Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lord, I Am Not Worthy that You Should Enter under My Roof

Do our parishioners celebrate Mass humbly?  An unusual question, perhaps.  We more typically discuss liturgical participation in terms of reverence or prayerfulness or piety.  Nevertheless, the question remains: Do the liturgies at our parish have a humble, and humbling, quality?  Are parishioners brought to greater humility by attending Mass?  Should they?

Humility towards God has sometimes been described as a virtue by which we know who we are, and know Who we are not, and then proceed to live accordingly.  The Mass is a sublime encounter with the thrice-Holy God, and in that encounter we acknowledge our sins before Him, we praise Him, we listen to Him and obey Him, we offer ourselves to Him through the Perfect Offering and Sacrifice of Christ Jesus to God the Father.  We receive Him under our roof, unworthy as we are.


A congregation filled with parishioners who have not bothered to go to Confession for a long time cannot but feel a jarring contrast between the contrition implied and required within the Liturgy, and the resistance they have offered towards God's rich mercy waiting for them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  To relieve this tension, some parishes simply downgrade the humble, suppliant aspect of the Eucharist, presuming that a "celebration" by its very nature must steer clear of humility, lest it be dampened by a gloomy, even emotionally unhealthy, tone.

And the less-than-felicitous result?  Fewer and fewer Catholics showing up to celebrate.


  1. Kathy Cottage Grove, MNAugust 22, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    Our family was at the 10:30 Mass today. We were visiting Transfiguration Parish and I was stunned when no one knelt down for the Consecration. It felt like such an insult to God. A song comes to mind called "I can only imagine" about being in awe of the presence of God.
    Some of the words of the song are:
    "Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel?
    Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still?
    Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
    Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?
    I can only imagine! I can only imagine!"

    I can't imagine not kneeling in the presence of Our Lord. Aren't we supposed to be kneeling during this part of the Mass?

  2. Thanks, Kathy, for your comment. For a number of years, the leadership at Transfiguration directed the congregation to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer.

    As you noted, this is contrary to the Church's directives in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

    Beginning in September, I will be offering a 10-part series on Sunday mornings, between the 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Masses, on "Liturgy and Church." In my second talk, I will explain why the Church directs us to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer, and on the following week we will kneel in accordance with the Church's directives.

    There are a number of other liturgical practices at the parish that need to be brought into line with the Church's instructions. I will teach about these liturgical practices during this 10-part series, and in each case we will make the necessary changes the following week.

    Thanks for visiting Transfiguration!

  3. This is exciting. I look forward to this 10 part series.