Thursday, July 19, 2012


"It's beauty is beyond discussion, at least to reasonable people" and that is the problem, reasonable people for those who hate this are really unreasonable!

My parents married in 1945 and I was born in 1953 as the youngest of three. So we were a pre-Vatican II family until 1965 when we became a post-Vatican II family, so I am an eye-witness to this grand historic shift in the Church, but my parents would have had a more nuanced understanding of it at the time.

My father was an early to bed and early to rise sort of person. He was a simple person too. He liked the early Sunday morning Low Mass because, well, it was short and of noble simplicity. So that is the Mass we attended until the Sunday anticipated Mass was possible in the late '60's and then that was the Mass of choice on Saturday night.

But we did go to the Tridentine's High Mass for Easter and Christmas and maybe a few times during the year, but not frequently. I never attended a Solemn High Mass with deacon or subdeacon until I actually celebrated it a couple of years ago as a Requiem.

When I was ordained a deacon in November of 1979 in Baltimore at St. Mary's Seminary, the next day (Sunday) I took my family to the Cathedral of Mary our Queen around the corner from the seminary for their sung Mass. I happen to love that Cathedral, which the Episcopalians would call, the Cathedral of Mary "Their" Queen. It was as high as an Ordinary Form Mass could be in a very high Cathedral. I don't remember who the priest was but he gave a stunning homily which impressed me at the time, though I couldn't tell you now what he said. But afterward my family, including my sister and father said that it was "too high-faluting for them." By that they meant the grandeur of the Cathedral itself, but also the pomp of this humble Ordinary Form Sung Mass.

Keep in mind our parishes in Augusta are simple church buildings and by that time in the late 1970's the noble simplicity of the Mass meant barely any singing of the Mass itself and certainly no incense, pomp and circumstance, that was all pre-Vatican II stuff.

But even the EF Mass can be celebrated simply certainly as a low Mass and even as a Sung "High" Mass. It is the Pontifical High Mass that has all the pomp and circumstance that can be off putting for some, especially with all the brocade and lace that seems to bring out homophobia of progressives to no end.

But most parishes seldom if ever had a Pontifical High Mass or even a Solemn High Mass. Their Masses when sung or spoken were by the book although I do think that many priests but not all would speed read the Mass and be rather sloppy in their reading of it, but since the Mass was mostly quiet and with the priest facing the liturgical east, it wasn't as noticeable as it is in the OF Mass if that take place.

And in the OF Mass, if one adds a lot of pomp and circumstance, it is based on what the priest of liturgy committee wants, not what is necessarily prescribed, since so little is prescribed in the rubrics or GIRM for choreography and ceremony of the OF Mass. So in the OF Mass the cult of the personality either of the priest or the parish is foisted upon the congregation by the creativity employed to "dress" things up.

Not so in the EF! You have strict rubrics and instructions for each form of the EF Mass from the Low Mass, to the Sung Mass, to the Solemn Sung Mass to the Pontifical Sung Mass. It is not left to the creativity or idiosyncrasies of the liturgy committee or the priest as to how any of these will look. It written in the ceremony and in great minute detail.

The National Catholic Reporter has a snarky blog on the Pontifical High Mass that has Cardinal Burke making comments on the EF's beauty and the need to recover this beauty. YOU CAN READ IT BY PRESSING HERE, BUT NOTICE THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW! "The pomp, the color, the splendor, the lavishness, the gold -- especially the impossibly gold vestments, the gold candlesticks, the gold statues -- is just overwhelming. This, Burke explains, is the sort of worship Jesus wants. The video is titled "The Call of Beauty." I wonder what the reaction of thoughtful Catholics might be."

But nothing in the NCR's brief blog nor the video shows anything but a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the books. But to describe this setting and this style of the EF Mass the typical Mass in the typical parish shows how prejudicial the blogger is and how prejudicial those who only want the OF Mass and a very stripped down version of it or a very puffed up version based upon the celebrant's idiosyncrasies want today. It is sad to say the least.


Marc said...

I don't understand those who are afraid of pomp in Catholicism. That is our tradition. If you don't like it, then you have a problem with Catholicism. That is exactly what many of the Protestant revolutionaries were trying to do.

They should watch an Orthodox Divine Liturgy with a bishop/metropolitan - even I was put off (just slightly) by the pomp surrounding the person of the metropolitan. Those who seek to do away with this pomp, though, fail to understand that these mens are the successors of the Apostles.

I find nothing remotely beautiful or inspiring about the Masses I've been to with bishops in the Novus Ordo (including priestly ordinations and Chrism Masses). It always seems very banal - but that is probably the choice of the bishops. And therein lies the problem, the bishop is a person and an office - the Pontifical Mass is for his office, yet he simplifies it because he puts his "humble" person above his office. The same idea that would make most bishops be put off by someone genuflecting and kissing their ring.

Anyway... why shouldn't the Mass be beautiful? Really, why should it be simple? Reminds me of this recent post on Rorate-Caeli:

ytc said...

I've always thought it very silly that there are so many options in the OF. Endless options. Not even the heart of the Mass can be called the "Canon" anymore. Options unceasing, it's terrible.

Some people like to puff about "pastoral sensitivity." Truly, there is precisely no "pastoral" situation in which it is necessary to use "Penetential Act C" instead of the Confiteor, or "Eucharistic Prayer IV" instead of the Roman Canon. As regards liturgy there is very little in the way of true pastoral sensitivity. Pastoral sensitivity as regards liturgy is simply fabricated garbage designed to make us feel good about what nice, empathetic people we are.

The OF will automatically and in every situation be soaked in the celebrant's idiosyncracies and preferences. Every single time, down to the very core of the Mass.

Whereas with the EF you have three choices: Low Mass, High Mass and Solemn Mass; the choice of which is quite usually customarily dictated by the day of the week and particular Mass being celebrated. Most everything else down to the finger placement is dictated by the rubrics, not to be rigid or freakish, but to ensure the people will enjoy a Mass free from the preferences and limitations of the celebrant, and to ensure a ritual solemnity fitting for the worship of God. It is quite possible to celebrate even a rubrically perfect Pontifical Solemn Mass complete with cappa magna with extreme grace and no robotic-ness. It just takes a well trained group of people.

With the OF half the time it seems is put into "planning" the Mass.

ytc said...

BTW, who cares if Pontifical Solemn Mass is extremely complicated (it is) and inflated? Most bishops celebrated it, what, no more than four or five times a year?

Pontifical Solemn Mass is extremely elaborate and highfalutin', but who cares? It is rare and always was.

Henry Edwards said...

I agree with the article. It would, indeed, be good for all Catholics--especially, all priests and bishops--to view this video prepared by the CNS, and the accompanying CNS article

For Card. Burke, restoring tradition is a work in progress

The amazing thing is the these were prepared and released by the Catholic News Service (CNS) of the USCCB, which would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

And I certainly hope the NCR is right, that this "reveals more clearly where the institutional church is heading and what can be expected from Rome in the forseeable future".

Marc said...

Nice post, ytc.

The "norm" is the Solemn High Mass. Anything else is a concession to circumstances. So, we know that traditionally the liturgical norm was a very solemn and coordinated method of celebrating the Mass. For comparison sake, look at the Divine Liturgy. It is also very solemn (always sung, there are no concessions for circumstances there). It is likewise highly coordinated and choreographed.

We have a very good justification for "roboticism" in the liturgy. First, the very word "liturgy" implies that there is a forumulaic sort of activity going on. And that is the Tradition of the Church. To say things should be to the contrary is heresy.

Second, we know from the Old Testament that when priests failed to "follow the rubrics," God smote them. In continuity, in the Tridentine Mass, it is objectively grave matter for a priest to deviate from the rubrics.

The fact that liturgical revolutionaries from the Protestants to today contend otherwise is an indication that they have lost a sense of the Sacred and the proper fear of God. They have also thrown away the concept of propitiatory sacrifice in the Mass, which allows formlessness to enter in because "validity" has no meaning outside the context of the propitiatory sacrifice as it indicates we have offered a "valid" sacrifice (in accordance with the "rules" set by God, that is).

Henry Edwards said...

"They have also thrown away the concept of propitiatory sacrifice in the Mass"

Indeed, some have. But almost every OF Mass I've attended in recent years has been celebrated by a priest who fully believes the Mass is a propitiatory Sacrifice, and attempts to celebrate the OF with the same care as he celebrates the EF.

Thankfully, there is no critical shortage of such OF&EF priests near me. And this, I suspect is the real purpose of SP--not to "bring back" the old Mass for everyone--but a a model for the reform of the new Mass, so that ultimately it too is normally celebrated unobjectionably as a Holy Sacrifice.

Marc said...

"They" = Protestants and liturgical revolutionaries

I'm willing to give most Novus Ordo priests the benefit of the doubt that they believe what the Church teaches about the nature of the Mass and that they act with proper intention during the Mass (and that most Novus Ordo Masses are therefore valid).

However, when you see some of the wacky stuff (like the recent "Hard Rock Mass" in Spain), you see a priest whose actions tend to demonstrate he does not believe what the Church teaches and is not acting with the proper intention (and therefore, offering an invalid "Mass").

Henry, I hope you're wrong about the purpose for SP, but I fear you are correct.