Week 94

Transfiguration


I was originally going to take the 8:16 railroad train to a parish with two 9:30 AM Masses, but I forgot to set the alarm clock and overslept, and the cat neglected his duties today, so I decided to take a 40-minute drive there instead. I got there just in the nick of time, but it looked a bit crowded, and I might have had to push some folks aside to get a seat in the church, so I decided I'd go elsewhere. When I heard "Morning Has Broken," played to piano accompaniment, I felt I wasn't missing much. "Ah," I said to myself. "I wonder what's happening in the parish hall?" I knew I didn't want to attend Mass there on account of a lack of kneelers, but I thought I'd peek anyway, took the dozen or so steps across the plaza, and looked inside. Guess what? I heard "Morning Has Broken," played to piano accompaniment. Well, at least give the parish points for uniformity of worship.

Next, I stopped at a parish-- mentioned at the end of the article of week 57-- where bulletins are extremely difficult to obtain. They are not left anywhere in the church, and a Mass always seems to be in progress in the auditorium, or it is locked. A Mass was in progress in the auditorium today too, so I figured that maybe I could return later, being careful to arrive between auditorium Masses. Then it was on to the parish mentioned in week 38, where a priest took up a guitar and sang a song after his homily. That priest did not serve today, so I was spared that.

The church bears a 1981 cornerstone and looks to be typical of that period. It's like a "T" but probably with wider angles. The white acoustical-tiled ceiling with brown trim is lowest near the exits and very high over the sanctuary. The building is windowless except for two high, narrow, abstract stained-glass windows on either side of the sanctuary. The walls are of brown brick, except for the area behind the sanctuary, which is of white stucco and bears a large figure of the risen Christ without a cross behind it (although a tiny red and brown wooden cross without a corpus is underneath that). I guess a copy of Institutio Generalis is in order for this parish. The square, metal tabernacle is on a stand on the right side of the sanctuary. A simple wooden ambo is at the left; the marble altar is at the center; and a small cantor's lectern is at the right, near the organ and piano just to the right of the sanctuary. The wooden pews are in four sections and flair somewhat to give the feel of "in the round" seating, making the rear pews longest and the ones nearest the altar shortest. Racks in the pews are stocked with OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue in a blue, plastic binder. A notable detail here is that to the right is what must be the smallest cry room I've ever seen; it consists of a single pew in a room just wide enough to accomodate that one pew. It is more like an isolation booth than anything else. The vestibule, which also has stained-glass windows, looks more inviting for parents if they need it.

I arrived at about 10:10 AM for the 10:30 AM Mass and selected a seat at the center of one of the longer pews, but not all the way in the rear. Many folks were chatting between the Masses, making praying rather difficult, and they basically drowned out what I think was recorded Gregorian chant playing in the background. Closer to the start of the Mass, the organist played a few bars from each of the hymns, which I had copied from the hymn board. By the time Mass started, the church was almost full (in comparison to yesterday's emptiness). The cantor went to the lectern and introduced herself by name and then proceeded to read a list of the entire cast of characters for today's Mass, including the priest, "lector," servers, lay ministers, and those who would present the gifts. After that, she introduced the opening hymn, "Sing to the Mountains," which we sang to organ accompaniment. Three servers, the reader, and the priest dashed through the center aisle in the opening procession. After rather a lengthy introduction to the Mass, including thanks that the weather had improved, the priest used Form C of the penitential rite. The Gloria was recited.

The reader, who was sitting in the front pew on the left, went to the ambo and gave the first reading as it appeared in the missalette. From the cantor's lectern, the cantor led the singing of the psalm for the day to piano accompaniment. Then the reader continued with the second reading, again as it appeared in the missalette. The cantor led the Alleluia, which was sung, but she recited the verse before the Gospel itself for some reason. Then the priest proclaimed the Gospel as two servers stood on either side of the ambo and held candles as they faced the priest.

The priest gave a homily that began as he sort of apologized for saying last week that the Gospel for the next few weeks would be from John; he apparently forgot that the Transfiguration took precedence today, as it does every six or seven years. He did promise that John would return next week. He then gave us three points to consider. First, Jesus was not changed by the Transfiguration; he is the eternal God, who never changes; instead, the purpose of the Transfiguration was to change the apostles, and likewise we need to be changed. Second, he found an interesting coincidence in the dropping of the first nuclear weapons on Hiroshima on this date in 1945, which resulted too in a blinding flash of light. While he did not want to second-guess anyone, he thought we should take some time to think about the implications of this event and how it changed the nature of warfare. About here, a pager or cellular phone or watch started playing its tune; the priest said that it must mean that "my time is up." The priest made a third point, but, alas, at 12:45 AM, with my eyes drooping fifteen minutes before deadline, I have forgotten it. Sigh. Maybe it will come to me sometime tomorrow when I'm more awake.

The Creed was recited, and then the reader led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful from the ambo. A collection was taken using wicker baskets passed across the pews as we sang the offertory hymn, "Eye Has Not Seen," to piano accompaniment. The chalice and ciboriums were of metal, and a glass flagon was used to hold additional wine.

The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation (IV), Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were from the "Mass of the Pilgrim Church" setting by John Foley. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer, more or less as it appears in the Sacramentary. For some reason, he asked us to stand before the concluding doxology, describing it as a "profession of faith," which is something I don't recall seeing before. Then he started rambling about how the disciples were brought back down from the mountain into the world, which started to concern me the longer it got, as all he had to do was say, "Let us pray with confidence in the words our Savior gave us." When someone is following the Missal, he doesn't have to insert long-winded apologies and explanations, which is what this seemed to be. I think you all know where this is leading; naturally, the parish is firmly part of the hand-holding rite, so it ended in, "I invite you to join your hands..." I was too close to those around me to escape, which resulted in distracting fumbling to achieve unity. I guess to expect the same sort of good fortune two days in a row is asking too much. We sang the Our Father.

Six lay ministers and an additional priest in what looked like a stole and brown Franciscan cassock assisted the priest in the distribution of Holy Communion. The chalice was offered; stations were located where one might expect in this sort of layout. The first Communion hymn was "On Eagle's Wings;" the second, not listed on the board, was "You Are Near." I noticed as I waited to receive Communion that the 50 to 75 people ahead of me all received in the hand; only just before I got to the front did three people consecutively receive on the tongue. I also noticed that some people insist on receiving in the hand even when one hand is unavailable, such as when one is using a cane or carrying a baby.

The reader sneaked over to the cantor's lectern to give several announcements; after this, she slipped behind the sanctuary wall and returned to her place on the left, while a young gentleman from the parish gave a "witness" on the short time he spent as a lay missioner in Guatemala and how it changed his perspective on life. After he noted that a stole, presented as a gift to the parish by the people in Guatemala, is hanging in the vestibule, and he thanked the people of the parish for sponsoring his trip, he received a round of applause. Then two lay ministers were called forward to receive a blessing before taking Communion to the sick; we were all asked to extend our arms over them. The priest then offered the Prayer after Communion and imparted a simple blessing before leaving via the center aisle. The closing hymn was "Jubilee Song." About three-quarters of the congregation departed before the hymn was complete, an hour and ten minutes after the Mass started.

After Mass, I returned to the parish that had no bulletins earlier. It was between Masses in the auditorium-- great! "I'll just walk through there and grab one," I thought. No such luck-- the auditorium was completely barren of any bulletins whatsoever. I went back to the front of the church and looked in the waste basket outside as I did in week 57, but it had no bulletins either. However, I glanced towards the front steps where three girls were sitting as I had headed towards the auditorium, and was faced with a surprise. I do not exaggerate when I claim that a miracle occurred, because, lo and behold, a bulletin was on the front steps, folded, just waiting for me! I grabbed it, returned to the car, and shouted, "God, I know you're out there-- this could not be an accident!"


Same Sunday Last Year


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