Yesterday I attended my diocesan Chrism Mass and it was wonderfully wonderful. The last time I went to a Chrism Mass was about ten years ago in my home diocese and as far as I can remember it was quite lacklustre and spiritually uninspiring. The experience I had last night in Auckland’s beautiful cathedral filled to bursting with people who had made an effort to be there and who sang and responded with generous hearts was on a completely different level. The biggest feeling I had coming away from the church was that I had been free to be catholic. Let me try to explain a little.
I have a young son who is a typical toddler: he wants my attention, wants to play, wants to make friends. This is all fine in any normal situation, but in Mass when I am acutely aware of the volume of every sound he makes, I often find it difficult to focus well and enter into the mysteries being celebrated. Also, Harry is Muslim and, while he supports me in my faith, he doesn’t fully understand what I believe or why. I don’t think anybody could ever fully understand it unless they themselves were living it. So I often find it difficult to do faith related things, and it was a pretty big deal for me to be able to leave Adoomi at home and go out to an evening mass – so much so that this was my first time doing so. And it was so worth it.
Here are my highlights:
(also known as Chrism Mass awesome bits)
- Full cathedral of 1300+ people, all there of their own free will because they want to be a part of this liturgy. Every single seat was full and there were people standing in the aisles.
- The beautiful polyphonic Cathedral choir enhancing the sacredness of the liturgy.
- An army of voices joining with the songs and spoken responses; and strong, solidly Catholic hymns sung by all in attendance. That sound must have roused those walking by the church to at least some awareness that there was something special going on.
- Simple chant responses for the mass parts. I was in a choir for a few years and there were many beautiful mass parts that we would often sing, but I always felt a little bad for those in the congregation who just had to listen to parts they would usually be responding in. I know that it’s still fully possible to unite your heart with the choir without singing but I prefer to be actively involved.
- The moment when a stern looking deacon’s face changed completely and he became the image of a sweet gentle servant when he looked towards a wheelchair-bound lady and offered her the Precious Blood.
- Kneeling with no interruption, being able to focus on the crucifix in front of me, Adoomi staying asleep the whole time and me not needing to dash off home, and being able to receive the Eucharist without a certain someone trying to grab a piece of the action for himself from the chalice (a new development).
- Watching wave upon wave of priests processing in and out of the church, and up to the altar to receive communion. Also hearing them renew their promises. What faithful shepherds we have.
- The beautiful prayers used to bless the oil and the sight of the frail old Outside Sister of the Carmelites coming up to receive her oil amongst all the other parish and community representatives.
- The peal of the bells as I walked out in to the crisp autumn evening air, announcing the joy of Christ to the whole city.
- The Marian anthem Mo Maria, a Maori song attributed to Bishop Pompallier, being sung with gusto and love. The lyrics are:
Mo Maria aianei
To Mary now
O tatou waiata
We turn in song
Ki a kaha ra tatou
So we may be strong
Ki a nui te aroha
In our love for her
Aroha ki te Atua
Aroha ki a Maria
I te rangi, i te whenua
In heaven and earth
Ake tonu ake tonu
Now and for all time
It is such a beautiful song and there are some parts of the chorus which, when repeated by the men in their deep voices, give the song a wonderful gentle depth. Here’s a youtube video which gives you some idea of it.