Parish Renewal. Don't be a fool

Singing is an important part of the liturgy. It is not for entertainment or to fill in the gaps, singing is for praying in a more sublime way.

Juan Luis Rascón Ors-March 28, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
Don't make a fuss

Photo credit: Felix Koutchinski / Unsplash

Look with eyes of kindness on this offering and accept it, as you accepted the gifts of righteous Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the pure oblation of your high priest Melchizedek.... (Roman Canon).

... Cain offered to the Lord fruits of the field; and Abel, on his part, the firstlings and the fat of his cattle. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but not on Cain and his. (Gen 4:3-4).

I learned to pray the rosary at mass. As I was bored, I asked my mother to bring toys or comic books, but my mother told me not to even talk about it (I still haven't recovered from the tremendous trauma). And as I continued to be bored, my mother made me pray the rosary, softly, during mass. And that's how I learned to pray the rosary, very early in the morning.

In spite of the boredom, the mass impressed me. The silence, the gestures of the people,... standing, kneeling,... a huge pantocrator above the altar, the candles, the priest, so solemn, talking about incomprehensible things, but with that voice... his gestures, so solemn. There was evidently something mysterious going on there, boring but mysterious, and big, very big.

God's acceptance of Abel's offering and rejection of Cain's offering were not arbitrary. God is not arbitrary. Abel offered the first fruits of his cattle, perhaps those animals that the herdsman looks forward to; Cain offered fruits of the field, just any fruits. The first ones he found lying around? Perhaps he said, "Let's see what I can find out there to take."

Like the rich in the gospel, Cain gave from his surplus. Abel gave himself, like the woman who gave what she had to live on. This is the sacrifice that pleases God. It is the sacrifice of Christ, his Body and Blood. But it is not the body and blood, just as it was not Abel's cattle, nor the widow's coin: it is the Son of God himself who offers himself. We are talking about something of infinite value.

The pastoral renewal of parishes requires that our celebrations of the Eucharist reflect all this. Especially on Sundays.

Solemnity is not at odds with simplicity. Everything that is done at Mass must have a level of excellence. Not only the material, the ornaments, objects, decorations, the church building itself, the cleanliness, the order. It is also a matter of an excellent welcome, that going to church is not the same as going to soccer: I look for my place and I sit down. The Church should be more like a family reunion than a supermarket where everyone goes to get what interests him, pays and leaves without greeting anyone, if possible. The rush should not fit into the celebration; let's finish the 11 o'clock service early so that the 12 o'clockers can get in. 

There is something in particular that we need to rethink: singing. It is said that "we must sing". Why? If we do not sing well or do not know worthy songs, it is better not to sing. Silence brings us closer to God than certain "sixties" songs with changed lyrics. If we are looking for the best for worship, why do we admit, even with enthusiasm, old-fashioned cheesy songs? Singing is not to entertain or to fill gaps, singing is to pray in a more sublime way. How can we pray with those songs that sound more like the skinning of a meningitic cat? 

In our parishes we need to explore the so-called "worship" music, contemporary music, created for the worship of God. It is not just about singing beautiful songs or songs of musical quality. It is about learning to worship God with music. As the Church has always done.

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