February 3, 2010

Oculis ad Sacramentum Intentis

At the Our Father in the Mass according to the EF, the priest is directed to offer the entire prayer with eyes fixed upon the Host.

In the spirit of the Holy Father's call for the"mutual enrichment" of the two forms of the Roman rite, it's something I've been experimenting with when I offer Mass according to the modern form. I have to say that it is a pretty intense experience.

To pray Our Father, who art in heaven... while looking at this object that is--apparently--not in heaven and not a father in any way that the senses can immediately understand, it's pretty amazing. This is the God who chooses to empty his Fatherhood, his heavenliness--and indeed, even his almightyness--into a Presence through a vulnerable infant, a rejected teacher, a condemned criminal, and ultimately, the "little form of bread." For me to pray the Our Father while gazing intently at the Blessed Host before me on the altar brings up the core cognitive dissonances of Christianity, those that hold within themselves the divine reversals that confound the wisdom of this world and form the heart of the good news of the gospel.

It's curious to me that I never thought of this before. Perhaps I was looking past or over the Blessed Sacrament in order to emphasize the joining my prayer to that of the assembly. Whatever the reason, I have missed this simple, intense, and somewhat obvious spiritual practice until now. It's the sort of thing that might lend itself to reflection on Benedict's celebrated critique of worship versus populum, in the "self-enclosed circle." (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 80) In a 'gathering' around the Lord, there is always the risk that we may forget the Lord and just look at each other. Just something I've been thinking about as I try to be faithful to the cover letter to Summorum pontificum.


pennyante said...

"In a 'gathering' around the Lord, there is always the risk that we may forget the Lord and just look at each other."

My guess is that even looking at the Host alone, one can become distracted.

I would hope that when you looked out over the People of God at the Lord's Prayer, that you would see the Lord in each one of us... as we, together as his people, offer to our Heavenly Father the prayer that Jesus gave us.

Brother Charles said...

Very much, PA. That's the other side of the reflection. As one of my liturgy teachers liked to say, "Don't just look at the people as if they were an 'audience.' Look into their eyes and believe that this is a good place to look, because God has thought so before you."

I guess my reflection bends in the other direction because of my desire to diagnose the culture of irreverence and casualness around the Blessed Sacrament with I struggle daily in my religious life and ministry.

Qualis Rex said...

Father Charles - "Old" habits (see: circa 1972) apparently die hard. I often wonder why people in church are so eager to hold hands with total strangers for 2 minutes during church. I come from a very affectionate (kissing hello/good-bye, rib-crushing bear-hugs etc) family, and I don't mind shaking hands with strangers (or even kissing them on both cheeks when I'm back home or in Ethiopia/Middle-East). But there is just something perverse to me about holding hands during the Our Father while singing it to a sickening, sappy 70's-style tune which nonsensically repeats certain words or verses simply to conform to the melody.

Back to theology, Father, I never really thought about focusing on the Eucharist during the Our Father either. To me, the Eucharist is "God the Son"; Jesus' part of the trinity. The Our Father is directed to the "God the Father" part of the Trinity. Yes, I understand they are all one, but I guess my mind divorces the two. I'm usually focused on the altar, in a kind-of "Holy of Holies" in a Judaic sense/ mindset when I pray the Our Father. I will try to do as you suggest this Friday when I'm at liturgy and see how that goes.

thanks for this!

Julia said...

I frequently pray Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament and thus end up praying the Our Father with my eyes on the Host.

Father, if I may, perhaps you want to think of uniting yourself with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at this point in the Mass. In the extraordinary form, you are standing alone at the altar. The people are all kneeling behind you, but you are there all alone, offering the Sacrifice on our behalf.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done."(...He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)

Think of how Christ is praying and offering Himself to the Father, alone in the Garden, his sweat dripping as blood. At this point in the Mass, you have His Blood before you in the Blessed Sacrament.

Like Jesus, you are priest and victim. Like Jesus, you are praying and making an offering to the Father for us. This is a time of extreme intimacy between you and Jesus.

Anyway, just a thought.