Visited my blogsister Roz this weekend and attended a charismatic Catholic Church. This is the second time I've been there, and I'm still trying to figure out (1) what makes it feel so right, (2) what my place in that style of worship is and (3) what it portends for the whole Catholic Church.
Catholic charismatic Masses at this parish, and I fervently hope everywhere, are exactly orthodox: no foolin' around with the Order or the intent of Mass. We are there to participate in the once-for-all, ever-present Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We join Jesus, outside of time as God is, in the Upper Room, on Calvary and at the empty Tomb. We are given God's Life in the Body and Blood of our Lord. According to Roz, it is the charismatic congregation's openly-expressed love of the Lord that makes them very careful to keep the Mass as it should be and not stray off into irrelevancies. They don't need to make Mass "more meaningful;" by being deep in their charismatic prayer life, they find all the meaning that was already there!
The outward actions are very much those of a reverent, decently-catechized group of people. Actions are devout, the reading of the Word is measured and thoughtful, the homilies both careful in teaching and passionate in leading. The songs are chosen to reflect our desire to live in His Will and participate in His Joy. The Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Offertory and the Consecration, is done according to the rubrics, but fueled by visible joy, serenity and love. Most other ordinary parish Masses pale in comparison; my own parish seems rushed and casual. (I must say right here that I know that my parish Masses are too done sincerely, and at times, wonderful joy and reverence is explicit. I have been to weekday morning Masses that truly approached Heaven on earth. Since it's the Truth no matter how it's done, I am not alarmed by the differences, but only yearn for the greatest expression possible of gratitude for the Gift of His Body and Blood.)
The additions, for those of you who have not participated in a charismatic Mass, are not additions per se but extensions. They do not replace or dominate any of the normal parts of Mass. Instead of the expected singing of the Gloria and then getting right on with the prayer before the reading of Scripture, the singing winds down into a short time of "expressive prayer," that is, the music continues underneath a flowering of the end of the required prayer into anything anyone wants it to be. My pew neighbors sang again any of the lines of the Gloria: "We worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for your glory!" Or they praised Jesus in spontaneous words of praise and thanks. Or they didn't, and just remained standing in prayer. (Me, I mostly shut my eyes and remained both listening and preoccupied with my own prayer.)
Many of the congregational prayers, like the Sanctus, were accompanied by raised hands. If you made a silent movie of those moments, you wouldn't be able to distinguish the prayer styles from any Protestant prayer service: upraised hands, swaying, closed eyes, beautiful smiles. I've just realized in review that that style of prayer only occurs while the congregation is on their feet: there is no hand-raising while kneeling, which seems just perfectly right. (Me, I shut my eyes, peeking a little, and remained both listening and preoccupied with my own prayer.)
After Communion, the songs became music to underpin and make beautiful the time of thanksgiving and praise. The various voices rose and fell, thanking the Lord for the gift of His Sacrifice, His Body and Blood, His Goodness. People rose from their kneeling meditation as they chose to, and spent some time in audible thanksgiving. (Me, well, you got the pattern by now...)
The first time I attended, last year, I was so surprised by the combination of the ancient reverence I exult in and the open demonstration of how people really felt about their Lord and Savior, I cried through the whole thing. After Mass, as I was being introduced to friends in the vestibule, people noted my red eyes and nose (when WILL I learn to cry pretty?) but my friends said simply "Oh, it's the Spirit" and that was that. These people expect to see tears and emotion. I was undone by the mixture of holy boldness and aching care to keep to universal worship, to join our Mass with the Mass being celebrated at all times at all places in the world.
At about the time I visited this parish, I had been in a long time of praying "Come, Holy Spirit, but make it a glancing blow. I'm afraid of what You'll want me to do!" This year, I have become more accustomed to submission to His Will and could pray "Come, Holy Spirit, inflame my heart and I want to love You as You should be loved. If that means a little extempore praying, well, so be it and thank You." But nothing "happened." I didn't pray aloud; I didn't even raise my hands (at least, I don't think so). Interestingly, after we got home much later, I found myself wandering around the backyard in deep prayerful conversation with the Lord over a specific issue in my life, without deliberate intent.
It is easy, so easy to compare myself to others in any group I'm in. We all do it constantly; we are social beings. I had to keep fighting off the urge to feel "left out" because I didn't "feel" the Holy Spirit. I wanted to honor the Lord with the prayer not only of my spirit but of my body, and it didn't happen as it happened to the others in the church. I was of course comforted and fed by the Eucharist, so this worry was only secondary, but I actually needed a little reassurance that the Holy Spirit seemed to be active in my life. I know by faith, formed by the constant teaching of the Church, that I received the Holy Spirit expressly at Baptism and again at Confirmation, and of course in a constant flow of grace both sacramentally and during prayer in every moment of my life. But I wanted to be JUST LIKE the people I'd seen around me at Mass, overgeneralizing everyone in the pews as perfectly conformed in the Spirit and audibly rejoicing in His gifts.
I wonder how Protestants in expressive praise traditions do it every week. Are they so disciplined and developed in their prayer that they can pray in tongues at 10:15 am every Sunday, but then don't burst out with it while they're going through the car wash on Tuesday? Do they feel let down if expressive prayer doesn't come from them one week, and get tempted to worry that they have offended the Lord or become lax in their worship? Is someone who is habitually silent among expressive worshipers eventually feel frozen out or isolated? Do other people judge them by whether they seem to be "in the Spirit" or not? Do they feel able to rely on "faith alone" to know that they are right with their Father, if they feel dry and unable to join in with the rest of the congregation? Without the central jewel of the Eucharist in their worship services, are they "measuring" the truth of their worship by the flow of their participation in expressive prayer, and losing faith if they cannot match the general level of praise?
What does the charismatic movement bode for the whole Church? I think that it's a good thing. It is certainly a powerhouse for church growth and vocations and service work, astoundingly fruitful. I'd like to link to an excellent post and comments here that say much better than I could what this movement means. I can't add to it, except to say that, as long as this style of worship is not a divergence from right practice, that people do not divide themselves by it, that it is an expression of holy desire that shakes me to my foundations and can be a powerful way of opening me to the unending and overpowering love the Lord has for me. Its power and beauty reassures me that "eye has never seen, ear has never heard, nor has it dawned on the mind, what God has surely prepared for those who love Him."
Dripping Deep and Trivial
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