Thursday, June 13, 2013

Learning the old Mass and appreciating the reform

Over the past few weeks, I've written several times about my efforts to learn the older form of the Mass. At this point, I'm mostly comfortable celebrating a low Mass, with a few rough spots. I'm learning how to manage the calendar and I'm getting familiar with the Missal.

One of the things that I have found as I become more familiar with the older form of the Mass is a greater appreciation for the question of reform of the liturgy, which of course figured prominently in the Second Vatican Council.  While I've written before about how I think that was in many cases badly realized, that doesn't negate the validity of the question of reform. On the contrary--if what the Council was aiming at hasn't been well realized, the need to get going on that task is all the more urgent.

What are some things that stand out?

> Use of the vernacular. While I've become comfortable offering Holy Mass in Latin, I can't say that I find the readings easy in Latin. And, obviously, lots of folks in the pews prefer to hear the vernacular. I think it's been very beneficial.

> Loud voice v. low voice. Where the newer Mass often has too little silence, I can see where the older, low Mass has too much for some folks. 

> Use of the pulpit. If I'm offering Mass privately, doing the readings from the altar makes sense; but where there is a congregation, readings from the pulpit make more sense. 

On the other hand, there is something very nice about the symbolism of first reading and psalm being read on one side of the sanctuary, and then the Gospel being proclaimed toward the north. In a solemn, high Mass I attended recently at Old Saint Mary's, instead of this being done on the altar, the deacon stepped down into the sanctuary, and chanted the Gospel about the middle of the sanctuary, yet in Latin. 

One of the under-appreciated aspects of the reform after Vatican  II was to encourage more singing of the Mass, including the readings. The new Missal does take some steps to facilitate this.

> Prayers of the Faithful. While these are not mandatory in the newer Mass, and when daily Mass has to be brief, it makes sense to omit them; but for Sunday, when they are well composed, they are a powerful inclusion.

> Last Gospel. As venerable as this is, I can't say it upsets me that this was omitted in the reform of the liturgy. Alternately, what if the decision had been made to make it optional, or else to keep it for particular feast days, just as the genuflecting during the Creed was kept for two days a year?

> The calendar. While the rationale for some calendar changes is not clear to me, it does seem to me that the older calendar was rather confusing and I think it needed to be clarified. It would help a lot if a single calendar could be used, both for the older and newer forms of Mass, but I have no idea how that is to be accomplished, given the situation with the Society of Saint Pius X.

What do you think? Feel free to offer comments.


Michael Anthony said...

On the subject of the Gospel reading at the end of Mass - personally, I think this would be a wonderful inclusion in the post-1969 Missal (perhaps before the final blessing, though, to make it more obviously a part of the Mass). I think its conclusion ("And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth") could be a powerful reminder of Christ's continued presence among us. We'd leave Mass mindful of both our need to be Christ to others from the existing dismissal and the fact that Christ is still with us Himself.

Father Gregory said...

Father, I do the EF every Saturday evening. At low Mass I always read the epistle and gospel in English as it is permitted. I admit that the EF is not as user friendly as the OF, but there's something about it that is compelling for all its (minor) faults). I agree that someday the decrees of the Second Vatican Council regarding liturgy should be implemented. We've waited a long time for them, and they're still not in force.