Friday, October 26, 2007

Cardinal Daneels at CUA

American Papist has a fine summary of the lecture delivered yesterday by Cardinal Daneels of Belgium on Catholic liturgy 40 years after Sacrosanctum Concilium. One point which particularly warmed me heart:
The presider is crucial to the praxis of liturgy. The presider must be humble. He must not look at his homily as the "high point" of the Mass. So too, an equal portion of time (at least) must be given to the liturgy of the Eucharist as to the liturgy of the Word.
An ancillary point His Eminence made was that liturgy is ultimately not a theatrical performance, which ruffled one priest's thespian feathers and became the subject of the 2nd Q&A. He apparently did not appreciate the way Daneels's praise of humility denigrated the uplifting contribution a little theatricality can make to worship. He waxed on about once witnessing at Mass the "most profound bow" he had ever seen which he claims inspired reverence in the people. I rolled my eyes: give me a break - if I wanted to see profound bows, I'd hang out more with my Japanese or Korean friends who really know how to do it. I thought the priest's comments proved Daneels' point that once the Mass is no longer centered in Christ who IS the divine-human nexus, the true spirit of the liturgy is lost (not his words).

Drama queens in liturgy deceptively draw attention away from Christ to themselves or to some experience extrinsic or incidental to the Mass. They invariably fetishize and eroticize individual liturgical acts; they inflate the subjective experiential dimension of "reverence" which effectively distorts liturgy. The priest also egotistically suggested that just because he was once an actor/performer, his former occupation needs to be validated at the altar and thrust upon the congregants. It's this "Sheilaism" that has ruined so many Catholic liturgies. (Forget bad liturgy, it's bad acting as well.) Daneels however had already made the important point in his lecture that the celebrant should "almost become invisible," which I even found a bit extreme. (I thought "translucent" or "iconic" would have been more accurate.)

There's a huge difference between liturgical reverence that is manufactured out of self-assertion and liturgical reverence that effortlessly emanates out of kenosis. I only wish Daneels had stuck to his guns and confronted this obviously heterodox priest. Instead, he responded weakly by conceding how the West has different cultural attitudes towards what is reverent (I think he really was getting tired at that point).