Worship Straight Up

In the combox someone wrote, “Just give me the liturgy straight up. No ice.” I like that.

It got my brain humming and I started comparing liturgical styles to drinks. One of the problems with a traditionalism that goes too far is that all the nice things can draw attention to themselves. Nothing in the liturgy should draw attention to itself–either because it is very wonderful or because it is very terrible. A splendid vestment from Barbiconi’s that is so gorgeous that it draws “oohs and aahs” is just as distracting as a da-glo green polyester horror with a grapes pasted on it.

The same applies to every aspect of liturgy: music that is too splendid is just as distracting as music that is too tacky. Good taste is not exhibited by extravagance. It’s exhibited by restraint and decency. Good taste, like good manners, means adapting oneself to the situation without compromising one’s standards. The story is told, for example, of Queen Victoria taking tea with a working class woman. When the woman spilled some tea in her saucer she simply lifted the saucer to her lips and slurped the remaining tea. Rather than look on in horror at the “bad manners” the Queen promptly lifted her saucer and slurped her tea.

Good liturgy, therefore is adapted to the congregation and the situation. When I celebrate Mass at Camp on a Sunday afternoon in the gym I don’t demand a solemn high Pontifical Mass with the music of Palestrina. The music is simple and informal, but still reverent and worshipful.

What my reader meant about liturgy being “straight up. no ice” is that she wants the liturgy to be basic and functional–dignified and reverent without frills and extravagance, but also without tacky “relevant”  homilies and music–without the personality of the priest intruding–without the political or ecclesial agenda of the priest intruding–without servers drawing attention to themselves either because they are terribly sloppy or because they are terribly prim–without anything drawing attention away from the simple dignity of the Mass and the awesome presence of Our Lord.

 

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