Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rubrics, Schmubrics?

For what it's worth -- and contrary to popular belief -- I am a rubrical guru and get a bit stir-crazy when they're not followed to the letter in liturgy. But over the years, I've come to realize that, more than just sometimes, they fly over people's heads for whatever reason.

Of course, Holy Week is the most stipulation-rich period of the liturgical calendar. Here in Philadelphia, many of the people are given to kneeling before the empty place of repose before the Holy Thursday Evening Mass thinking that the Blessed Sacrament's already there. And then some parishes get angry calls asking why church was closed for daily Mass on Holy Saturday morning.

You really do have to love it.

Well, the sensus fidelium seemed to prevail again at certain moments of the Vatican's Triduum observances.

On Holy Thursday, after the procession to the respository and a moment of prayer there, the rites stipulate that "all depart in silence." So at St John Lateran, the Pope and entourage left the place of repose and started back to the sacristy through the congregation. However, seeing a baby, he went over to bless it -- and the place immediately went wild: cheers, whoops, raucous applause and the "strobe light" effect of the cameras. The Pope then continued to greet and bless the sick, and the silence was, well, long gone.

There was a bit more silence the following day at the Good Friday liturgy, but more people still saw the Pope pass 'em by through their camera viewfinders than with their own eyes.

Saturday evening's Easter Vigil was particularly noteworthy -- aside from a couple of the faithful collapsing from the crush and fury of the crowd which charged toward the Basilica to get choice seating. Apparently, a (Marini-generated) announcement was made in Italian, French, Spanish and Polish asking the faithful to respect the sacredness of the moment and not use cameras with flash as the Paschal candle and Benedict XVI processed in with only 10,000 or so candles lighting St Peter's for the Lumen Christi.

As soon as the announcement ended, the flashbulbs started popping as if nothing were said.

Another fun little rubrical point is the Easter I preface to the Eucharistic prayer, which must be used during the Octave, where it says "We praise you with greater joy than ever on this Easter... when Christ became our Paschal sacrifice." Now, during the Vigil, the sentence is completed "on this Easter night"; during the Octave (irrespective of the hour of the day), it's "Easter day"; after the Octave through to Pentecost, it's "in this Easter season."

You could imagine my puzzlement at a 6.30pm Mass Easter Monday night when the words "on this Easter night" were used (two days late). And at his Morning Mass on Sunday, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York inexplicably said "in this Easter season." I'm guessing -- hoping, rather -- it was just force of habit.