What’s worth holding onto?
For example: An article I read recently about liturgical practice suggested – strongly – that holding onto another person’s hand during Mass is one area where I might consider loosening my grip.
I didn’t find the article’s logic particularly persuasive, especially the notion that I should be dissuaded because “the practice of holding hands while praying the Our Father comes from the Protestant world.”
If anything, that seems like a good reason to expand the habit – not discourage it. Christ’s fervent prayer for us at the Last Supper, after all, was that we “might all be one.” And we’ve managed to bollix up that instruction up pretty well through the centuries. Internecine battles occupy so much of our attention as Christians that often it seems like there’s no energy left to devote to spreading the Good News. (If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the comments to the above-referenced article – which degenerate pretty quickly into a classic blogosphere flame-war.)
Having said that, I am also aware of how deeply blessed I have been throughout my life by the guardrails that the Church has placed around liturgical practices. The priest consecrates unleavened bread and wine at Mass, not saltines and soda-pop. And it’s a priest who performs the action—a person who traces the transmittal of this sacramental grace all the way back through the centuries in an unbroken chain to the Apostles (and ultimately to Christ himself.)
If I think deeply about these liturgical forms and rubrics and requirements, I realize that I need them. They fuel my belief. They work to open my eyes in faith. They move my heart, our hearts. They help to make Christ present for us as the people of God at every Mass. They are, in short, worth holding onto.
There are times, though, when I wish we Catholics weren’t so dismissive of the ways in which other Christians experience Christ. We can get so caught up in the right way to celebrate the Eucharist…that we completely miss the point of having the opportunity to receive Jesus as our sacramental food for the journey.
That thought occurred to me this morning as I reflected on the Gospel story we heard at Mass. The evangelist recounts an episode from early in Jesus’ ministry when he was at home in Capernaum. The crowds were so large that “there was no longer room for them, not even around the door,” we’re told.
The scribes had a seat up front…but many others had to make do with something much less than Jesus’ full attention that day. A few of the more enterprising ones climbed up on the roof, removed a few tiles, and lowered their friend down into the room for a cure.
Jesus doesn’t seem to be put off by this unorthodox action, I noticed. Rather, he’s intent on ministering to the paralytic. He heals him anyway.
And isn’t that just like Christ – to both love the rules…and to know when to break them?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.