Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Piano During Mass

Today I was saying Mass at a Veteran's home for the Catholic residents there, and 10 minutes before Mass was over, someone in the dining hall outside the chapel started playing a piano. Not, lightly playing a quiet tune; no. It sounded like the pianist was physically banging on the keys as loud as possible (being someone who likes to play piano, I am sure that it is going to need a tuning, and probably some repairs after that). The "music session" that they have out there is scheduled to wait until 10:00am when we are done, for the very reason of making sure that they do not disturb the Mass.

Now, this is not a complaint about the mistake that was made in their timing. I can let that go; the Vet's home is not a Catholic institution so I do not expect them to understand Catholic priorities. This is a recognition of the enormous disconnect that was being experienced there. In one room, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is going on. Fifteen Catholics are present before the (temporary) altar preparing to receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Creator and Redeemer of the Universe. While 15 feet outside the door to the chapel some "dance hall" style ragtime tune was being pounded out.

A few of the residents rolled their eyes; most of whom are old enough to remember when there was only the Traditional Mass in Latin. It was the look on one face that stood out to me. It was not a look of anger, or resentment (though I could have understood if  it had been). No, rather, it was a look of "they just don't get it, do they?" That is really the point. The world, "just doesn't get it" when it comes to the Mass. Some think of it as a "support group" session (this was spoken to me personally once); some think it is a worship service, just like any protestant group would have; some think of it as "smells and bells" and are just confused by it. Few, however, realize that it is the re-presentation of the same Sacrifice that occurred on Calvary 2000 years ago.

It is not just a memorializing of that Sacrifice, as though it were a trip down memory lane. It is also not like a "replay" of that event. It is the "traveling through time" of the actual Sacrifice brought here to the present. In that event of Jesus' offering Himself up to God, He is also being offered to us so that we may partake of all the benefits. As someone who did not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament once said, "if I believed that was actually divine body and blood, I would crawl hands and knees on broken glass to partake of that just once." If we really grasped what we are taking part in when we are in the Mass, we would be changed forever. The tiniest crumb of the divine flesh of Christ has more eternal significance than anything we can imagine.

I recall years ago someone mentioning to me how moved he was when I was doing the ablutions after Mass (the cleaning of the vessels used for communion). He said "every single crumb has to be accounted for, and that is awe-inspiring". This should be in our minds in every Mass and for us to think of the ablutions and just "cleaning up" misses the point completely. Another person once complained about a Bishop doing the ablutions after Mass and said "washing dishes is not part of the liturgy" (insert very heavy sigh here); I pray that he can learn to respect every single drop of Precious Blood and crumb of the Body of Christ. Even just a little bit of Jesus, is still Jesus.

Yet, how much reverence do we show to the Sacrament? I doubt any of us would be willing to blast out some irreverent music during the Mass (at least I hope not!), but are we being any less disrespectful when we give little consideration to the miraculous event that God allows us to see and participate in each week? The world may not "get it", but we should. For us to behave like the world (and consider intrusions to be minor, or even insignificant) is an affront to our Lord and suffering and passion that He experienced in our behalf. You do not need to "pound on the piano" to show disrespect for the Eucharist, but we do need to think about our own behavior and ask whether we are truly being reverent.