Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I have changed a lot in the past year as regards my knowledge and opinions on liturgy, and i would like to share some of that journey here. When i discovered the extraordinary form of the mass and was immediately attracted to it, i will admit that i struggle for quite a long time with traditionalist tendencies both in a couple matters of faith and liturgy (the faith issues being more because of an association with another traditionalist). And i cannot say for sure that i am not past those tendencies at times, but i would like to think i have found balance and value in the two forms of the Roman rite of the mass. I would like to share what is in my own opinion, some or the pros and cons of both forms. ( i will abbreviate to ex. form)
In the ex. form of the mass, you have the prayers at the foot of the altar before the priest even truly enters the sanctuary. At my parish, we do have an english entrance hymn and then the introit is chanted at the same time the priest is saying the prayers with the server quietly at the foot of the altar. Then the kyrie is started, during which father is incensing the altar, and then goes to the epistle side of the altar to read quietly the introit and the kyrie. Then he intones the Gloria and reads it quietly while we are chanting it, after which follows the collect, or opening prayer. in the new order of the mass, the prayers at the foot of the altar have been removed, but an incensing of the altar can be done, then the confession of sins, and the priest does not read quietly those parts that are sung, instead he joins in the singing with the people. However, often the introit is not sung because there doesn't seem to be a place for it.
In my opinion, i do find in the ex. form that having the introit chanted while the priest is saying the prayers at the foot of the altar (which includes the "I confess") IS confusing and hard to follow everything going on at once. I can understand the simplification in the new order of the mass both on practical grounds and also historically, knowing that the prayers at the foot of the altar were originally said in the sacristy and are a Middle Ages addition to the liturgy. However, i think incensing of the altar should be done regularly in the New order of the mass to allow for the chanting of the introit after an entrance hymn is done (although the introit's proper place is during the procession). I also like having the confiteor said aloud together in the new order of the mass, which is basically in place of the prayers at the foot of the altar, although a more close english translation from the latin confiteor would be better. I also understand the simplification to the rite in the sense that the priest does not now say quietly the parts that are sung by the choir/people. Understandably, they are read if they are not sung, but i don't see any harm done to the new order of the mass by having the priest not say the sung texts, instead he joins the people.
I think that if done more elaborately, the opening rite of mass in the new form is very beautiful and focused and would allow for all the proper music to be sung without taking away an entrance hymn for the people to sing.
As regards the liturgy of the word, i do think chanting the readings in the vernacular is a good choice, because they do not have to be repeated later in english before the sermon (like in the ex. form) and the chanting provides a sacred sense of God's word.
The responsorial psalm or the gradual? I am inclined to say that i prefer the gradual because of how meditative it is and gives beauty to the liturgy, but i also would not have a problem with the resp. psalm if more reverent musical settings were provided for them. I can understand somewhat their historical reasoning for going back to a resp. psalm, but not completely. i won't get into the history of the gradual here. But let's just say that i think a more modal refrain melody for the psalm and singing the verses of the psalm to psalm tones like in monasteries/convents would be much more appropriate and meditative for this part of the liturgy in the new form of the mass.
I definitely prefer the offertory prayers in the ex. form of the mass and pray that they will someday be restored to the new order of mass. I also do not understand why 3 new "canons" were created. In my experience, having the one canon in the ex. form has helped me to internalize the mass more fruitfully; it does not have to become boring to people, that really is their choice whether to let it become boring to them or not. At the start of the Sanctus, here i do not mind that the priest says the sanctus quietly while it is being sung in the ex. form(and bells are rung) b/c it serves the purpose of him continuing into the canon, recited quietly, while the sanctus is still being sung. I think this overlap is exquisitely beautiful and appropriate and find that in the new order of the mass, it is too mechanical for the priest to "wait" for the heaven host w/ us to stop singing before he starts the canon, the most mystical part of the mass. I think a good option in the new order of the mass would be for the priest to start the canon quietly and return to saying it audibly (though still in a low voice) once the santus is done being sung. I have seen this done by a priest and makes almost as much sense as a silent canon. But i know a silent canon would be difficult for a congregation to get used to, and you would need to have one, stable, canon that you use in the new order of the mass, and it should be Eucharistic prayer I. I also find it ridiculous that we remain standing for the sanctus and the agnus dei in the new mass.
I think we need a more reverent sign of peace (if any at all) in the new order of the mass (like a bow to each other or something) and a return to the threefold " O lord i am not worthy to..." like in the ex. form for symbolic emphasis.
And of course, in the new mass, the off. and comm. chants could be done followed by a hymn. my church does this in the ex. form. ( and the altar should be incensed in the new mass during the off.) the new response of the people during the canon i find a bit odd, but i think it can be done reverently, and we should use the set latin form of it that is already set to chant, or adapt the chant to fit an english translation of it.
As for reception of communion, i am not alone among people my age who desire to see a return of the communion rail and reception kneeling and on the tongue (standing for those people who can't kneel is fine). There is no rule that says you HAVE to offer communion under both species and I think in the ex. form there were practical reasons for NOT offering both species, such as the spread of germs from a communal chalice being drunk from. I also hav found that i understand better that ALL of Christ is present in the host because of receiving just one species, whereas before it was hard not to think of Christ as some how divided up between his body and his blood because of the reception of both species (this is just my own personal experience).
I also think the collects should be chanted in the new mass like in the ex. form, but could be done in the vernacular.
And lastly, why is it that benediction is never done at the conclusion of mass in the new order of the mass? Is it even still allowed anymore? I find it such a beautiful expression of adoration of Christ whom we have just received and a powerful way of expressing thanksgiving for mass and our beliefs in the True Presence. It helps to end mass with a greater sense of reverence as well. Then follow it with a recessional hymn.
Oh, lastly, i forgot to mention, that i do think having announcements done right before the sermon is probably a better place than at the end of mass because that way you don't lose focus at the end of mass. However, i don't know if that is ok to do in the new mass b/c the homily is now considered part of the mass, whereas in the ex. form it is not.

I welcome any comments about my observance of the differences between the forms of mass. I have seen the new order of the mass celebrated beautifully and if it were done in that way all the time, would be fine with attending it on a regular basis, although i still think much of the texts need to be fixed/reinstated in its liturgy. Whereas with the ex. form of the mass, it has spots that are hard to follow and that do seem redundant(as stated above) but overall I find it expresses the fulness of the Catholic faith more effectively and think much should be drawn from it to reform the new mass.

1 comment:

marilyn said...

I just read your post about liturgical styles, and I was particularly interested in your comments in that you feel only the host should be offered. I for one and thrilled that they offer both species, as I have celiac disease. This means I become very very ill if I ingest gluten protein found in wheat, which is found in the hosts. I can only have low-gluten hosts if available, otherwise I can only have the wine.