kneeled to receive communion, and the Priest faced east and such. Now that I am a Catholic, I am constantly amazed at the willingness of Catholics to sell their "birthright". Altar girls, hippies with guitars in the mass, no veiling, all these things are "feminine" in a vague emotionalistic way, but really they are almost feminist. It is more of a breaking down of the beauty of BOTH genders. Women (and girls) need to get off the altar (yes even extraordinary "ministers" of communion) and get back in the pew with a veil on! Then they can be the flowers of femininity they were made to be and the men can be masculine. Between bad music and women running around handing Jesus out, many masses look like they are being performed in emergency conditions on a desert island or sinking ship or something. Everyone knows that social situations do not need to try to be feminine. Feminine is the "default"! Getting men involved and making things more masculine should be the goal. The feminine will ALWAYS be there loud and clear, but with men involved also, the "LOUD" and clear of that femininity will become pure beautiful music.

And these rules need to come from up top from the Papa. How can I expect my wife to be the only women among 300 to wear a mantilla? I wouldn’t want to if I were her. It needs to be an all or nothing thing so people don't feel like they are sitting at the "front of the bus". Bless you for your courage to stand out Adoro.

Adoro said...

David ~ those rules ARE already in place, but unfortunately, they're being ignored.

A lot of the damage you see is the result of a publication published by the USCCB, but done by a committe with NO authority of the Bishops. It's simply a book like any other, but it was taken as gospel. You might have heard of it: "Art and Environment in Catholic Worship." It has absolutely zero authority but it's been a massively destructive force.

The documents that uphold art, music, and what has always been beautiful, universally, in all times, include but are not limitd to Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II docuemnt on Sacred Liturgy, the Code of Canon Law, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, several Instructions, Decrees, Motu Proprios, etc.

Unfortunately, these things have been ignored. It's getting better, but slowly.

And, unfortunately, there are a lot of people "in charge" who have been educated by hogwash and not in our actual Faith and patrimony - as you put it, our birthright.

We, the laity, need to make a stink about ugliness and find ways to make it better. Such as...by commissioning art. REAL art!

David Meyer said...

Yeah but are their rules for altar girls, mantillas, recieving on the tongue, etc? These things seem to get skated over with lots of "care taken" to not offend. They would be easy to change with the stroke of a pen by a bishop even wouldnt they? Let alone something more official in Rome. If I am not mistaken, the bishop of "Smallville" USA could just forbid or force these rules couldnt he? I know I would.

The current Pope will not give someone communion in the hand. He simply will not do it. Could he not universalize even this one small thing?

Adoro said...

David ~ Actually, yes there are rules.

Regarding altar girls, they are supposed to be utilized only when there are not enough boys. That was even clarified (a duda sent on the code that permitted it and the rescript stating it was supposed to be rare or, best case, never.). Yes, that is being roundly ignored, as well as the law regarding the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion - way way abused.

Communion in the hand or the tongue is permitted, and yes, the law would have to be changed on that, but the local Bishop does not have the authority to simply do so on his own. With the laws already in existence regarding altar girls and EMHC's, he does have the authority to quash the abuses.

However, he must also tread carefully, as a Pastor of souls. I work in a Church and have learned well that people do not react well to change. It can do spiritual harm to change things too quickly.

I believe, actually, that the New Translation coming down is going to be very helpful in this regard and help bring this big ship around again.

As far as making the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue only, I believe our Holy Father is working towards that direction. And in fact, anyone CAN receive on the tongue and must not be refused, however, a priest in his parish has the authority to offer communion only on the tongue *unless there is some reason not to do so in individual cases - discretion is key here. :-)

Try not to get too worked up over these abuses - instead, see it as a suffering to offer up, offer your own reverence as an example to others and believe me, they will follow especially if they understand why you do it. We the laity have the power to enact change through example, which also includes charity, and, with the advice of the Saints, to assume the best of others. We have a whole host of Catholics who literally don't know any better. And when they're told something different, espcially by someone they don't recognize as "an authority" they get defensive and angry VERY quickly.

People and fallen natures - the Church would be wonderful if it weren't for all the people in it!

David Meyer said...

Great comment. very wise. I am just so used to being the "emperor" in my house (with a wonderfull stabalizing queen of course) that I want abuse in the Church to be fixed immediately, like they can be at home.

"If you don't say please, you don't get dinner.." type of thing. Very simple. I suppose 1.2 billion people are a little harder to just immediately change. Like herding cats. ;-)

Adoro said...

LOL! Oh, you have no idea.... !