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Less is More

Less is More

Less is More

Principle 7: Less is generally more

The seventh principle, above, comes from Celebrating the Eucharist by Patrick Malloy (The first principle is here, the second principle is here, the third principle is here, the fourth is here, the fifth is here, the sixth is here).

A lot happens in the eucharistic liturgy. Those who do it every week may not realize just how much goes on. Visitors do. Even the core involves a great many words, objects, and gestures. The human mind can only attend to so much. At some point, known more by instinct than science, the mind can absorb no more. Not only does the brain (and, therefore, the heart and the soul) fail to take in what is added beyond the “breaking point,” it fails to grasp anything. The circuit, as it were, shorts. The liturgy feels like a jumble, even if each of its constituent parts is, in itself, a gem.

I was recently at a service which began with chorus after chorus of confusing words. The altar area was already a clutter of jumble-sale objects and overhead screens. Then there was a motley procession with banners to add to the clutter, and yet another cross, and robed and not robed added to the confusion. Non-robed people seemed to be leading the service which began with a lot of announcements and even a several-minute video. The robed person, comically hiding behind a burse-and-veil on the altar, suddenly emerged to absolve us…

A service, be it long, medium, or short, – or even really, really short – that noticeably uses or employs significantly and excessively way, way many more words, or phrases, or clauses, and/or adjectives, signs, symbols, gestures, etc. than are necessarily requisite to get the point of the aforementioned service – that is to say the crux, the focus, the meaning of the aforementioned service – across clearly, plainly, and/or distinctly, is a discursive, long-winded, and, dare I say, over-cluttered service!

Too many bits, however good each individual bit, choke each other. I hope you saw what I did in the previous paragraph.

Put your service on a diet! Get it running energetically!

If in doubt – leave it out.

“May”, in the rubrics, mostly means – leave it out.

If you haven’t watched this video, I encourage you to do so:

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8 thoughts on “Less is More”

  1. Amen! Also, the point applies to preaching within the liturgy. Less is more. One point, State it, Make it, Conclude it, then sit down before making another one.

    1. Yes, Peter. As part of my formation as a priest I belonged to a group in which you would present a recorded sermon, and have written in one simple sentence the point of the sermon. After listening, the others in the group each wrote down in one simple sentence the point of your sermon. You then shared your intention, and they what they heard, and discussion followed. Blessings.

    2. My homeletics professor, Dr John C. Holbert, said that if your sermon was more than 15 minutes, then you didn’t know what your were talking about.

  2. Hi Bosco,
    I think you make your point very well. Less is definitely more when it comes to designing a service and even structuring a sermon. We had a simple service and a sermon followed by discussion yesterday. I think people truly appreciated it.

  3. I used to have a motto hanging in my kitchen many years ago ‘less is more’. It’s from one of Robert Browning’s monologues, and I’ve been thinking about it today, these lines
    ‘Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know,
    Reach many a time a heaven that’s shut to me…’

    It’s a poem about a faithless wife who leads her husband astray with constant demands for money, money he was allocated to help others, whilst his attempts at technique in his painting are acclaimed as artful- yet lacking soul.

    The more I try to connect with church and religion the more I have felt I lack soul, I lose the ability to reach out and be with someone suffering. I used to be able to do that without overthinking it.

    That’s what all this confusion and structure is about? Busy-work to avoid the reality of the world?

    The big illusion of religion is that we can control God, can control the world and nature and each other.

    Unconditional love gets lost: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.

    Empathy. Sharing time, food, knowledge, warmth. Acknowledging and accepting another person’s suffering, not being afraid to give them a meal or a pair of socks or a message of encouragement?

    The heaven of preachers and priests and ministers is shut to me. I can’t do what they do, can’t profess what they do.

    Doesn’t mean I can’t be kind though.

    1. Yes, Tracy, is the cluttering and filling up with “more” and “more” a way of, frightened, stopping the Reality from just being there with us? The shut heaven of such preachers and priests and ministers is not the real heaven, which cannot be shut, it is just noise trying to drown out real heaven’s music. Blessings.

  4. Life is at times terrifying Bosco, for anyone, but more so for anyone who has bought into superstition; I am thinking of a local minister here who when I was explaining about a ministry for the terminally ill I had been involved with- the look of horror on his face! Yet I heard him preach many times almost arrogantly about how confident he is in God taking care of us…so long as we do x,y and z. He actually preached one time that the pains of giving birth are a punishment to women for Eve…what a sermon it might be for him on the punishment to men for Adam…but he didn’t cover that in his ‘sermon series’.

    Theodicy is a weird subject, but it’s not like that is it: ‘rains on the righteous and unrighteous alike’.

    Many times I have found that the person who has least reason to trust or care- the fact they do is unique testament to the power of love and goodness. People who have not suffered can be so prim and smug.

    We had a hurricane here and there was much damage, my neighbour came out when I was looking and said ‘we’re right with God- that’s why our homes were spared’.

    Really? I said the right incantations and gave the right amount of money- and I’m spared…and not even to be thankful or even more supportive of those who lost things- to look down on them? When that’s my religion Bosco you can really count on me as atheist!

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