Monday, May 15, 2006

Verbum Domini

Yesterday I did my first stint as a lay reader, at the Cathedral Parish of St Thomas More in Arlington.

It's one of those things for which I submit the reformed Roman liturgy is an improvement over the classical. Strictly speaking, there is nothing in Catholic tradition to prevent a layman (specifically, a male who is not ordained) from proclaiming the Scriptures preceding the Gospel, as the priest doing so regularly in the classical Roman rite is the result of the "low Mass mentality" that developed when private Masses became the ceremonial benchmark by the Middle Ages. (This is the short explanation; I'll link to a longer one later.) Besides, the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics have been doing it for generations, and no one ever accuses them of taking tradition lightly.*

Anyway, I usually sign up for this at whatever parish I am stationed, provided there is only one lay reader for the Mass instead of two. The dilettantes that pass for "experts" in these settings will insist, that it makes the two readings more distinguishable from each other. For the average reader, this may be true. But I started at an early age, like around twelve, and always seemed to distinguish myself in this function. (Grandpa Rosselot heard me at a funeral once, said I should have been a priest. Go figure.)

So I don't waste my time in those places. But hey, that's just me.

They make a big deal in this parish out of the lay readers refraining from calling undue attention to themselves. This despite the practices of 1) waiting till the last damn moment to rush up there, 2) going all the way back to the pew for the Psalm between the readings, 3) going up to the altar for the Sign of Peace (a practice which isn't officially encouraged in higher places, so I declined), 4) applauding the former head reader upon his retirement and receiving a plaque, and 5) a guy in the choir balcony over the sanctuary waving his arms to get everybody to sing.

Come to think of it, maybe I'll go unnoticed after all. Good thing I'm a snappy dresser.

+ + +

* The practice of "tonsuring" readers in the Orthodox churches, even those not formally invested into minor orders, is a common practice. It does not exist among the "uniates," as far as I know.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how much a lay reader can effect the way I hear and remember the readings. We have one Vietnamese lady reader at my parish who has a strong accent and deep voice, though she is easy to understand. I always like it when she reads because her voice prompts me to listen more closely to what she is reading.

David L Alexander said...

"You can dish it out but ya sure can't take it!"

I don't have to. It's my weblog. I sign my name to that which I "dish out," so I stand behind it, as opposed to hiding behind anonymnity.

I haven't moved to ban anonymous posts -- yet.