Sunday, 8 March 2015

the reform of the reform

50 years on from the first Masses in regional tongues, if feel the need to pass some comment on how I see the "reform of the reform" is progressing.  I do not hold a candle for any particular view on this reform, I only know that it is happening, as organically these things do.  Also perhaps I am in a singularly gifted position to have within a short driving distance such a wide variety of liturgical experiences.  I will start by saying I have a marked preference for Low Mass in the old rite, and this is something I will seek out, but this is personal and I wish to make my comments general and objective.  I will also say that as I've only been hanging around this planet for 45 years, I have no first hand experience of the pre-conciliar world.

Is the old rite "flourishing" since Benedict's Summorun Pontificum?  I don't think it is.  I can and do attend the old rite across 3 counties and it is the same old faces I see where ever I go.  It is a darn small world.  Yes, there are plenty of young enthusiasts and lots of young families at these Masses.  Yes, there are plenty of good and holy priests involved but it all feels like a fringe activity.  It feels like a self-help group for a disenfranchised minority and what is worse I fear it is led by the intellect rather than the heart. Yes, they are well educated people with all the answers, but that isn’t enough.  I just wish I knew who they loved the most.  It isn't obvious and it ought to be.  I was talking to a priest recently, saying that I was dismayed that the number of parishioners who were routinely bi-ritual was so small.  I named a few, he said he could add a few more to the list, but the numbers are still small. The preference for a particular Mass is essentially factional; a lifestyle choice, a statement of allegiance.  And the two sides of the OF/EF debate loathe each other at some quite fundamental level.  I have perfectly rational and solid friends on both sides but I really don’t think I could invite them to the same tea-party at my house, it would be extremely uncomfortable.  So to the OF/EF debate I reverse the letters and say politely, “ef-of”.

What is missing is what Benedict pleaded so much for: MUTUAL ENRICHMENT.  The old rite lovers are so convinced in the superiority of their own brand that they can’t see how the new rite could possibly enrich their experience.  New rite lovers who at heart are clericalists and have been sorely influenced by priests who were only too keen to ditch the old rite 45 years ago feel much the same in the opposite sense.  Younger attendees at the new rite often have such a poor grasp of the faith that it really is genuine encounter with Christ that is needed and arguments over the liturgy are essentially meaningless in this case.

Much has been written on how the old rite could enrich the newer rite.  I want to end this post by saying how the newer rite could enrich the old rite, which is what must happen.

Where I worship, it is possible to find a Holy Day Mass in the old rite virtually entirely populated by souls who don’t normally experience this.  They are there because it is Mass and the time is convenient.  They are not tut-tutting and horrified by what they see.  There is a prayerful, reverential atmosphere, but I will add a note of caution; these irregulars rarely stay after communion, it seems like they have had enough at that point.
So here are my suggestions for enrichment of the old rite with a nod to what happens in the newer; it must flow, it must be coherent but it must not be regimented and it must not be linear (like a cookery show- raw ingredients to meal) as it was never intended to be:

  •  Scripture readings in the regional tongue, either by the priest or simultaneously delivered from the lectern whilst the priest says the readings in Latin.
  • Get rid of all the hand kissing in the old rite High Mass.  In these days of scandal the gesture looks offensive.
  •  The bowing in the old rite so often looks like Daleks having a pow-wow, somehow the humility has been lost.
  • There is a younger generation of priests and servers who are saying the old rite who have been very effectively “Bugninnid” but don’t realise that they are.  They see the Mass as performance and they perform;  Fortescue, Fortescue, Fortescue.  It can be quite unpleasant to watch, indeed it is no better than a Clown Mass.  The priest and the servers ought to be invisible in the Mass, or atleast not bringing attention upon themselves.  Once again, it is a humility thing and manifests itself best when a Mass is just a wee bit shambolic, a wee bit less than perfectly executed, a wee bit more realising that our sacrifice is ALWAYS unworthy.
  • There are perhaps some words that need to be said more clearly so that the congregation can hear them, the “introibo” and the dismissal and the Last Gospel must all be said slowly and audibly.

I remain convinced that the loss of the vulgar tongue for Mass to be replaced by regional tongues was a mistake, however I remain equally convinced that preserving the Mass of 1962 just as it is, to have it there like a fly in amber, a moment in time caught for eternity, is quite simply a nonsense.  The Holy Sacrifice of Calvary is THE moment in time caught for Eternity, and this is not anything to do with the liturgy but everything to do with our faith and ultimately if our faith doesn’t  breathe this reality any liturgical reform is a dead duck.

 A group of liturgical pedants learning to serve the old rite (or Daleks in 1963)


Ttony said...

Can I pick up on a couple of the points you make:

"The preference for a particular Mass is essentially factional; a lifestyle choice, a statement of allegiance."

It is in my parish and the next door one where we don't have any EF option: the quick, early Mass; the folk group Mass; the Choir Mass; the women-on-the-altar Mass; the quick late Mass; the Polish Mass; the Indian Mass. The problem comes from the fractionalising of liturgical unity but the response in usually a statement of allegiance to a particular vision of what Mass is (or isn't) for.

"They see the Mass as performance and they perform; Fortescue, Fortescue, Fortescue."

I know what you mean, but you can't *plan* to be a wee bit shambolic: you have to plan to do as well as you can. And what you describe is the younger generation reacting to the consequences of deregulation of liturgical praxis.

Neither of these goes to what I think is your central point about mutual enrichment: I don't think I've seen anybody make the point that mutual means movement in both directions before. I will say, however, that your points 1, 2 and 5 were standard practice in the parish where I made my FHC in 1964.

I'm still digesting the whole.

I love the idea of people turning up on a Holyday finding themselves unexpectedly at an EF Mass. That could not happen here

Ttony said...

I've digested the post a bit more, but I've gone off at a tangent here.

LMS Lincolnshire said...

To be honest I quite like the things that you have suggested that we could oust, but that is just a side point of my comment.

I think that the priests are more conspicuous than some would wish, because they have so few opportunities (since SP) to hone their skills. I am sure that if they were celebrating High Masses 'week in and week out' the priests would soon learn to fade in to the background and forget Fortesque.

In this part of the world we are seriously up against it, and we are literally bringing the EF Mass to a new generation. It is a pagan county for the most part and we are having to start from scratch.

I have found that ditching what is 'conservative', and doing what is 'correct', has been the best way of making new comers feel that they are not so far removed from the New Mass.

For instance, at Low Mass we have introduced chant at the offertory and communion. Some traditionalist would reel at this, but they are being 'conservative' rather than being 'correct'. We have specifically made the chant recognisable i.e. Adoro te Devoto and O Sanctissima. Why would we alienate people with music which may be unintelligible. I don't agree with showboating just for the sake of it (which I have observed). Of course, the greater the solemnity, then the greater the breadth of the liturgical music required, but for introducing people to the EF we must use our common sense (within the confines of the CORRECT rubrics).

When we start Missa Cantata, and have the next High Mass, we will also utilise the Missa de Angelis. Why should we be overtly snobbish about the music so early on? The Missa de Angelis was well loved before Vatican II for a good reason i.e. it is a simple tuneful piece of music that will not alienate new comers. The pre-Vatican IIers also recognise this Mass setting so they too will also feel more at home.

I am also convinced that creating a community feel after the Mass is absolutely imperative. I can vouch for the fact that we have put a lot of work into this and it has worked. We do not have many Masses, but we make the most of them and not alienate people. To do so would be literally shooting ourselves in the foot.