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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Something mediocre for God.

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

--Some guy. [Cite here.]

I think of that passage from the Sermon on the Mount whenever I'm confronted with a certain suburban piety that manifests itself in a deliberate celebration of less-than.

For example: from the very first time I visited our parish (which, for all of its foibles, I love) as a baffled lapsed Methodist in the company of my future bride, the chalices and patens used for communion were of some kind of earthtone ceramic/stoneware construction. I didn't think much of it. They weren't tacky--in fact, they weren't particularly noticeable at all. They just were. After my conversion, I had a brief stint as an Extraordinary Minister (put on hold with the arrival of the offspring). I paid a little more attention then, but for the most part I was too worried about spilling the Blood of the Redeemer to give the cup itself much thought.

But with the Great Boom Lowering that followed in the wake of the 2005 GIRM, suddenly gold--as in the real deal--materialized on the altar.

No, Father and the Liturgy Committee didn't make an emergency run to Soboslay's Catholic Supply House to get the necessary gear.

It had always been there--locked away in storage.

At some point, our reasonably well-off parish had decided to ditch the gold for something more "modest."

I'm sure it was well-intentioned, but at its root it is false witness. The cars in the parking lot sure don't scream "stoneware" parish. If you have the resources, why not offer the best? Otherwise you're effectively lining up with the Pharisees to smear a little more dirt on the face (try under the eyes--makes you look more tired).

I was thinking of this after I saw a smug and viciously destructive manifestation of this reported by Rich Leonardi.

A new organ was purchased, a new sound system put in, the marble altar was demolished and replaced by a smaller, round wooden altar, the new tabernacle was put in a special place on the side with a canopy and pillars separate it from the main church. New carpeting was installed, the configuration of the pews was altered, a step was removed from the Sanctuary and some of the lighting enhanced.

Demolishing--not just removing, but destroying--the larger marble altar and replacing it with a smaller wood table. Lovely. More modest, horizontal and home-y, no doubt. But the best they could do for the locus of the Holy Sacrifice? Much doubt.

Telling. And tragic.

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