Having a typical human being attitude, you don’t get to realize the value of a person until you have an abrupt role reversal and get to play that person. Similarly yesterday, the Faculty of Theology had to organize the mass celebrated for the Annunciation. Myself known to be the Universal Monitor of three batches and sometimes nicknamed as the Pope, took the liberty of appointing the lectors, cantor and selecting the hymns for the mass. I assumed that this is all that I had to do, in order to organize a mass. For my surprise, when I entered into the chapel, little did I know that the job of the Sacristan was awaiting me.
The heart attack for the day started off with the shooting pain, when I saw that nothing was arranged in the chapel. No Lectionary (The book which has the daily mass readings), Missal (The book which has the prayers and responses of the priest and the congregation), wine and the host, water, microphones, lamps, hymnals and everything that you can think of which is needed for the mass. Gathering myself together, calm and composed as possible and only having 20 minutes to prepare, I prioritized the tasks. The first question I asked myself was, what is the most important thing that will be needed and without which the mass cannot be celebrated. DUH!! The Readings for the day!
So I found the Lectionary, grabbed the Ordo (The book that provides a guideline about the significance of the day and the readings for the day) and started to dive and find the reading for the day. Since it was a solemnity (a feast), it couldn’t have been in the lenten section, kept on finding and I called up a friend who knew how to find it and finally, Yureka! Likewise found the correct page in the Missal for the Priest and placed it on the altar.
The second priority during the mass is, of course the Host, Wine and the Water. These were placed in the sacristy, so put them into the relevant vessels and kept them on the altar. Then I went on to do the arrangements of the altar along with the vestment of the Priest. Since it was lent and the lenten colour is purple, that was a bit of a cake walk. But then how many lamps do you light during a mass? Well I learned this for the subject called Liturgy, but didn’t want to clutter my brain with too much information at that time. Why would I wanna remember that right? I’m not the sacristan! Well now I am and that was important to know. Anyways, lit a lamp and kept it. With not much of time left in hand, I was hunting for the microphones, which seem to have been missing, but tracked it down on time. The next problem was, how to get them working? Because I’m no expert in that area. Did a little bit of twisting and turning of the buttons and tested the microphones and Bingo! there you go, it works!
Having only 5 minutes in hand, the heart attack was when I realized that none of the appointed lectors and cantor were there. So managed to utilize the available human resources and reorganize the choices. Selecting the appropriate hymns was the next milestone. It was weird how we easily found the offertory and final hymns but the entrance hymn was a bit of a hard nut and missed it, because the Priest was already there to celebrate the mass.
Whew… One heck of a rat race I must say. Come to think of it, if you analyze my thought process, as to how I prioritize the tasks, it’s exactly the same way how the mass generally flows. For Liturgy, we learned that if the mass was put in a form of a graph, the 2 peak points would be,
Likewise, my first 2 priorities were these. If you take a look at the Liturgy preparation, each minute detail makes a big difference and it is because it has a meaning. The celebration is a ritual. The Catholic Church breathes along with 2 lungs, Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Details like the colour of the vestments, number of lamps to be lit at different types of Eucharistic Celebrations are handed down from thousands of years young tradition. And the amusing thing is, we might find it too much to digest, so much of details and information right? But all these details are available in one repository, approximately found in all churches of the world. The Sacristan! Just like Joseph’s coat of many colours, the Sacristan is a man of many shades.
In the context of Sri Lanka, we hardly recognize the role of this man. But if anything goes wrong on the altar during the mass, he’ll for sure be the first scapegoat. And we take his job for granted. But what I realized yesterday was that, he’s a technician, an interior designer, a florist, a Taylor, a master of the Lectionary and also who knows the work of a Nun and a Priest on the altar. Hence the Sacristan is The Jack of All Trades when it comes to the mass. Hats off!