Friday, February 25, 2011

Only Christ Could Truly Have Loved Us on Wall Street.

This is a post that comes from Left Field. But this isn't the Left Field of Dreams, which for me was an honor if you were chosen to occupy that sacred space beyond the diamond of the infield. This is the left field as in "Elvis has LEFT the building." But in this case, it ain't Elvis; his demise was handled, far away from the terror of the night that is TMZ or CNN. Whatever molecule of human dignity that was endowed to Sheen, Charlie, appears to have, at best, lapsed into dormancy.
I have admired the Sheen saga since I was a teen. I remember the taut, lean emergence of Martin (Estevez) Sheen as Private Eddie Slovak in a made for TV movie. The first of many roles that established this actor as an advocate of nobility among men, even if in the anti-hero or even villain. It's commonly known that as a devout young Catholic actor, Martin assumed the surname of his childhood exemplar, Bishop Fulton Sheen, for his stage name. And the actor has, to a greater extent, managed to exemplify his "on-the-sleeve Catholicism" not only in most of his roles (notably not the least, as POTUS on "West Wing") on screen but also off screen. Whether getting arrested outside the School of the Americas or some other liberal cause celebre, Martin Sheen has fought a good fight and come through the wiser, though scarred. His pivotal scene of self confrontation in real and reel life in "Apocalypse Now" had to be among the most powerful scenes of conversion from decadence and denial to fortitude and perseverence.
Many might have assumed that his younger son, Charlie, after some fitful and fitting burp roles in "Ferris Buellar" bits, might have hit the same gravitas with his performance in the second generation of Vietnam War revisionism, "Platoon." The Sheen charism, for me which extends to this day to Emilio, Martin's eldest son-actor, was in full bloom.
But the narcissist of Charlie's punk druggie in "Ferris" never seemed far from the surface of many of his roles, whether in enjoyable or farcical comedies such as "Major League" or "Hot Shots," or the dramatic roles such as in "Wall Street" or "The Arrival."
And the irony, a truly sad irony, is that Martin's "father figure" and Charlie's "rebel without a clue" was never more evident, though funny at the time, than as depicted by the clip above where they parody real/reel life with the unison gag line "I LOVED YOU in "Wall Street."
Most of the eyes and mouths of the "world" that lives on the carcasses of the demise of celebrity, whether of the Sheen, Lohan, Speers, Jackson or Presley species, won't at all think to bemoan either the loss of distraction and entertainment, or to condemn them to Mel Gibson perdition.
But, I would like to believe that Martin, a prodigal father for these times, has already prayed for the intercession of his namesake's petition to God on behalf of his woebegone son. And I join him in prayer to God in concert with the late bishop's legacy of witness and love, so that God's redemption may be made manifest and reside forever in Charlie's heart, as it appears to have done in Martin's.
May God be praised. May Charlie be saved. Amen.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Two New Terms in My Liturgical Lexicon

The very mention of “my” and “lexicon” generally strikes fear and loathing among my friends and fellowes here in St. Blogs. Why, within a couple of days, one of two dearest of my singing sisters in chant implied that my posts are rife with “hyperbole," (she’s correct, of course!) whilst the other worried that one of my posts at Musica Sacra was so “pithy” that the real me had been abducted!

Well, this post-Winter Chant Intensive article is intended to address a “boots on the ground and let’s chum the still waters” inquiry I made of Dr. Mahrt in New Orleans. (See that, I mixed metaphors already!) I asked whether there existed any historical precedence for having the Entrance Procession begin from the sacristy, as I’ve experienced at EF Masses, but in the OF.

So, here are the terms, courtesy of Dr. Mahrt’s reply: “Circumambulation” and “The Stuffed Mass.
To “circumabulate” according to simply amounts to “walk(ing) or (to) go about or around, esp. ceremoniously.” It’s origin and source dates around “1656, from L. circumambulare , from circum "around" + ambulare "to walk.

A new agey website Kora Chronicles surprisingly offers a fairly apt (in synch with Dr. Mahrt’s definition)-
“Generally, circumambulation is to walk or move around something, especially as part of a ceremony or ritual. In a religious or spiritual context, circumambulation is performed around a special object, just as a shrine or an altar. A Catholic (celebrant) may circumambulate an alter, other priest or person, gifts etc while swinging a thurible of incense (also known as censing) as part of a blessing or ceremony. The number of times and the method used to swing the thurible is significant and, in some denominations, forms part of the liturgical law.”

“The Stuffed Mass,” as defined by Mahrt, is when we bereft directors have to stealthily deploy the proper antiphons (and verses) while maintaining the practice of having congregational hymns sung AT THE SAME MASS. The good professor neither condemned nor endorsed the practice, but simply acknowledged that “on our journey to the kingdom” many of us (like me) are using the Introit as a de facto prelude, wedding an Offertorio to the so-called Hymn of the Day, and chanting the Communio during the quarter hour it takes for the EMHC’s to receive H.C. and the ciboria and chalices, followed by the Communion processional hymn, etc.

In this post I would like you folks to either raise or lower the standard (flag) of proposing the practice of circumambulation for the Entrance Procession as a legitimate way to accommodate the singing of both a hymn and a proper. Isn’t it the standard practice at our churches to have the celebrant and ministerial entourage leave the sacristy to the exterior of the church and re-assemble at the narthex for the entrance? And if that is so, doesn’t that require some sort of “cue” for the congregation to rise? And from that point, all of the strategic issues and disputes about partipatio activa (congregational singing), or antiphonal singing/chanting between the choir/schola and congregation of the Introit, or the congregation visually “taking in” the deeper meaning by actively viewing the procession, or more mundane concerns as to how many verses of a hymn are to be sung, or is it a processional hymn or “gathering song”…. Could circumambulation remediate most of those concerns?

But what is the “special object” being recognized should the celebrant’s entrance begin with the ring of the Introit bell, the procession moving through the sanctuary and into the nave via a side aisle and then without interruption (or a "meet and greet" outside of the church beforehand) proceeding up the main aisle to the sanctuary again, where reverencing, incensation, etc. would constitute an uninterrupted liturgical action? Well, couldn’t that “object” be the “priesthood of believers” called the Faithful? (Well, maybe yeah, Charles. But wouldn’t that mean that only half of the congregation would be so recognized?) Not if you approach the Offertory Procession by using the same procedure for the other half of the congregation!

“Oooohhhh, that’s a BINGO!” (exclaimed Colonel Hans Landa in the film “Inglourious Basterds.) Then we could stuff those two processions with the hymn whilst the ministers are ambulating in the nave, and seamlessly transition to the proper chant/homophonic/polyphonic setting upon their return to the sanctuary.

But really, as everyone knows, I’m not an academic. But I am given the office of fulfilling the Church’s directives for optimal worship. I do know that this, to some, might seem to blur or transgress what are considered to be clearly delineated options in the GIRM. But, as Dr. Mahrt outlined in his wonderful schematic drawing (above)* of his experiences of various types of circumambulation at Salisbury Cathedral, it might just advance among the people a higher appreciation for the function and arts associated with processions.
*Just in case you're interested, I've copyrit the graphic above as "The Munchian Scream of the Presider!" However, Dr. Mahrt believes it more resembles an example of Scott Turkington's method of chironomy. You make the call.