Sunday, March 18, 2007

Laetare Ierusalem

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.

Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.
Well, there was no mention of "Laetare Sunday" (or rose vestments) at Mass here, and don't even think about Latin. (Heck, it would be nice if they'd read the GIRM, let alone Sacramentum Caritatis. Ok. Stop.) The preaching was actually, for a change, decent -- coherent, composed, and thought-through, rather than the incomprehensible ramble that I've grown accustomed to hearing. (When it seems that the congregation is dead and no one actually really cares about the Liturgy of the Word -- saying that nearly half the assembly arrives somewhere after the Gospel would not be completely off the mark -- why on earth would the priest actually put any energy into his homily?)

However, I'm not too sure I quite understood the message. The first two readings (with that wonderful Eucharistic symbolism in Joshua) were not mentioned. As far as the Prodigal Son was concerned, he mentioned something that I'd never really thought about -- how the pace of the father, who goes out running to meet his son, compares to the dejected, downcast shuffle of the son who is returning. That part was fine, and I perked up. I won't be spending this homily trying my hardest not to feel irritated, but praying for the priest instead, and generally failing on both counts.

The rest went something along these lines:
  • we identify with the father's response because it seems so natural: this is what a parent is supposed to do. It's a natural instinct, to love a child. But, if one thinks about it, the father's reaction was very calculated and thought out, it wasn't just instinctive.

  • Christian love, Christian affection is one that doesn't "take action" (I understood that to mean, one that doesn't react blindly, but restrains the passions.), one that doesn't keep score or count, one that is ready to forget (forgive?), one that is willing to be vulnerable and hurt, again and again. [Me: squirm, squirm. Oh, I never keep score!]

  • There was a turn then to the beatitudes, about going the extra mile, turning the cheek, giving not just the cloak but the inner garment. We are supposed to do this in house, within our families, between husband and wife, parents and children, brother and sister, in house, but not with strangers.
This point -- we are called to behave in this way "in house and not with strangers" was repeated a few times. I have to say I was really troubled by that. What is the parable of the Good Samaritan about, if not that there are no strangers? "Who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asks Jesus, to trap him. Well, to give the good Father the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he meant we should start in house. Change begins at home and all that; you can't pretend to be a Christian and not be reconciled at home; don't bring your gift to the altar until you are reconciled with your brother. That's fine. But that's not actually what he said.

Besides, at least in my understanding, one of the central points of Jesus' teachings is that all this transcends family and tribe and clan and caste and nationality and ethnicity and just natural bonds. "He who does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and my brother and my sister" as he famously says in Mark 3.

I'd have gone up to get a better sense of the meaning of the homily -- except, as is the norm here, the priests disappeared behind the magic screen ... um ... into the sacristy, at the end of Mass.

Turns out the visiting celebrants (one in a purple chasuble, and one in just a purple stole) were Redemptorist missionaries. (They're kinda cousins to the Paulsts you know, for those who're familiar with the history of Father Hecker and his band.)

They will be leading a parish mission starting next Sunday evening, and going on for a week. Now I've never been to a parish mission in India, so I'll be checking this out!

We're half way through Lent! I'm afraid, a part of me is getting excited that I will be back Stateside in a few weeks, and away from liturgy here!

And here's a link to a page with an mp3 of the beautiful entrance antiphon for today's liturgy. Needless to say, nothing came close to this at Mass here.

[I just realized that this would have been the Second Scrutiny, with the reading from John 9 of the man being born blind. Nope, no sign of RCIA here either.]


cjmr said...

We are having the scrutinies, but aren't doing the alternate readings. I wonder if the Archbishop Wuerl may have asked parishes not to, as the regular readings fit in better with the archdiocese Lenten "Reconciliation Drive".

After I typed this comment, I looked over and noticed that you've identified yourself as being from D.C., too, only apparently you aren't here right now...

Gashwin said...

Thanks for the comment. I moved to seminary in DC in August 2006, but am on leave right now. My dad passed away in Jan and I've been here to spend time with family.

I love the "Cycle A" readings and wish that those could be made normative -- they are a reminder of the journey of Lent as a preparation for the regenration in baptism, and for the renewal of baptismal promises at Easter. It's an aspect of Lenten penitence and discipline that gets a bit overlooked, I feel.

Anonymous said...

As an Indian Catholic who has never attended Mass in the West, I find your disparaging comments on the services in India disturbing. I have lived in Gujarat, and was a member of a wondeful parish in Ahmedabad, met very devout cathoics, was a member of a very active christian community, and had very Holy Parish priests. Perhaps you see everything through western eyes and find the simple devotion of these people wanting? Catholics in India, love their church, they go to meet and receive the Lord. Not for grand music or learned homilies.

Gashwin said...

Hey anon: my response to your comment grew into its own post above. Pax!

georgette said...

To anonymous above:

As an American living in India (for seven years now!) I have to agree that the Catholic people here are wonderful. I always say that they could certainly teach folks in the West what real devotion and respect for the Mass and Jesus in the Real Presence are all about. For example, I love how the priest and altar servers remove their shoes before processing down the aisle to the altar. They celebrate/serve the whole Mass barefoot. Many parishioners do, as well, although I notice that practice has waned somewhat in the time I have been here. People stay after Mass is ended and only leave after they have knelt and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. The women almost all cover their heads. Everyone kneels at the Consecration, even if they are seated in plastic chairs or are standing in the back. I have never met a priest here who believes anything heretical. Never. They are straight down the line in the Confessional, too. Never would they tell you "that is not a sin" as I have been told in Confession in the US. These and many other things used to give my poor homesick heart much to rejoice about.

And I have to remind myself how fortunate we are to HAVE the Mass to attend here! Here is the same Jesus as back home, as I remind myself when I start getting overly critical, especially when I get REALLY sad--downright depressed sometimes it gets so bad. But the things that depress me cannot be ignored either and I don't know what to do about them, except tolerate them. (I suspect Gashwin feels this sometimes as well.) But only tolerating something that upsets one can lead to an eventual outburst! To counter that, there is a certain therapy, or a release valve perhaps, that comes from being able to complain about it to others who understand. And 'blogs are a great place for doing that!

I understand and empathize with Gashwin completely in this. I suspect that I am far "worse" in this aspect than our friend Gashwin. In my "lows" I get SO frustrated and depressed at the music at Mass, for instance, particularly the screachy off-key, off-note electric guitar and the electronic keyboard playing the corny American Protestant revival songs from the 1960s and 70s: one or two lines that are sung over and over and over and over, ad nauseum--that if I don't find an outlet for this, I wouldn't be able to stand it. Maybe because I am from America, I know the history of these cheesy songs -- and I just cannot get over the feeling that they are wrong for Catholic Mass and worship.

The other thing I like to complain about to release some steam (or else I am afraid I would REALLY burst and that would be a very ugly thing) is that I get absolutely no spiritual nourishment here -- ever -- because we are consistently given barely understandable, really bad homilies. I know that priests are not required to give great homilies every Sunday, but I do know that it is considered to be dereliction of duty when they spend absolutely no time at all preparing the homily-- or what is the case more than not, when they read off the pre-written homily on that little two page mass flyer that almost all parishes seem to subscribe to here. (They only get one or two copies of it for the priest and the reader.)

I suspect that parishioners here live a very devout life at home, which is where they get their nourishment. And it shows. Everyone seems to know the Saints as their friends and they all pray the rosary. I imagine daily family rosary is a common thing in families here.

I do realize that I am fortunate to have the Catholic Mass available to me and I should appreciate what I have. There is good and bad everywhere, and that applies even to the Mass. What we lack in the US we have here in India, and vice versa. I suppose it is all a reminder that earth is just our temporary home. In Heaven all the good will be together in one place, once and for all.

(sorry it got too long, Gashwin...that's what I get for taking a blogging hiatus!) :-D

Gashwin said...

Georgette: thanks for taking the time out to share your thoughts ... when I get a breather, I'll convert your comment to its own post -- it deserves to be more visible! No, not long at all! Blogs are not meant for brevity :-)

And just perhaps this might make you reconsider your hiatus from the blogosphere ...! :)

Georgette said...

You're sweet, G!