Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent, The Cathedral of St. Eugene, Santa Rosa, 1:30pm Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Sometimes it seems that the Ordinary Form of the Mass depends solely on the priest; on his presence and ability, on his personality and friendliness. He is the only one in the significant vestments, and even if there is a deacon, the priest is the one directing the show. This can even be true in the Extraordinary Form in a Missa Cantata, whereby the priest does everything including chanting the epistle and the Gospel.
Several years ago, I was unjustly accused by some of removing the people from the liturgy, of limiting their involvement, of not working with them to achieve common goals, and of not allowing for opportunities for collaboration. They even went so far as to say that I acted as if the liturgy were my own possession. One could tell that they struggled to make their accusations intelligible. They said they had high regard for me as a priest but were frustrated by my style of administration.
Some of these thoughts have been recurring in recent days, as deacons and installed acolytes have taken on the task of learning their roles as Deacon and Subdeacon in the Extraordinary Form Solemn High Mass.
In the Extraordinary Form, it would be a physical and spiritual impossibility to remove the people. Their involvement is vastly superior to those parishioners of old as they know where they are and how to offer themselves and their daily trials here at the foot of the Cross. And now we have a common goal, the worship of God and the salvation of our souls. Opportunities for collaboration abound as the Solemn High Mass is definitely a corporate act with the sacred ministers moving in unison and harmony. It is impossible for the priest’s personality to even make an entrance, and thus the Mass could never be seen as part of his own possessions.
I am a priest trained in the Ordinary Form who learned to love the Extraordinary Form in the third decade of my participation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Now, in the year just past my silver jubilee, I am preparing to participate in a Solemn High Mass, which is becoming a regular feature here at the Cathedral. In the Solemn High Mass, I clearly do not do everything myself. There are other sacred ministers with whom I move as one in the worship of God. Much of the time, I simply have to wait and be still. This waiting time is an opportunity for some silent prayer. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass provides myriad times for silent, personal prayer.
The Solemn High Mass is the Church in action together. The Faith is fully present in each part and it belongs to no one individual, but rather it belongs as a work of the whole. Everyone has his own role and each inserts himself in that role with faith and determination.
For those suffering persecution or criticism: If my life is any indication of how the Lord works, don’t let this get you down. Move on! The Lord has more in mind for you and even the criticisms will be proven wrong in the new life. We are a corporate work here. The Body of Christ has become visible and active. It is time for the Lord to do His thing.
Omnia Christus Est Nobis
Christ is everything for us!
I am a Roman Catholic Priest from California. I spent 13 wonderful years years as a member of the Province of the Pacific in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The outline of my life can be traced here.