Friday, August 18, 2017
To Own the Mass or Be Owned by it. . .
There is no shortage of goofiness resplendently enshrined for the world to see -- all courtesy of YouTube and the internet. But some should not be viewed (except as a warning not to do what is being done while you watch).
The principle of inculturation says that the Mass is to be "owned" by the people and their culture. In other words, it is a raw form to be adapted in culturally relevant ways by those for whom the Mass exists. It is a strange idea, to say the least. First of all it forgets that the Mass is its own culture and neither adopts nor borrows the culture around it. Second it commits the error of suggesting that the Mass is about us. Of course it is for us (given and shed for you. . . ) but it is definitely not about us. If for that reason alone, we should refrain from attempting to interject culturally relevant forms into the form of the Mass.
BTW this is not about the kind of culture we find here -- there is no cultural elitism here or racism. It is just as wrong if there is an oompah band and polka dancers. The Mass has its own culture, the culture of the means of grace, which engages and transforms the culture around it. By making what happens in the chancel merely a stage for the display of what is cultural relevant or reflective of personal preference, we make our Lord and His eternal Word secondary to us and the moment in time in which we live. Further, it means the Mass must be constantly adapted and updated to reflect the changing tastes and usages of the moment -- something which is not wise at all.
The mark of that which is catholic is continuity. Change must be incremental and not captive to the moment. We see this already in the abiding language of the Our Father that transcends cultural and linguistic changes. But we must also be careful not to enshrine one glimpse of time into the Mass and make it the perfectly pristine moment which must be guarded against any and all development. It this is true for Rome, it is also true for Lutherans. I wish it were merely a matter of tolerating some goofiness from time to time but the end result of inculturation has been to make the Mass a platform for us to perform, to make the participants into soloists and stars on God's stage, to reduce the Lord to mere spectator, and to steal from Him both the gift and blessing of worship. It matters not who does it nor does it matter how sincere the people are. The Mass remains the Lord's and it is His gracious will to invite us into it so that the Word of the Lord may enter our ears and make its home in our heads and in our hearts and the flesh and blood of the Lord may cleanse us body and soul.