Pastor’s Corner – February 15, 2015

with Fr. James

Distraction at Mass, Part 2:
Distractions of Creativity

The general direction of this series on Distraction at Mass will be from the more abstract to the more specific. Surely the topic of “creativity” is suitably abstract.

New & Improved. But why consider creativity to be a source of distraction at Mass? Surely we do not want Mass to become so static and stale that absolutely every word and gesture is 100% predictable. Of course not. However, in our consumerist American culture we place a high value on variety, options, and “new and improved” products to alleviate boredom.

We tend to bring these same sensibilities into our liturgical planning and expectations. At the extreme, we can make a virtue out of creativity simply for variety’s sake.

Nature of Ritual. When we participate in Mass, however, we are engaging in formal, ritual worship. This particular ritual event follows a pattern set down in the first century A.D. The primary method of its preservation was continual repetition handed on from generation to generation. For a ritual even to be a ritual, its primary mark is that it is a repetition of what happened before. Rites evidence a high value placed on having an unchanging core of meaning and action.

On the other hand, a degree of intentional creativity and adaptation is necessary for the viability of a sacred ritual over time. Contrary to the historicist fallacy about some golden age where the liturgy was perfect and later developments are always corruptions, change over time is also necessary for the long-term survival of Christian rites.

But when creativity in liturgy is sought for its own sake, then it is a major distraction. One of the reasons that so-called liturgical dance has not had staying power is because it is not a valid development of the tradition, but has all the markings of creativity for creativity’s sake.

The Balance. There is a fine balance to be found here. But if we keep in mind the nature of ritual itself, as well as the focus of the Mass as the worship of God for the purpose forming Christ within us, a measured degree of creative enhancement can lead us into deeper worship rather that distraction.

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