Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reception as a form of knowing

Pertinacious Papist continues his examination of life pre- and post-Vatican II with a very interesting and accurate look at the reality of the missing reverence of modern days. I can't yet share in his quoted Mosebach's personal distaste for receiving in the hand, but I do recognize much of what he says as thoughts that have run through my head as well. It was how I was brought into the Church and frankly has been the subject of much consternation and internal debate for me. There is something less-than-reverent that I see with many people who receive in the hand but there are also those who receive well this way which keep me from making a blanket statement.

Every time I think I've had it watching person after person turning away from the host before it is even placed in their hand or snatching it from the hand of the priest, deacon or EMHC along will come someone who receives Jesus in their hand as if being handed a newborn baby and coddles it with all the care they can muster. Certainly as well there are those who receive on the tongue without even a modicum of reverence, although my personal experience is rather limited since the great majority I see these days receive in the hand. But the good doctor correctly reminds us that liturgical deformation is not purely about hand-vs-tongue reception:

The new outlook sees all the fastidious formulas, prescriptions and proscriptions of the old Mass as representing a flight away from actuality. It wants to simplify things, demystify things, demythologize things and get to the essence of things. However, in doing so, it misses the counter-intuitive insight that the shoe is actually on the other foot: all of these external forms, in fact, facilitate our advance towards actuality and usher us into the precincts of the Real Presence of the Person of Christ Himself.
Indeed, the question is not about what acts are done nor about in which exact way they are done. If one follows, to steal from St. Paul, all the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Ancient Mass but does so without love, the altar bells may as well be a clanging cymbal. We all, collectively, must come to a deeper and more personal understanding of just what it is that's going on "up there". Then the question of reception, of genuflection, of physical orientation will be discussed in a manner worthy of Him whom they consider. When we all come to realize the intent of those prescriptions and proscriptions, to see their liberating rather than oppressing purpose, then we will see that reform of the reform.

The great beauty of the Ancient Mass is that it is "prayed" rather than "participated", "celebrated" rather than "presided". At the same time, those properties need not be the exclusive purview of that Mass but rather must become central to the liturgical celebration of Mass throughout the Church, regardless of rite or country, priest or congregation. I pray that day comes soon.

Personal aside: I think I'm in the same position as Rich Leonardi only a short time ago - knowing what probably needs to be done, but in the awkward position of knowing (or, at least, thinking) some will sneer in condescension at my supposed act of superiority. And the last time I walked up to receive on the tongue, the host was almost placed in my breast pocket by a priest who hadn't even looked up from the ciborium. After that embarassment to both the priest and myself I lost a bit of the nerve to be one of the handful in my parish who receive on the tongue. So in the interim, I carefully and lightly moisten my finger tips which held the host and carefully wipe my palm into which it was placed, waiting for the day when my courage to counter that culture returns.