Tuesday, September 07, 2004

23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Tapestry Arts Festival aerial viewThis Labor Day weekend, I went to the Tapestry Arts Festival in downtown San Jose. It's one of the largest events in San Jose, showcasing hundreds of local artists and craftspeople. Like most art festivals there were tons of booths with vendors selling their wares. But one of the neat things about this festival was the section of booths on Park Avenue next to the Center for Performing Arts. This was the "Creativity Zone" where you became a participant in the art rather than just being a spectator. Here, kids and their parents painted paper flowers, made up little skits with puppets, listened wide-eyed to storytellers, crossed the Nile of ancient Egypt, and communicated with each other using African drums.

Art, like life, is not a spectator sport. Good art pulls us in, moving us to see things differently. It puts us off-balance so that we can let go of our death-grip on "we've-always-done-it-that-way" and open our hands to new possibilities. Good liturgy does the same thing. Good liturgy uses the arts well to give us a new view on how life could be if we just let go of our death-grip hold on whatever keeps us back. Imagine if we stopped saying things like: “We’ve always used the tabernacle for Communion; why change now?” “We’ve always used one lector; why schedule two?” “We’ve always just read the petitions (or the homily) from that resource book; why write our own?” “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Of course we can just remain spectators, window-shopping and looking at the art. It’s a safe and comforting place, and we have control over what happens. Or we can let art and liturgy move us to dive head-long into those messy waters of change and conversion. When we do this, what we pray for on Sunday might become a more genuine expression of what we are actually willing to try in our daily mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

Last Sunday, I joined with the community of Sacred Heart of Jesus to celebrate with them their 9a Mass. One of the best things this parish does is silence. There was a good amount of silence after each reading. Each lector waited generously for the assembly to be ready to hear—really hear—the reading before starting. The cantor and choir allowed the assembly to reflect of the words they just heard, waiting at least 45 seconds before they began the psalm (sung from the ambo). And the presider was a good model for the assembly by singing the psalm refrain whole-heartedly. At the preparation of gifts, the bread and the wine along with the collection of money were slowly processed down the main aisle. Those carrying the gifts raised their vessels high and walked slowly with grace toward the altar. And at the Communion procession, the ushers began the procession from the back of the church, starting with those in the last pews, visually enacting the kingdom’s promise that the “last shall be first.” Finally, with all standing until the last person received Communion, the choir led the assembly in a song of praise that the whole assembly sang loudly as their communal prayer of thanksgiving to God.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus teaches us about entering completely into relationship with Christ, reverencing both his human heart and his divine love. We too are called to reverence the sacred presence of Christ in his divine form of Word and Sacrament as well as in his human form in the people we encounter each day. The parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with their pastor, Fr. Jeronimo Gutierrez, do this well, reverencing the poor and the last, attending to the Word and the Sacrament with care, and singing joyfully with thanksgiving for the presence of Christ all around them.

This week’s DSJ Liturgy Notes contains:

I hope you find the sacred presence of Christ in all the beautiful and challenging things around you this week.

Diana Macalintal
Associate for Liturgy