My wife and I are taking a bit of a "down day" today after a very full day in Old Montreal yesterday. Tomorrow we begin the trek south to Buffalo for the weekend wedding/family reunion. We have been on the road close to three weeks now, and I do miss setting behind the computer with my books and coffee to do the day's blog entry. My hope is to begin posting again next Tuesday (July 19) though the following day might be more realistic. I think my wife has plans to bike with her adventurous partner (she of the rescued passport intervention a few weeks ago) on the 19th, the morning after we get home, so with enough coffee in me, the Tuesday post may go up in its normal place next week. If so, thank Folger's, not me.
We have had some great meals in Montreal, and at remarkably low prices, in no doubt reflecting the weakness of the Canadian dollar. Over dinner yesterday we agreed that one of the most striking events of the trip so far was yesterday's 11AM Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral in the old city. The Mass was in French, but translations of the Scriptures were made available in English.
Granted, this was the cathedral, where a certain level of gravitas is generally expected. Even with that said, the Mass was the closest experience to the Mass of my youth despite its faithful adherence to the 1970 ritual of Pope Paul VI that we use today.
The church itself is a religious and artistic marvel, and simply worshipping in such ambiance is a moment of mystical affect. The rituals of the Mass, which included the use of incense, were conducted slowly and attentively. There was a total absence of casual or humorous display.
The Cathedral choir sang from a large loft at the rear of the church. It sang in four-part or polyphonic style, including the parts of the Mass we generally sing, such as the "Lord, have mercy," the Gloria, the "Holy Holy," and the "Lamb of God," in Latin. The organist was a true artist, and at the end of Mass, when all of us stepped out of our pews and began shooting pictures--everyone except me, as I had run out of data space on my phone--he played a brief but stirring entre on the giant pipe organ, after which all of us in the church gave him a rousing ovation.
Given this experience, along with exhortations this past week from the Vatican's Cardinal Sarah of Africa that the Church return to its ancient custom of facing the East--priest and people alike--when celebrating the Mass, I think it is a fair question to discuss the mood of Mass, for want of a better term. Are we better served by a worship that is "other worldly" in the true medieval sense, or by a worship marked with generous social interchange in the "here and now." Now I have heard people say over the years that the post-Vatican Mass combines the best of both, but I'm not so sure about that. At the very least, the locals who filed into Notre Dame yesterday were expecting a different experience of the divine than I might expect in, say, Florida. While I am fortunate enough to attend sound liturgical experiences in my part of Florida, I am also aware that the architectural and liturgical environment of Mass at home rests considerably upon the social or horizontal nature of the event. Over a century ago Rudolf Otto wrote of man's need for what he called the "numinous" or the mystical sense of "other" in his analysis of religious life.
I guess the big difference, personally speaking, is that when I walk into my church at home I feel like a shareholder, which I guess has some basis in reality. When I attend Mass in the cathedrals of another age, I feel very much like a pilgrim in history and grace, and the last thing I feel is power.
Travel is a great teacher, so long as you balance cuisine with church.