Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Posture In the Presence
The no-kneeling fuss in Orange County, California has made its predictable rounds in the blogosphere. A few otherwise loyal and obedient Catholics are somewhat dreaming of being Californians just so they can defy one or two bishops there. (Is it a coincidence these guys each have a frequently misspelled name?) My regular readers will know that not only do a have a thing for proper spelling (it being a sign of education, and in the case of people's names, a sign of attentive respect) but I also have little patience for misplaced authoritarianism (be it from a bureaucracy Roman, dicoesan, conservative, liberal, or otherwise). I've been known to do more than dream of diobedience in my day. One sensible Catholic comments at NLM: I prefer to kneel at this point, but I must admit that I don't understand why we stand in between the "Amen" and the "Agnus Dei". The above surely cannot be the reason, because Jesus didn't go away after the consecration was over and then come back after the Agnus Dei... So, is there a reasoning behind why we stand up and then kneel again? Is it arbitrary? It's a great question. Let me suggest that kneeling at Mass might just be more about the relationship between lay people and their clergy than it is about the reverence of human beings for God. Naturally, the chasuble-blind* in the curia have demonstrated their intent on underscoring the differences between the ordained and the non-ordained at every turn. No wonder that a literal reading of the GIRM generates a sniff in the CDWDS if it thwarts that agenda. Here's another thought ... Our parish men's group reflected on Matthew 25 this morning, and here are verses 31-40, which you all know: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Here's my question to add to Jane's: Jesus couldn't have been more explicit in Matthew 25 unless he wanted to inspire John 6, yet how often does the stated concern for reverence (except during the Lord's Prayer and the Lamb of God) extend to the Lord's explicit hellfire-and-damnation-consequences for those who are unwilling or unable to recognize the call to serve the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the convict? Again, I think the alteration of kneeling patterns is a silly thing. At worst, not only is it impolite, but it gives people, bishops, liberals, conservatives, and rebels alike a ready excuse for not confronting the harder issues of love, service, and charity. Heck, if the churchy folks are descending into disrespect so easily, I feel badly for the hungry, the thirsty, and the needy: how far down the list are they? When asked by the person what would happen if Jesus, flesh, blood, and bone appeared in person on an altar in church. I wasn't kidding when I said some religious people wouldn't recognize him at all, and would insist he get down from there. We don't need the Lord to appear to us in the flesh. That time is past and gone. We have John 6 to remind us about the Eucharist. We have Matthew 25 to remind us about caritas et amor. The theoretical what-if-Jesus-were-there-in-front-of-you is just a diversion. But maybe you have another thought. *"The difference between the clergy and lay people is getting blurry. We need to remind people that dressing differently at Mass and leading the people in prayer isn't enough to cut through all the confusion."

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