June 29, 2008

Gratuitous Catholic Observation

Went to High Mass today for Sts. Peter & Paul. Bach and Palestrina and all the fixins'.

Now some of you will probably pelt me with rocks and garbage for saying so, but whenever I go to HM, I can't help thinking of a passage from the Fellowship of the Ring:

As soon as [Frodo] set foot upon the far bank of the Silverlode, a strange feeling had come upon him, and it deepened as he walked on into the Naith: it seemed to him that he had stepped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more. In Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lorien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Evil had been seen and heard there, sorrow had been known; the Elves feared and distrusted the world outside: wolves were howling on the wood's borders: but on the land of Lorien no shadow lay.

I've also noticed that, as with Tolkien's Lorien, time seems to change at HM. Today's service was a solid two hours, and yet seemed to last only about ten minutes.

Now I haven't the time to really elaborate on the idea here, and I am sure that there are all kinds of problems with this literary parallell if one susses it out far enough. I'm also pretty sure it is not something Tolkien had specifically in mind. But I know that it nicely captures the feeling I get, and I also know that every time I attend High Mass I come out wondering why on earth anyone would prefer a watered down, simplified or "updated" version of it.

Posted by Robert at June 29, 2008 01:55 PM | TrackBack

If I recall correctly, Joseph Campbell referred to it as keeping the "Thou" rather than "You" in your spiritual life. When approached with love and reverence, high mass is a very moving experience that provides a connection.

I'm glad it's back.

Posted by: CJ at June 29, 2008 06:17 PM

Well, in a sense, Tolkien had nothing else to compare it to as he "only" had the Tridentine mass. But I get that same feeling, of timelessness.

Theologically, one is in different time in Mass; in that the Church believes that there was only one sacrifice, in participating in Mass one is participating in Christ's sacrifice, extended through time and space so that we might experience it. In the new mass, I get the feel of that clearly from time to time. In a high mass, it's much more intensely focused.

Part of it is the Latin, too -- the liturgical language, like Hebrew, outside of time.

I recently attended a Bar Mitzvah, and I had a similar experience as the Tabernacle was opened (containing, of course, the five scrolls of the Pentateuch). The sense that this was the same law that was contained in the Ark, the sense of the holy and ancient.

To Him, outside of time, it probably looks like one act, where all of us are present. He need do nothing more than once; we are privileged to participate in that act He decided upon at the beginning of time.

We're brought into his space and time.

Posted by: The Abbot at June 29, 2008 07:58 PM