Saturday, June 21, 2014

CAN ONE EVER OVERDO IT?

I'm not sure about this; what do you think?
Yes, Virginia, this is an Ordinary Form Mass. If the still photo is any indication, I think we can surmise that this was a well-planned, well-choreographed and beautiful liturgy. But is it too beautiful, meaning, too much?

What I like about the photo above and the style of the liturgy is that there is a clear continuity between how this Mass is celebrated and how the Extraordinary Form is celebrated. We can presume that the Mass above is in English though. We can presume that the propers were chanted as well as the Mass itself and that hymns were kept to a minimal, used only for filler.

We can presume that there were lay readers, maybe even female?

Why do I feel a bit uncomfortable by this photo? Do you? I like solemnity, choreography and reverence, but can it be overdone?  Liberace was a great pianist, but sometimes his style was overboard, but that was for entertainment purposes.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is a place for this in the EF and OF Masses. The problem with the OF Mass is that its rubrics are so flexible that you can have extremes, from quite sloppy and banal to he overcomplicated and thus "Liberaceized" style of Mass.

The EF Mass has three primary designations, Low, nothing of the Mass is sung, although there could be devotional hymns. High, where the Mass is sung, but no deacon or subdeacon and Solemn High with deacon and subdeacon. Apart from the Pontifical Masses, this is it.

For the OF Mass, though, a scissors and paste effect can take place, picking and choosing what is sung, not sung, how the Mass is choreography and just how "Liberaceized" it will be or not.

When is too much too much and not enough not enough?

9 comments:

Cameron said...

I hate the "altar boys as decoration" thing.

I also think those capelets are quite ugly. A well-fitting surplice over a nice cassock looks so good. This almost looks.... ghetto.

Those Vatican flags are quite tacky like that as well.

This is just bad aesthetics.

Remove the capes, nix the flags, have your six altar boys as lamp bearers plus your MC in the middle (or whatever), and this would look much better.

Again, this is just bad aesthetics. This pizzazz extra jazz does nothing except, yes, Liberaceize things.

Joseph Johnson said...

And no vestments with sequins and rhinestones . . . !

Actually, my mother used to like to watch Liberace (we used to make fun). I remember him once saying (as he sat down at the piano bench) that those rhinestones in his pants were "murder!"

Anonymous said...

This is the parish where I attend Mass, and although I can't tell from the photo if this was an OF or EF Mass, the Masses are always extremely devout, according to the rubrics and never "feel" overdone, theatrical or pretentious. There is no intention of "putting on a show" any more than the liturgies at the Vatican that are sometiems on T.V. appear to be "for show."

This parish is run by a newer order of priests, The Canons Regular of St. John Cansius. Their charism is to restore the sacred in liturgy and devotions through solemn and pious practice.

The music is typically Gregorian chant, even at the OF Mass, although occasionally there is a choir that sings parts of the Mass and sacred music. If there is no choir usually there is only a recessional hymn that fits the feast day, and that is usually one from an older hymnal. Sometimes a hymn is sung at communion, usually a traditional one such as "O Sacrament Most Holy."

Only seminarians or deacons (deacons are the young men preparing for the priesthood) do the readings. Only boys serve at the altar.

The altar boys are extremely well trained and it is a joy to see them on the altar. They move with precision and behave the way you might see at the Vatican (although I don't think boys serve at Mass at St. Peter's.)

Most communicants receive Holy Communion on the tongue kneeling at the altar rail. The parish has resorted the use of the communion railing cloth, and only priests or deacons administer communion. One priest does administer communion to those who desire to receive standing, but usually these are just a few people.

Each Sunday they have two OF Masses, and two EF Masses (one Low Mass in the early morning, and one High Mass at 12:30 p.m.)

The photo is not of a typical Sunday, but appears to be for a special feast, perhaps Christmas or Corpus Christi, where much greater solemnity and grandeur is practiced. On an ordinary Sunday there is only one priest, a deacon and four altar servers who are dressed in a black cassocks and white surplices.

Honestly, attending Mass here is a joy, and one leaves feeling one has truly attended a sacred liturgy.

Pater Ignotus said...

A thing of great beauty or majesty is not always enhanced by added decorations.

A flawless one-carat diamond is placed alone in a simple four or six pronged setting, allowing for the full play of light through the stone.

When I saw Vermeer's "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the High Museum in Atlanta, she was placed in a small gallery by herself. The dark walls and subdued lighting allowed for the beauty of this one, small (17.5 in x 15 in) painting to be appreciated without other adornments.

"Adornments" to the liturgy should serve the dual purpose of the liturgy - offering worship to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and communicating the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ to the People of God.

The movement needed to get the 24 individuals in this picture with their flags (never seen that before!) and their torches and their thurible, into and out of place, even if neatly choreographed, could only distract from the beauty of the sacrifice.

Noble simplicity is, I think, they key to doing it right and is part of the genius of Roman liturgy. Movements from place to place in the liturgy by participants should be minimal. "Don't go the long way if there is a short way available."

Gestures should be simple. (I visit a parish in Pennsylvania where the pastor has a bizarre process for swooshing his hands about before finally making the sign of the cross in blessing. It is so unnecessary and complicated that I can't replicate it.)

When the rubrics call for a "slight bow" at the words of institution, a priest, leaning with his forearms resting on the altar, is a distracting affectation.

No, I don't think this liturgical tableau vivant is a good thing. Far too much emphasis is invested in the extras to the detriment of the essentials.

Bee said...

This is the parish where I attend Mass, and although I can't tell from the photo if this was an OF or EF Mass, the Masses are always extremely devout and according to the rubrics and never "feels" overdone, pretentious or theatrical.
This parish is run by a newer order of priests, The Canons Regular of St. John Cansius. Their charism is to restore the sacred in liturgy and devotions through solemn and pious practice.

The music is typically Gregorian chant, even at the OF Mass. Sometimes there is a choir, and when there is they sing the parts of the Mass and sacred music for hymns. Otherwise the seminarians sing the chant, and usually there is only a recessional hymn that fits the feast day, and that is usually one from an older hymnal. Sometimes a hymn is sung at communion, usually a traditional one such as "O Sacrament Most Holy."
Only seminarians or deacons (the young men preparing for the priesthood) do the readings. Only boys serve at the altar.

The altar boys are extremely well trained and it is a joy to see them on the altar. They move with precision, and behave much like the Mass servers you might see at the Vatican when a liturgy is televised.

Most communicants receive Holy Communion on the tongue kneeling at the altar rail. The parish has restored the use of the communion railing cloth. Only priests or deacons administer communion. One priest does administer communion to those who desire to receive standing, but usually these are just a few people.

The photo appears to not be a ordinary Sunday, but must be a feast day, maybe Christmas or Corpus Christi. Normal Sundays have one priest, a deacon, and two to four servers, who wear black cassocks and white surplices.

Honestly, the Masses are not stuffy or overwrought, but just a Mass done well. Feast days are splendid and grand, and it seems fitting and right. When I leave, I feel as if I have truly attended Mass.

John Nolan said...

Extra solemnity is not achieved by filling the sanctuary with supernumeraries. In fact the worst examples of liturgical abuse in the Novus Ordo have the sanctuary invaded by all and sundry.

A Solemn Mass requires a celebrant, deacon and subdeacon; two acolytes who can double as torchbearers; a thurifer and an MC. Less is more.

I don't know the provenance of the photograph, and although it is obviously OF (no subdeacon, two concelebrants) I would not assume that it was in the vernacular; it has all the hallmarks of a Latin OF. I don't know what the flags are about, or even what flags they are; the flag of the Holy See would never be paraded in the sanctuary.

The greatest solemnity in the Roman tradition is achieved by the following (and this applies to both forms).

1. The Mass is sung. This means that everything that should be sung is sung, including the Propers and, crucially, the Scripture lessons (all three in the NO).

2. The Latin language is used. This is the Urtext of the rite and is the language of the music of the rite, with a provenance of well over a millennium. It also ensures objectivity. I know that this is difficult for Americans who as a result of British and American imperialism see English as the lingua franca of the world, which it arguably is. But it is constantly changing, means different things in different countries, and is simply not suitable as a liturgical language.

3. The ceremonial is dignified but restrained. One should not be distracted by what the servers do. One example - during the singing of the Gospel the thurifer does not swing the thurible, as this would distract people from what is being sung.

A Pontifical High Mass requires in addition two deacons at the throne, an assistant priest, a bugia bearer and a second MC, plus of course two servers to hold the mitre and crozier. Papal Masses were more elaborate, but they reflected the ceremonial of a papal court which no longer exists, and for the time being are in abeyance.

Henry said...

Blog comments about the OF are often confined to criticisms and accounts of abuses. However, the same flexibility that in the hands of poorly formed priests can lead to abuses, can also be a source of wonderful worship. As compared with the rigidity of the types of EF Mass, the OF rubrics provide well for differing levels of sacred music and progressive solemnity to fit different liturgical occasions.

Thus the quiet but careful and precise 6:30 am vernacular Mass that I attended this morning--with no music, just the entrance antiphons recited as the priest emerged from the sacristy and ascended the altar, and without the usual servers in cassock and surplice--2 men came up and served in street clothes (as sometimes happens on early Saturday mornings)--seemed just right for its small congregation of daily Mass attendees. Just as the solemn OF Mass (note the concelebrants), no doubt sung in Latin with Gregorian chant and a packed church, was surely not only appropriate but gloriously so, for the great liturgical occasion it evidently celebrated.

The same OF rubrics that admit the simple early Saturday morning Mass celebrated versus populum in the vernacular, also admit the requiem Mass I anticipate this week, celebrated ad orientem in Latin, with full Gregorian propers (same for an OF requiem as for an EF requiem), Dies Irae, In Paradisum, etc. Surely, this is “a feature, not a bug”.

Noble simplicity and sumptuous ceremony both have their proper place in the OF, and both can honor God wonderfully. I think the worst mistake that liturgists sometimes make is to insist that one size best fits all.

Carol H. said...

This looks to me like a Mass preceding a Corpus Christi procession- not your everyday Mass, but something special to celebrate a joyous occasion.

I like it.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet there was somebody back stage doing hair and makeup.