Sunday, January 8, 2012

Metaphors and Worship

Assumption Grotto Sanctuary, Detroit, decorated for Christmas
Because of my work in the motion picture industry with stories and screenplays, I can never get enough of metaphors and similes. They are the magical and mystical ingredients in stories that convey truth. Stories told with metaphors are always more powerful than didactic presentations, because metaphors require the mind to engage the soul and the emotions to understand. Metaphors work best because pictures are instantly worth a 1,000 words, and visuals force the audience to internalize and personally identify with the emotional context of a character's decisions that advance the story. That connection drives memory and motivations... often to change.

In Cahtolicisim, I am struck by the rich metaphor that the Church provides — that is, the physical accrutiments we see IN the physical Church buidling, especially during Mass.

And to go one step even further, during an orchestral Mass such as those celebrated at Assumption Grotto under the able baton of the parish priest, Fr. Eduard Perrone, the experience involves the metaphors of hearing and stirs the emotions, memories, and behaviors even more deeply.

Perrone Rehearses Orchestra and Choir
Over Christmas I traveled across town three times to experience Fr. Perrone's first orchestral mass—the first that he's composed. I've been to many Masses that he's conducted with members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestral and their normally expert choir, accented by professional soloists, composed by the greats of history. But this was Fr. Perrone's first... of many to come...some of us hope. It was ... breathtaking in many ways. As Ray Long, Jr (who works for Perrone as weekday Mass organist, and who leads the Gregorian schola) remarked, "You can tell the music was written by a priest, who knows what's actually going on in the mass."

Indeed, I remarked to Fr. after the second celebration, "You've convinced me that every Mass needs bass drums and tuba." He laughed, but he knew what I meant. If you pay attention to what goes on in Mass, you may connect my comment to the place in the singing of the Creed where reference is made to the resurrection of Jesus. It is theologically a bombastic concept, and Perrone brings it off that way with the metaphor of music, particular with bass drum canon hits and tuba blasts. After the very slow and dirge-like "burial" moment, the resurrection strikes the congregation -- and we jump from our seats, as if rising from the dead (sleep.) More bass drum and tuba moments, please.

The third Mass this orchestral Christmas, Fr. Titus Kieninger was the chief celebrant and he delivered a terrific homily, that focused on how the physical elements of the Mass, and the music, contribute to metaphorical communication of what the Mass is all about.  I'll share that next, and insert my observations about storytelling, metaphors, and the value to Christianity that such worship celebrations bring to humanity.

(To Be Continued.)

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