Forty Hours

How can we communicate the joy of Catholic worship in a world of mega churches? We have just completed a forty hour Eucharistic devotion at St Mary’s, Greenville. On Tuesday evening we began with Solemn Eucharist leading to Adoration. The whole parish joined in. School children, old people and families took their turn. On Wednesday Solemn Vespers with confession, and tonight, rosary, Confessions with Eucharistic Adoration and procession.

To the outsider I know this seems arcane, irrelevant and difficult to understand. To many Catholics it seems the same. They wonder why worship cannot be more ‘relevant’ and more easy to understand. Perhaps they wonder why the worship cannot be more joyful, more upbeat and more ‘with it’. I cannot explain.

I cannot explain in the way I cannot explain a Mozart aria, a Beethoven quartet or a Raphael Madonna. I cannot explain the lift and surge of liturgy as I cannot explain the heft of a poem or the fullness of the silence in the rest of music. I cannot explain the transcendence of beauty,the knowledge of eternity electric in the frail physical things. I cannot explain the connection with the infinite in the interstices of the psalms, the intimacy of goodness in the rapt face of a child in worship, the contact with reality in the smoke of incense, the deep rumble of the organ, the delicate dance of light or the poignant harmony of plainsong. I cannot explain the certainty of sanctity known in the wrinkled hands of an old woman in prayer, or the certainty of grace in a teenaged boy kneeling in silence–a smile of joy impressed upon his face as if by an unseen power.

I cannot explain any of these things, but I can invite you to the feast.

  • Mr. Chaos

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  • Jeffrey Smith

    Good monstrance. I love the tabernacle. Never saw one quite like it.

  • Rev. Daren J. Zehnle

    Beautifully said. Thank you, Father!

  • kkollwitz

    Compline was the part I liked best, everyone chanting goodnight to God together was surprisingly moving.

  • UltraCrepidarian

    This is a beautiful devotion, and a beautiful post.The inability to explain that which is essential in love, devotion, and in worship, kind of reminds me of a harley-davidson biker club T-Shirt slogan: “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand”. Warren

  • faithemmanuel

    So well put.

  • Anonymous

    When young people say that worship should be “relevant” and “easy to understand”, what they are really saying is, “It should be all about me.” It is the only message they have heard all their lives. Only it wasn’t all about them. It was about parents’ trying to assuage their guilty consciences for making their children only incidental to their own lives. I love 40 Hours. We just had a Ladies’ Day of Recollection. Everyone was so blessed, and most present were women in their 30s and 40s, some younger and some older. Our 40 Hours will be coming up soon. Gorzke Zhale (sp?)–Bitter Lamentations– this afternoon (and every afternoon in Lent).

  • elena maria vidal

    Thank you, Father, for describing how the effects of material elements of the liturgy upon our senses, the incense, the music,the beauty of the altar, can open us up to the mystical.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the witness. I agree with all you say about the glorious mystery we encounter in such prayer. I don’t want to preclude, however, the glorious mystery that is encountered in other kinds of prayer as well. I have experienced it in throngs of people singing at Contemporary Praise and Worship services as well. Our God is good and reaches into life in many wondrous ways.