More about Graduation Masses

MORE ON GRADUATION MASSES

My reservations about graduation Masses were reinforced when I was contacted last week by a priest who had been asked to preside at one scheduled for the following day. He felt compromised by the liturgy that had been presented to him just that day but did not want to refuse to preside. Any change was difficult because of the lack of time and because hundreds of participants’ booklets had already been run off.

There were numerous problems with the proposed Mass.

The two scripture readings were both taken from the Gospels. One was described as the ‘word of the Lord’ and the other as ‘the Gospel of the Lord’. I’m not sure how one differed from the other. Does it matter? Yes, because as Christians we accept the whole of the scriptures as the word of God and one of the main aims of the reforms of the liturgy after Vatican II was to offer a richer range of biblical readings in the celebration of Mass.

The Eucharistic Prayer printed in the booklet was not one of the 10 approved for use but one that somebody has composed. Does it matter? Yes, because this prayer is the most solemn prayer of the liturgy and the texts used are authorised by the Church. The official versions have been crafted by people with skills in theology, ritual and poetry and should not be jettisoned lightly. The assembly should never be put in the position of saying ‘Amen’ to what is not the prayer of the Church.

The words ‘Lord’ and ‘Father’ had been expunged wherever they occur in the texts of the Mass. For example, the greeting ‘The Lord be with you’ was replaced by ‘May God be with you’ and, amazingly, the first line of the Lord’s Prayer was omitted to avoid describing God as ‘Our Father’. Does it matter? Yes, because the term ‘Lord’ is basic to Christianity; it appears hundreds of times in the scriptures; it is used in titles like the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper. The term ‘Lord’ is used to refer both to the first and the second persons of the Trinity, so to always replace it with ‘God’ changes the focus of the prayer.

I wonder how those fathers who were present at the Mass felt about the fact that it was considered inappropriate to use father as an image for God. Certainly we need to use a variety of terms and images for God and Christ but we cannot unilaterally remove those that are a central part of the Christian tradition.

It causes confusion for the assembly when familiar prayers and cues for responses are altered. How does the assembly know to start the Lord’s Prayer with ‘Hallowed be Thy name’? Do they respond to ‘God, hear us’ with ‘God, hear our prayer’ or ‘Lord, hear our prayer’?

Of course, the reply is that ‘all the words are provided in the Mass booklet’. But Mass booklets with the entire script create their own problems. How can an assembly possibly participate fully in liturgy when everyone is absorbed in printed words on a page? What about students with learning difficulties or parents who cannot read English?

The liturgy was excessively wordy. The specially written opening prayer had five long sentences instead of the two or three of those in the sacramentary. The Prayer of the Faithful petitions were up to eight lines long. There were words, words and more words and no times of silence.

I will be labelled old-fashioned, or worse, for my criticisms and told that the ‘creative’ Mass was meaningful. For whom, I wonder.

Elizabeth Harrington