Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship
I visited the University of Dayton Campus Catholic Church for the first time on Sunday at 10 am to celebrate Mass with them. The mass session was referred to as a celebration of the Eucharist by the congregants, a term that new and unknown to me. Having visited the church five minutes before time, I thought that I would find the space almost full. I realized that the church was almost empty even though it was a celebration of the Eucharist. This however did not deter the priest from continuing to lead the few faithful who joined physically and spiritually. I had a good time viewing the church, which was magnificently built and decorated with images of the saints and Jesus. There were numerous rooms for personal prayers and for the choir. All of these rooms had decent pews and prayer books packed on every section. The altar was beautifully decorated even though it was quite small compared to the church size. Everyone was solemn as they silently prayed to the maker. The seated faithful were causally but decently dressed save for a nun who wore the spiritual habit. A bell rang and everyone rose from their seats to welcome the priest as he came in. I expected to see a group led by the priest according to USCCB (10, para. 3). This is contrary to my expectations as the priest came in quietly and led the faithful in the prayer, without the expected Paschal’s hymn (USCCB, 10, para. 4). According to USCCB (9, para 3), a quite crowd should by now be jubilant and sing with raised their hands in rhythm to the song, in celebration of Jesus victory over sin and death. We sat down and heard the readings read by ordinary congregants at the front. The priest rose up to read the Bible before teaching the faithful. This was led by a series of prayers, responses from the congregants, and signing. Within the set time, the mass was over and the faithful silently walked out of the different doors. This was also contrary to my expectations as i expected some loud and happy songs led by the choir as the priest left the altar.
Attending catholic mass was a great experience for me as it was the first time I was visiting a church. I realized profound differences in the form of worship during the service since I am a Muslim. The church is beautifully built, with colored windows and additional space for personal prayers, meditation and reading. This is quite expected in a church which holds highly the need to pray silently and unite together in spirit in worship of God (USCCB, 15, 2). The faithful were joined together in prayers, songs and in liturgy in honor of God and Jesus their savior. I came to note of numerous images on the window panes, walls, curtains and table cloths within the church. I later discovered that numerous images of the spiritual people were portrayed in almost every wall within the church. These images and signs were proofs of the spirituality of the faithful. This is similar to the affirmation in USCCB (page 9, para. 3) which states that the signs and symbols are significant as they depict the spiritual realities. USCCB further states that the images through signs and symbols express God’s action to men and men’s action of worship to God. This is a sacramental principle, which is consistent with the Church’s belief in its history. This was further evident in the liturgy through the frequent application of signs, gestures, and symbols.
Among the differences noted from my observation and readings, include the expected singing. A celebration calls for a great and charged crowd ready and willing to celebrate the leader or the being. A celebration calls for jubilation, songs, and happiness, an aspect that i missed in the mass. The few number of congregants ready to have worship on a Christian Holy day therefore appalled me. This is in relation with the motive behind the meeting. I also excepted lots of singings and praise songs. This was however missing based on the small number of congregants gathered regardless of the motive behind singing during the mass. The congregants sing to enhance their devotion to the word of God (USCCB, 68, 3). There are the popular devotions, which were sung during mass that were derived from the book of psalms. These songs enhanced their celebrations of the word of God as the songs were accompanied by the playing of organs and instruments. A religious spirit other than encouragement of the sacred mystery is also fostered during worship. The psalms are also to be sung by the faithful to proclaim the presence of Christ and their worship and praise of their God. Numerous songs of praise and worship all through the liturgy are a canticle of victory from sin and death. It also capture the Paschal’s hymn which commemorates Jesus’ ministry on this earth (USCCB, 10, 2).
I was also surprised by the liturgical procession. Even though I read that the leader should be the bishop, followed by the priest and the liturgical procession, i noticed only one priest and very few congregants. This was also somehow confusing as USCCB (45, 2) noted that the procession should be similar to the spiritual liturgy where the process is also a form of honor and worship to the creator. I was somehow appalled with the kind of dressing the faithful had in church a holy place. This shock is also related to my Muslim background where men and women cannot sit together especially in a holy place. Women must cover themselves appropriately and never go near the priest publicly. In the church, the reader of the word wore a short trouser and a t-shirt and stood at the altar reading the holy word.
I was however pleased by the good time management by the priest. Despite the few people gathered, he went on with the celebrations. This action nevertheless made me enquire of the intent of the priest. Was he really sold out to the celebration or was he rather carrying out his duties at the altar. This is because I would be disheartened by the few faithful who turns up to the celebrations on a Sunday morning. Instead of moving on, I would rather enquire whether there is need for such a comprehensive mass celebration with medium songs and prayers. Visiting a church can be adventurous especially if it is a new place with new practices. The church where I attended the mass is in University of Dayton campus. At the Appendix is the Church Bulletin for comprehensive information.
USCCB. “Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship.” 2007