The Bunny Scandal (UPDATED)

Well, it had to show up here eventually: the video of the Easter Sunday Mass in Hartsberg, Austria, featuring the Easter Bunny leading the Prayer of the Faithful.

To perhaps give a fuller picture of what else is going on in this parish, here is a clip from their Easter Vigil. Aside from the fact that they left the lights off during the Exultet, I don’t see anything here that would scare the horses of the Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

There’s been plenty of apoplexy over the first video, so maybe here we can try for some analysis.

So was the Bunny leading the prayer of the faithful simply an (unfortunate?) attempt at inculturation? Given that it was the family Mass, was it a (pandering?) way of trying to reach the children?

If we think this was a bad idea (OK, I’ll admit it: I think it was a terrible idea), how would one go about explaining why it is bad, other than chanting “say the black; do the red” (in fact, I don’t think there’s anything in the red forbidding the Easter Bunny from leading the Prayer of the Faithful)?

If we think it was a good idea, how would we justify it on liturgical/theological grounds — i.e. in some way other than saying how cute people thought it was?

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Perusing the parish website (thanks to Brigid for the link) I see that the children’s Mass was on Easter Monday, not Easter Sunday.

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25 comments

  1. We could say that it’s not a good fit, perhaps to start. The bunny is a remnant of the pagan fertility celebrations that [if I recall correctly] gave us the term ‘Easter’ in the first place. It’s become a secular symbol of a religious event, and putting it smack dab in the middle of the liturgy just doesn’t quite work. It distracts from what’s really going on there and thus interrupts the flow of the liturgy. Superficially, it is kind of cute, and would certainly be likely to engage the pre-second grade crowed, but on the whole it’s just not an appropriate blend.

    How’s that?

    I do recall with some fondness, though, the priest who would reliably don a pair of bunny ears for the recessional on Easter Sunday morning. But by then, Mass was over and he was just leaving the room. The kids loved it.

    1. I don’t understand. Don’t you like bunnies? I mean, have you seen your picture? If someone should like this, it ought to be you!

  2. The bunny is nowhere to be found once the “Mass of the Faithful” begins. He is apparently there during the “Mass of the Catechumens” but in catholic tradition it is at the end of the Mass of the Catechumes that the sinners, heretics, unfaithful and all around non Catholics were “dismissed” and that would include the bunny.
    Seems that all is actually legit but will not make the temple police happy…

    1. Fr. Awr, I thought that the Mass of the Catechumens ended after the intercessory prayers and the Mass of the Faithful started when the offertory began and the action moved to the altar?

      I guess I’ve been leaving at the wrong time 🙂

      Mea culpa.

      1. The catechumens do not have the “right” to pray with the community during the intercessions, so they are dismissd before them, not after them.

        I find, working with catechumens, that the fact that they can now join the entire community in prayer at this point is for them second only in importance to being able to receive Communion.

  3. From my admittedly limited data set, I’m not sure that the temple police are capable of happiness. . .or, at least, they refuse to allow themselves to be happy.

  4. Not forbidden perhaps, but very inappropriate. From my point of view, it should not have happened. We also should remember, I think, that when this sort of thing happens we just give some more ammo for the Father Z’s of this world. If the pastor of that parish was trying to engage children, he could have used children to lead the prayer. I don’t think there’s anything in the red that says they can’t.

    1. The question at hand isn’t what we should do to curry Father Z’s favor. The question at hand is whether this was appropriate. If you are going to call it inappropriate, please give your reasons.
      My understanding is that this was a special Mass to open a family festival on Easter Monday. The Bunny did not replace the adult celebration of Easter the previous two days. I would say that having the Bunny at Mass connected the secular celebration to the sacred one.
      I know the Bunny has pagan origins. I like to think of the absurdity of a rabbit hiding eggs as a perfect introduction to and reminder of the awesome absurdity of a Man rising from the dead. With God, all things are possible!

  5. Totally irrelevant to the burning bunny buzz, but aren’t the lights left off during the Exultet? Just the baptismal “lights of Christ” from the candles lit from the newly lit Paschal candle?

    1. Opinions differ on the interpretation of the rubric, but at least on one reading (the one they follow at St. Peter’s in Rome) all the lights are turned on at the third Lumen Christi, before the Exultet.

  6. Clowns in any setting freak me out and this particular Easter Bunny really does, but the American version not so much–call me ethno-centric, I guess.

  7. Thanks for the update that this was on Easter Monday.

    My understanding is that some places in Europe (and other places, e.g. Canada) Easter Monday is a legal holiday.

    The Orthodox have the custom of celebrating the day after Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost with a Divine Liturgy. Something between a pious custom and a holy day of obligation.

    In general I think we should be more flexible with celebrations that take place on days when people do not feel obligated to attend Mass, i.e. to make such celebrations more attractive for people who might want to come for that reason.

    We should clearly label such flexible celebrations so that people who might feel uncomfortable can avoid them.

    1. Easter Monday, traditionally in the East and the West, was a day replete with humor and pranks (especially involving dousing with water, the sudden raising of people in the air, and the uncovering of hidden things…); the folk customs associated with it have survived better in the East than in the West, and Western Easter folk traditions have largely withered by comparison (so, when the temple police complain about the withered Lent of the West, they should remember that Eastertide has withered even more).

  8. I don’t think the bunny outfit is particularly appropriate, but it does prompt a question about chasubles.

    Why is it appropriate to dress up for mass in late roman travelling clothes? If they dressed in their everday clothes, wouldn’t our everyday clothes be the way to imitate them?

    1. Not necessarily. First, your question kinda begs the question of exactly how everyday clothing was used; everyday working clothes of a peasant or the everyday ceremonial garb of the elite, et cet.? Also, can’t we change our perspective on liturgical vesture (that is, can’t we decide it can be something other than everyday clothes, however defined)? Finally, who gets to decide and how? I would rather Rome decide than each individual priest; priests already get lots of choices to make in liturgy as it is, so I don’t see why they need further gratification of yet another choice on this point.

      1. everyday working clothes of a peasant or the everyday ceremonial garb of the elite, et cet.?

        Boy, if that phrase doesn’t open a can of worms! 🙂

      2. Isn’t the phrase ‘everyday ceremonial’ sort of an oxymoron? If you’re doing ceremonies every day, then the ceremonial becomes every day and isn’t so special. . .

        Or maybe I’m too deep into this other stuff I’m writing at the moment and my brain is a little too bent to think on this.

      3. My very limited understanding is that the chasuble developed from a poncho-like cloth used by travellers. The word comes from a diminutive form of casa, house, presumably because this is where one stayed when on the road and no other accomodations were available. (I picture my brother coming to visit me when I was in college; when he took off his coat, he had a couple of pans and a sack of rice hanging on him.)

        It became the everyday ceremonial garb of the elite, and then the ornate ceremonial garb of the clergy. But I think it started as the everyday garb of the wandering, a utilitarian garment that was adapted to a different purpose.

        I ask this only in the context of the Easter bunny. We dress up all the time for ceremonial reasons; why is the chasuble acceptable and not the Easter bunny outfit? Because someone somewhere decided, for whatever reason, that dressing up like a Roman was a good idea?

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