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Pondering the Mass (2)

One of the primary reasons why so many Catholics today are so resistant to anything other than a Novus Ordo Mass (which usually presumes pop tunes, ad-libbed prayers, communion in the hand, and an overall casual attitude), is because they do not understand what "sacred" is. When someone who is only used to a protestantized Mass experiences a genuinely reverent Mass, it seems strange to him because he is only seeing things through the lens of what is appealing, enjoyable, or entertaining.

The "sacred" is more than an idea of something being specially holy. The idea of the "sacred" means that someone realizes that not all people or things were created equal. Yes, I know that statement sounds like heresy to Americans, but this is Catholic theology. Some people were created with certain skills and abilities that others do not have; in reality, people cannot be "anything they want", because we are each limited by how God created us (I am not able to be a professional basketball player--not tall enough, or athletic enough). We also have unequal colors of our skin--not good or bad, just unequal because they are not all the same. This has nothing to do with equality before God, which is different from the distinctions of how we are created.

In the same way, things are not all created equal. Some things are designed for a special use -- God created water specially to be used for Baptism. He did not create sand to be used for Baptism. God created some plants to be for food and others are poison--not equal. Gold is intended for precious use and not for starting fires; wood is to be burned--not equal. He did this to help us distinguish that He wants us to be discerning in how to obey Him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:20-21).

This leads us to understand that some things are intended for sacred use. God wants oil to be used for anointing, and bread and wine to be used for the Eucharist; not all oil, or all bread and wine, but He does not want milk to be used for anointing, nor does He want potatoes and orange juice for the Eucharist. Thus, when something is specially set apart for its sacred use, it becomes sacred. We need this basic understanding of the sacred so that we can grasp the Mass. If affects what we wear when we come to Mass, how we behave when in the presence of the Sacrament, how we speak and what we bring into church with us.

There are sacred spaces, sacred times, sacred actions, and sacred words. Sacred spaces include things like the Church, but also a home altar, and a cemetery. Sacred times include Lent, Christmas, 3pm every day, etc. Sacred actions are things like genuflecting, crossing yourself, and looking at a cross or relic. Sacred words are those that refer to sacred things; certainly that includes the divine Name, but also the word "holy" (do not use "holy...(anything)" as an exclamation, it is profane to do so!) and the word "Saint". Once we begin to grasp the "sacred" in itself, we begin to understand what the Mass is.


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