Saturday, 15 April 2017

Holy Saturday and the Dead

I'm thinking about the generation born between 1914 and 1924.  They include my grandparents and my late husband's parents.  The people I am thinking about are all dead.  They would have had no memories of the pre-Pius X church.  That was the world of their parents.  The first real change to the liturgical life of the church that they would have witnessed were the "reforms" to the Triduum instigated under Pius XII.

These changes were enthusiastically embraced by the in-laws and others I knew.  In the 1990s I recall two elderly gentlemen from Salford who had done the Triduum together each year without fail since they left National Service.  Their lives drifted apart but they came back together for the this: especially the watching and the nighttime Easter vigil.  My in-laws loved it too.  They loved the drama of the vigil that the pre-Pius XII liturgy did not have. They loved the emptiness of Holy Saturday and the anticipation of the Vigil.They were active stalwarts of their parish.  I really feel that for them it symbolised a post-war freshness and hope.  These were souls who found the changes really positive and therefore when further changes happened in the 1960s, they absorbed them enthusiastically too. I got to know them when the full consequences of the Novus Ordo and its often disastrous manifestations (along with slum clearances and increasing "individualism") had emptied the parishes.  They genuinely believed (because they'd been told) that the "Old Mass" was wrong.  They would be in horror if they knew we'd ever gone to the Tridentine Mass at the Holy Name in Manchester. I think they would have been happier if we'd embraced Buddhism.  My husband had watched the slow removal of the old liturgy with a more critical eye.  He told me that even in the mid-70s many parishes were still using the '62 for one of their Sunday Masses at least once a month.  Everything was at the discretion of the parish priest and the Bishop, until Bishops decided to engineer a "bright new future" and obliterate the Vetus Ordo completely, and the legacy of Cardinal Heenan too.

Over the other side of the world was my grandfather.  He was very well educated and something of a Latin scholar.  His faith was the faith of a convert and it ran deep.  He had no concept of cultural Catholicism. Malaya was not like that.  Being an active stalwart in a parish meant nothing to him.  Priests said Mass, women (mainly missionary sisters) kept the church nice. Grandfather had the shortest of tempers.  He liked the lowest of Low Masses. If there was any fuss, if he could sense the presence of a person performing at Mass (especially theatrical singers), he'd be cross,.  Mass wasn't theatre. The Pius XII reforms to the Triduum meant nothing to him.  He wouldn't have attended much of it before, he wouldn't be attending much of it after.  He also hated the 1960s liturgical changes.  Once, when he was over in Manchester and we took him to the Holy Name, he really hoped it would be the last Mass he would ever attend.  It was a joy to him, even though it was a High Mass, at least it didn't hurt like the Novus Ordo.

Tonight I've been asked to attend a Novus Ordo Easter Vigil.  I don't want to go. It lost its appeal a few years back when I sat a bit too close to the sanctuary and was horrified by the bad temper and complete lack of reverence of those in the sanctuary: they were putting on a show and it was not going well. I, like my grandfather, dislike Mass as performance.  I too am happiest with the lowest of Low Masses. The person who asked me to go is the mother of a girl for whom I am the sponsor. I feel I ought to go as I won't be around next year.

I will go.  Writing this has decided it for me.  It is not in the church that has bad memories.  Mass is something that is there and that absorbs you when you are there.  It could be behind a dense roodscreen with only a squint to peer through or behind an iconostasis for all I care.  The transcendent is always there and the performance is secondary and by comparison, insignificant.

To all my readers, Paşte fericit!


I'm back from the Vigil.  That was beautiful.  Slightly shambolic but beautiful.  No campness, no clinical precision, no professionalism, just sincere faith and joy!

Hristos a învitat!

Adevărat a învitat!


Ttony said...

Many prayers.

PS I hope Kompany hasn't used all your luck up.

Rita said...

Thank you !!!

Prayers for you and yours too!

ps. City's luck is a thing of mystery and amusement to me...