Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Salutary Whisper

One of the rubrics we follow at mass at St. Paul's is found in the old Roman missals, but I wouldn't expect to find it in any Lutheran hymnal. Maybe that's because Luther used to express scorn about the monks endlessly muttering the words in a way that no one else could hear. This is a point well taken, of course, but it doesn't mean there's nothing ever salutary about a whispered prayer, especially at mass.

The rubric I have in mind instructs the celebrant and all the attendants at the altar at the moment of elevation of each kind not merely to adore, i.e., to gaze upon the Sacred Species being elevated, and to recognize it for what it is, but actually to whisper, while gazing, the words "My Lord and my God." This, I say, is a wonderful rubric, for it directs the attention of those attending to the truth here: this is the Incarnate One Himself, whom we are about to receive. These, of course, are the words which Thomas spoke to the risen Christ on the Sunday after Easter when he was confronted with the reality of His resurrection and presence.

The same is true at the altar, especially at the point when the words of institutition are spoken: "This is my body; this is my blood." So then, immediately after the consecration of each Kind, the elevation comes; and we whisper, "My Lord and my God." And then we receive Him by mouth, and so receive our Life and Salvation.

The other day I actually heard the server's whisper, and it was a pleasant sound indeed. Sometimes, I can hope, these young men really do seem to get it; they understand what's going on here. Would that such whispers might be heard the world around, and that such quiet, serene faith might abound among all of our churches.

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