Preaching on the 24th and last Sunday after Pentecost, St. Eugene Cathedral, Extraordinary Form Mass, 1:30pm November 26th, 2017, Santa Rosa CA
Et ídeo, cum Angelis et Archángelis, cum Thronis et Dominatiónibus, cumque omni milítia cæléstis exércitus, hymnum glóriæ tuæ cánimus sine fine dicéntes.
And so, with all the Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Power of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim.
This should give us some indication of what kind of sight we need to be able to participate in the liturgy. We need the eyes of faith. There is a Christian hip-hop artist, who if he is not a Catholic certainly should be: “You gave me the stars, put them out of reach, and called me to waters just a little too deep. I have never been so aware of my need. It’s out of my league.”
From the beginning sign of the cross to the final blessing we have been taken to the foot of the cross and placed in the very center of the Christian mystery. All the saints and the immense courts of angelic beings gather together around this altar, there is an angel there whose sole responsibility is to assist the priest with this immense mystery as it is clear he cannot do it by himself.
St. John Chrysostom states, “when Mass is being celebrated the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.” During the Mass when the priest turns toward the people, he turns toward the right, and then back to the altar by the left. At the Orate Frates, though, he makes a complete circle turn all the way to the right back to the altar, signifying in a small way that the door of heaven has been opened and now we are heading into the mystery which cannot be described with mere words and in fact descends into a holy silence.
Heaven is open; and we are in the presence of a great and awesome mystery.
So where is your mind? First of all, let me be honest. I know how difficult this is. Often I am left wondering what the h*** those ushers are doing back there! There is so much detail to our life, classes to teach, a sister who is sick, errands to run and people to call; and we brought all that with us. We bring everything to the Lord. But there must be a time to stop and let everything rest, and bask in the immense love of a Father who wants to come this close to us.
It’s out of our league, and this is why every moment is to be framed in prayer, and silence must reign in sacristies, and maybe even vestibules, so that we may regain the amazement that is so necessary to this celebration.
I was ordained in 1991. I was trained to celebrate the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. My professor made sure that we knew the rubrics because we would have to be able to break them intelligently. I am of the opinion that the Ordinary form of the Latin Rite is the normal form, common to all Catholic Churches. I am of the opinion that the Ordinary form, properly celebrated, would not necessitate the inclusion of the Extraordinary Form in normal parish life.
But that is the problem. Is there any parish in the United States where the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is properly celebrated? Is there any priest in the United States who has a reasonable knowledge of ars celbrandi who knows how to celebrate Mass in a manner consistent with the intent of the Universal Church? And if a priest learns to celebrate Mass in that manner, will he change because the poor parishioners feel they have been relegated to being bystanders and observers.
Dear Father, you are there to offer the Holy Sacrifice to the Almighty Father. It is not your job to connect emotionally with congregation. Your job is not to engage the children or young people or make them happy. Your job is not to evaluate the liturgy based on how it makes people feel.
One parishioner remarked that they enjoyed the liturgy because it was so personal. The Mass felt really intimate as he prayed the Eucharistic prayer in his own words.
I have been told that there is a rich diversity in the way liturgy is celebrated in the church and multiple expressions that are valid, and that limiting Charismatic abuses of the liturgy is more of a personal preference than church teaching. Continuing they accused me of removing the liturgy from the people and that to be traditional would deny the rich diversity of our Catholic Liturgical heritage.
This is why the Extraordinary Form must be made available. They Church must have a direct experience of what continuity with the ancient faith looks and sounds like. There is a very real and separate difference between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form. With the Extraordinary Form you are immersed in the mystery, “Te igitur, clementíssime Pater.” On the other hand the Ordinary form immerses you in the mundane, “What on earth are those ushers doing back there?”
In actual fact, there is very little difference between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form, both properly celebrated. When you celebrate both properly, there is a sense that makes it clear why a reform was desired. There are some things eliminated and a few added things.
Even though The Ordinary Form is the normal expression of Catholic worship, I will prefer the Extraordinary Form. In the Ordinary Form I am criticized for how I celebrate Mass. In the Extraordinary Form the criticism is that I celebrate it.
In the short term you will be criticized if you disappear into the Liturgy and make it all about Jesus and not about the local community. Do it anyway!
I am a decent musician. I can play a guitar, compose a tune, and lead a group in song. I am good teacher. I can put two words together, and people have told me that they enjoy hearing me speak about the faith. I am an adequate organizer. We went from one bus to seven busses going to the Walk for Life in just four years. I was a pastor for 18 years. I got a parish out of debt, established an adult faith formation program that drew people in from miles around, and made sure the liturgy was celebrated well and reverently with the best in sacred music. In many ways, in the ways of the world, I have been called recently a successful human being.
But all of that is going or is gone. Only Love lasts forever. I am only a successful human being if I love the Lord and seek to do only his will.
The most important thing I can do each day is celebrate Mass. And here I do not get to focus on what I am good at. I get to focus on my weakness, and in humility look to what the Lord has entrusted to my weakness, and that he considers me, in spite of my weakness, capable of acting in his person and in his name, he being fully present. My job is to get out of the way.
I think it was St. John Vianney who told me that if I knew what I was doing it would take my breath away.
So, I appreciate it when people tell me I am good at music. My ego gets puffed up a bit when I am told they like to hear me speak, or that I am a good leader. But I am a little sad when I hear people say to me that “that was the most reverent Mass I have ever been to.” I think it should be that way at every mass.
This is one of the reasons I appreciate the Extraordinary Form so much. First of all, I do not put a microphone on for the Extraordinary Form. The Microphone is the single greatest cause of the destruction of reverence in the liturgy. It turned everyone into a performer. The microphone helps in conforming to the standards of the modern entertainment culture. It makes my voice or song the important thing to listen to and accept.
In the Liturgy it is the Lord who acts. I am but the weak instrument he has chosen, to do his work in the frail human flesh he took on in his incarnation. In the extraordinary form I conform my body and spirit to the liturgy itself, there being no others options I may choose because of my own sensibilities. In the ordinary form there are so many options and the choice is generally about my thinking or feeling on that given day.
The Gospel Reading from Matthew for the 23rd Sunday after Penetcost
Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, preached by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes
Here is the gospel text:
And here is the Sermon on the text:
Do you know where you are? Do you have any idea what time it is? Anyway, forget about it. You see when we participate in the Sacred Mysteries we enter into an experience unencumbered by space and time. We are not repeating an event that happened many years ago, nor are we re-sacrificing the savior in some morbid ritual.
By our baptism we have been placed inside the trinity and in the liturgy we are present and participating in an action that encompasses the whole of our faith, from the incarnation to the Ascension. We have come to a place where this paschal mystery enters our time and we are present with the angels at the birth of Christ as we sing the Gloria in Excelsis. We are present at his arrest; and when the chalice is uncovered we are present when he is stripped of his garments. In the Extraordinary Form after the bread is offered the paten is hidden under the corporal as his glory is hidden as he is scourged and disfigured by the brutal treatment of the guards. The Consecration of the Bread and wine brings to our moment the death of the Savior at the separation of the body and blood. This is the one sacrifice at which the Divine Father shows his splendid countenance and which is offered for the sins of the world. It takes great faith to gaze at the host and see the broken body of the Lord, AND to refer to it as Divine Majesty.
Everything around me tells me I am in Santa Rosa at an early morning Mass with beautiful sisters, but my faith tells me I am completely outside the wonders of time and space and present at the Resurrection when the body and blood of Christ is mingled and Peace is offered.
In the extraordinary form this comes ever clearer in the many opportunities to bow before this wondrous mystery, bent down by the weight of greatness of what is in front of me and upon me.
In the modern parish, the many details of ministers and processes take over, not the least of which is the parking lot. “Get ‘em in and get ‘em out.” Liturgy by the clock is a great abuse. A recent Sunday, the Extraordinary Form Mass took two hours, including exposition, adoration, Consecration to the Sacred Heart and Benediction. Unfortunately that great beauty and devotion is impossible at the Ordinary Form Masses because the parking lot is what determines if even incense may be used.
Do you know where you are? Do you have any idea what time it is? Ask yourself these questions next time you are at Mass, and close your eyes and enter the mystery.
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.