Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014! (and my experience at Midnight Mass)

Merry Christmas 2014 to you and yours!

Hey everyone, sorry I haven't been writing as much as before. Hopefully that'll improve.

Tomorrow I will be going to "midnight" Mass at the hospital. They have Mass there every day, but for the eve of Christ's Birth, it's a bigger event. But compared to other services in the city, it's going to probably be the smallest.

I find sometimes the Midnight Mass at my local church to be something of a "show". They have a huge choir that seems to be the center of attention. The priest usually gives a very cheery, Christmassy homily. The people in the congregation are overly touchy feely. Right before Mass actually begins there is a lot of chit-chat. For many, this continues throughout the service.

During the night, I see people whom I've never seen before. You can always spot reluctant teenagers who are only there because of some kind of threat.

Because so many of the parishioners never go throughout hte year, they are not familiar with proper etiquette. For example, there is applauding at some of the choir songs. But this is not completely the fault of those in the pews. Much, or most, of the blame goes to the choir itself. Inevitably, the choir decides to have a solo performance following communion. Normally everyone has already received communion by this point and really the priest should be concluding the Mass.

But instead, once everyone has taken their seat again, you'll hear the piano begin to play Ave Maria or O Holy Night. I do a mental facepalm and wait while the soloist performs his or her dramatic piece. Once it's over, there is silence.

This part is crucial. During this silence, the priest should quickly react by starting the ending prayers. But of course he doesn't. Instead, nothing happens. It is now beyond the point of no return. Applause is inevitable. First a few people will start to clap, as if we are at a concert, and then, as is customary in a recital hall, everyone else will join in. I just sit there cringing.

Some people ask why I'm so negative and possibly mean-spirited. But they misunderstand. I would simply ask what the Mass IS. Is the Mass a gathering of the community to hear pleasant things about Christmas and to listen to some nice holiday music? No. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. We are transported through time and space to Calvary where Jesus gave his life for our sins.

Any music or reading or anything else any human does during this sacred event is only to highlight the life and death of Jesus Christ. Therefore applauding the singer, or the choir, or any other human is missing the point altogether of the liturgy. This is not a concern, it's not a form of entertainment. Applause is the recognition of a human accomplishment. During Mass, it represents a misunderstanding of the purpose and meaning of the Mass.

Bottom line: I will be going to a smaller service in the hospital. Hopefully it will stay true to the real meaning of Christmas.


  1. Although you are correct that applause doesn't have a place in Mass, your judgement lacks credibility because you imply or state that silence & a reflection hymn after the Eucharist isn't appropriate, which frankly is your opinion and is wrong. So I ask, why is your opinion "right" while others opinion that clapping is "right" wrong?

    Perhaps if you looked at the Roman Missal and read about the place of silence in the Liturgy and why a Reflection hymn is welcomed and encouraged your argument regarding clapping could carry a little more weight.

    I also find it quite disconcerting that you seem to bemoan that there are people at Mass who rarely attend. These are blessed moments of evangelization, and even if one of those people decides to return the following Sunday, then I think the Lord smiles upon that.

    I will remember you in my prayers today.

  2. @Anonymous

    Actually,the only music moment that is entirely prescribed by the rubrics is the Communion Proper (antiphon/chant). You will find no other text for a Communion antiphon listed in the Missal other than the Communion Proper text.

    There is, correctly speaking, no such thing as a "reflection hymn". And, technically speaking, the Roman Rite does not have a "recessional hymn" either. The Mass ends at the dismissal. A closing procession is actually "outside" the Mass. It is, therefore, also not absolutely necessary that we sing a closing hymn. A hymn MAY be sung, even encouraged, but rubrically speaking, the closing hymn is merely tacked on to accompany the procession which is, as stated, outside the Mass.

    [GIRM 86—The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.[74] If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. (The point here is that singing should not exceed the duration of the action of the reception of Holy Communion. There is not to be an extended performance which distends the Communion Rite and tramples on primary liturgical action.)

    GIRM 87b—If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon found in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful. (This rubric is followed precisely at our University of Victoria daily Mass.)

    88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. (Silence!) If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.] (Note the keyword: may, NOT must. There is no rubric which demands a hymn must be sung.)

    A post-communion chant is permitted, but never has there been a chant that should supersede nor follow the prescribed Communion Proper. If one examines the Roman Graduale, one of the official (and oft ignored) compendia of Mass chants, you will not find a post-communion chant. The Communion Proper may have several psalm verses to extend the Proper chant until the Communion Rite is complete. A choral or instrumental anthem (or musical offering) MAY follow but, as the host of this blog is correct to point out, Communion is hardly the time to present a "performance" that shifts the focus away from Communion.

    So then, ANONYMOUS, your criticism of the author of this blog is misplaced and tends to perpetuate inaccurate or incomplete information that has plagued the Mass for nearly five decades. The Roman Mass actually has a lot more prescribed silences in it than most people realize. One of those periods of silence is, as noted above, the time following Communion. That a hymn MAY be sung is not a rubric to IMPOSE a song on the Communion Rite.

    Lastly, with regards to applause, the blog author is in complete agreement with the authoritative opinion expressed by Benedict XVI, which is: “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. ” (Spirit of the Liturgy p. 198)

    —Catholic Sacristan (Wendell)