Pastor’s Corner – February 22, 2015

with Fr. James

Distraction at Mass, Part 2:
Explanation & Self-Reference

Consider the words Irénée-Henri Dalmais, O.P. wrote in his 1967 The Liturgy as Celebration of the Mystery of Salvation:
Liturgy belongs in the order of doing…not knowing. Logical thought cannot get far with it; liturgical actions yield their intelligibility in their performance, and this performance takes place at the level of sensible realities, not as exclusively material, but as vehicles of overtones capable of awakening the mind and heart to acceptance of realities belonging to a different order.

There are occasions in the Mass when the Celebrant may helpfully provide a brief explanatory intervention. But this should be done seldom and with great prudence. That is because, in Dalmais’ turn of phrase, it diverts our attention from the order of doing (worship) to the order of knowing – logical thought.

Similarly with self-reference in the Mass. When we add self-conscious language to the Mass, we are also detracting from our experience and action of worship and turning instead to thought about our worship. A simple example of self-reference: There’s a setting of the Great Amen that says “We sing Amen”. In this way we point out our act of singing Amen.

C. S. Lewis in his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed” noted that we cannot look at a sunbeam and look up along the sunbeam at the same time. The act of worship is like sticking our head in the light and seeing the sun. Turning our attention to the fact that we are worshiping is like looking at the light, rather than with it. And that’s a distraction.

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