My parish often sings the Psalm setting from a section of our missal apart from the readings. In this year’s annual edition, Psalm 80 is number 777, and we utilized it this past weekend for the fourth Sunday of Advent. A concerned parishioner approached me before Mass about the “problem.” I knew immediately that this was an offshoot from the superstition regarding “666,” so I reminded the man of that and he seemed relieved. At least until Ash Wednesday when we might sing “Hosea.”
It tickled my memory from an article in Today’s Liturgy in which the editors at OCP took a bit over a half-page to address concerns over the 67th number that begins with a “6” in the hundred’s place.
Lately our customer service representatives have been fielding calls concerning the numbering of songs in our missals; the concern being that the number ‘666’ is used.
The editors continue to describe their research into where that nervous number can be found: the Roman Missal, the Lectionary for Mass, the Catechism, and even the Liber Usualis. It occurred to me that science fiction fanatics might consider Robert Heinlein’s interpretation of that number–and no missal or hymnal ever would get to it.
I found amusing the number of internet memes which claim to have found “666” embedded in things or with people they hate. The dislike is so strong, they’ve missed that at least half the “secret signs” are for the more innocent number 999.
The real danger seems to surface when we allow silly peripherals to hijack the real problems believers face in the real world today. You know: things that range from bullying to indifference to suffering. We could go to the borders and peripheries to find it, confront it, and move beyond it–and some do. But the damage draws quite near our families, neighborhoods, and parishes. Maybe if we look harder to see it, and address it where we find it, we’ll do better on the big numbers in the end.