Monday, July 12, 2010

Theatricality.


Before I get to the meat of this post, let me explain why I haven't been posting much. At first there was the end of the school year stuff. Then there was getting ready for and going on my trip to Annapolis. Then catching up from the trip. Add to this getting ill a couple of times. On top of all of this, most of the stuff I was pondering (no Pinky, not taking over the world) were things that I cannot publicly discuss. (Nothing bad, just confidential things.) Anyway, as Sam said to Rosie, I am back.

The other day at coffee following morning Mass, the topic of theatricality during Mass, especially during homilies, came up. To be quite honest (as a long time readers could no doubt guess), everything else being equal I don't like it. Worship isn't about entertainment or expressing ourselves. It isn't about us. It is about God, what He has, is, and will do for us. It is about the Gospel. I guess this is my fundamental objection to using mime, theater, or artsy-fartsy stuff at church especially during Mass. It becomes a performance. Look at me, look at us, and not behold your God. This is the fundamental flaw of modern liturgical praxis, it encourages showmanship: a personal connection with the people. There should be a personal connection but not between the celebrant, homilies, musicians, etc... and the people. But between Christ and the people. This is why more and more I am convinced that ad orietem isn't just a nice idea, but essential. The Lord must be allowed to work in the liturgy without us getting in the way.

And get in the way we do. During our coffee talk, many examples of theatrically were brought up. The funny thing was that while people could remember the cute gimmick, no one could remember what, if any, point was trying to be conveyed. My personal opinion is that most of the time the gimmick becomes and end in itself. A story is told in the homily because the homilist thinks he is supposed to tell a story. I know a priest that tells a joke during every homily, no matter whether or not it has any bearing on the topic. Ultimately, I think stuff like this betrays a desire for personal acclaim. This doesn't mean that this and other tricks can't be used occasionally and very effectively (with the exception of mimes, clowns, and puppets, giant or otherwise, that have absolutely no place in the liturgy: period.) But before they are used, those using them should be absolutely certain that they convey and don't obstruct the message. Think of Bishop Sheen or Father Corapi. Every story conveys the message and even if it is a personal story it isn't about them, it is about the Gospel.

So ultimately, my advice is get over yourself and get into Jesus.
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