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The Mass is not about us but for us, a gift from God Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

I wanted to take a brief opportunity to respond to two recent letters (both November 1, 2012), by Mr. Paul Krogman and Mr. Bill Wambach. As I read them, I was saddened because they both seem to have been offended by the articles of Mr. Nico Fassino and Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo regarding liturgical music.

While I personally do not so much enjoy the “folk-style” music (in general), I don’t necessarily think it is bad (in general). However, the Divine Liturgy is not general. There are still celebrations in the Church wherein this music style is appropriate, but the truth of the matter is that Mass is not one of them.

Perhaps offering a clarification might help. Mr. Krogman is absolutely correct that all the faithful are called to full, active, and conscious participation at Mass. However, as Bishop Morlino has explained on numerous occasions, that “active” participation does not mean busyness. Rather, it means an internal disposition that is aware of the mystery taking place. Moreover, Mr. Krogman is incorrect to say “The Mass is about us.”

When we gather for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, we are not worshipping the community! It is not our Mass, nor is it firstly our action. The Mass is entirely committed to worship of the Triune Godhead, which is the “spiritual worship” written about by St. Paul (Rom 12:1). The Mass is not “about” us, but rather “for” us, a gift from God, the means by which we are able to participate in the one sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ, the great High Priest (Heb 4:14).

There is therefore an objective standard for what is appropriate for the Mass, what facilitates its beauty and reverence. “Feel-good” music is not appropriate for the Mass, because it turns the focus onto the subjective individual. Music that focuses on the community is also not appropriate, because the purpose of Mass is to worship God.

One of my favorite hymns is “For All the Saints.” I was extremely disappointed that the Worship Hymnal (among others) changed a line from “yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine” to “yet all are one within your great design.” There is a clear theological gap between these two lines, the latter turning the focus from God to the community, effectively separating us from God (which is contrary to what Mr. Krogman correctly suggests is one of the functions of the Mass: “to bring us to and bind us to God”).

So it is in this way that Mr. Wambach also misunderstood Mr. Fassino’s article. As Mr. Wambach wrote, “Nico expresses HIS personal opinion that: ‘The value of proper liturgical music has nothing to do with . . . what your personal opinions are about music.’”
This is not simply Mr. Fassino’s opinion. This is the direction the Universal Church regarding music in the Divine Liturgy. The Church extends much further than our own communities — it encompasses the entire world, in every culture, age, and heritage.

The Mass, in fact, is the offering of the Universal Church, and it must be one, united, with the Universal Church… and this includes music. It may be difficult for us to give up some of our favorite songs, but that’s a sacrifice worth making, since it ultimately brings greater glory to God from the entire Mystical Body of Christ, His Church. They won’t go far away, though, as they will still be useable in other situations… just not at Mass.

The Mass is neither mine nor yours; it belongs to God, Who (through the Church) asks us to celebrate it in a particular way.
It is as simple as that.

God love you,

Tyler J. W. Dickinson, seminarian, Diocese of Madison, studying at Saint Paul Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn.