Clapping and applauding at Mass poses certain problematic aspects into the Liturgy
While there is yet to be any official document in regards to the nature of clapping and applauding at Mass, it is yet no doubt a liturgical innovation that has slowly crept into the Mass. It is something that is at odds with the nature of the Mass and liturgical Tradition. It is something that would not even have been imagined more than 50 years ago and which many popes and various Ecclesiastics have spoken out against.
Let’s face it clapping and applauding at Mass is something in general that many of us encounter at many if not most parishes. In some parishes one may even encounter it at almost every Mass. It is something that may be seen at the procession and start of a Mass, after a priest gives a homily, after a choir finishes their specific liturgical hymn or chant, after some sort of human achievement is announced, or even at the end of Mass. As we will see it is a liturgical aspect that has posed certain problematic aspects into the liturgical life of the Church.
The first problematic aspect that is posed by the liturgical innovation of clapping and applauding is that it really does distort the nature of the Mass. The Mass loses its focus and liturgical worship becomes horizontal instead of vertical. The liturgical focus in other words becomes “anthropocentric” (human centered) rather than “Theo-centric” (God centered). The reality is that Mass is not about our personal feelings nor does it have anything to do with human achievement or performance. It has everything to do with worshiping God. About giving God what belongs to him. The Mass is after all the highest act of religion and a requirement of Divine Justice.
Cardinal Arinze states “…when we come to Mass we don’t come to clap. We don’t come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need”1
This is similarly something that is taken up by Pope Benedict XVI in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy. The then Cardinal Ratzinger stated that:
Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment”2
Whenever clapping at Mass is seen it is usually for human achievement. A priest delivers a homily that parishioners liked. A choir finishes a beautiful liturgical hymn or chant. An announcement is made during Mass about the achievements of so and so. Clapping and applauses are even given to the priest for simply starting or finishing Mass.
As Pope Saint Pius X stated:
“It is not fitting to applaud the servant in the house of his Master.”
Similarly clapping and applauding at Mass poses a second related problematic aspect. Namely that is subjects and degrades the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to a mere performance as well as to mere human criticism. This can even lead to a deeper loss of reverence at Mass which is hardly found anymore to begin with.
According to many definitions, clapping and applauding are defined as the approval of the average opinion of an entire group of people; the louder and longer the noise, the stronger the sign of approval.
The reality once again is that the liturgical act of clapping and applauding during Mass turns it into a mere performance. It turns it and subjects it to mere human criticism, both in regards to approval and disapproval.
If this is true then what will happen if and when mere applauses turn to something else at Mass because of mere approval? Namely if instead of mere applauses these turn into cheering and whistling or even telling out in approval? Or similarly what if the opposite is true. What if the assembly in its dislike for a certain genuine liturgical practice or aspects starts booing or even hissing in disapproval? If they don’t like the priest’s homily, or the choir’s singing, or whatever was announced about the achievements of so and so?
If Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) or Pope Saint Pius X don’t cut it for you then what about Pope Saint John XXIII who personally called and convoked the Second Vatican Council?
As New Liturgical Movement documents in regards to the English Translation of the video above
The fourth Sunday of Lent, John XXIII was once again among the crowd, at Ostia. (about 15 miles to the south-west of Rome.) Thousands of people were waiting for him along the street, in the piazza, in the church. They wanted to see him, to applaud him. They did not know that afterwards, he would rebuke them, in a good-natured way, in his simple, spontaneous, familiar way of speaking.
“I am very glad to have come here. But if I must express a wish, it is that in church you not shout out, that you not clap your hands, and that you not greet even the Pope, because ‘templum Dei, templum Dei.’ (‘The temple of God is the temple of God.’)
Now, if you are pleased to be in this beautiful church, you must know that the Pope is also pleased to see his children. But as soon as he sees his good children, he certainly does not clap his hands in their faces. And the one who stands before you is the Successor of St. Peter.”
- Adoremus Bulletin; Vol. IX, no.7, Oct. 2003
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 198.