Saturday, December 5, 2009

Liturgy, Day 4: The Greeting

So, here's a little "inside baseball" for the celebrant. As a novice presider, I found my attention during Mass fell to two things: the homily and the eucharistic prayer. Do I have my act together on something meaningful to say (and note to self: if I'm asking this during the Mass, the answer is probably not). And, do I lead the eucharistic prayer in a way that allows the words to breathe and speak, to be the poetry that they are. If these two things are in place, then all shall be well.

What I discovered is that a third moment requires attention and preparation, and that is the greeting. How do I welcome the congregation into the liturgy? If it's done well, it's not even noticed, it's seamless. But if it isn't... well, it leaves everything a little bit "off." The greeting is what helps us change gears and get comfortable. We've all just dashed in from who knows where with maybe kids or spouses or partners, and then we've gotten all revved up singing out the gathering hymn. And now we're going to be asked to listen to readings. We need something to aid that transition, something that allows us to settle down and breathe.

And it's a real tightrope walk. Think of things you've seen at this moment: an initial foray at the homily (God save us); a folksy story or gag; what Father did this week -- as though the liturgy is about Father. Because it's so early in the mass, you can often get away with a lot of this sort of stuff, because you have people's good will. But what you're doing needs to serve the liturgy. It’s a Mass, not a talk show. Personally, I don't even like to get into the readings (e.g. "In today's readings we hear..."),but the fundamentals: Who are we gathered here? What does God offer us as a people? Just something simple, a couple gentle sentences, said with warmth and ease, maybe a little silence, that might yield some space for us to gather ourselves and breathe. To feel welcomed.

1 comment:

KenerationX said...

I love what you're doing, Seamus. It's brilliant. If you don't put any swear words in it, I'll even forward it to my mother.

(Honestly, love the inside baseball approach.)