Monday, September 8, 2014

COMING TO TERMS WITH THE PASCHAL MYSTERY, THE SILENCES AND THE HOLY OF HOLIES OF THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS BY OVERCOMING THE DISTRACTIONS OF THE ORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS AS IT CONCERNS WHAT THE CONGREGATION IS DOING AND WHAT THE LAITY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO, DISTRACTIONS TO THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF THE MASS, THE PASCHAL MYSTERY



We celebrated the EF High Mass on Sunday with about 100 in attendance. Two families, one with four children drove in from north Atlanta!

One of the things this post-Vatican II formed priest has had to grapple with is the quiet nature, the sacred silence if you will, of this Mass and now I think I have finally come to terms with it and joyfully so.

Let me explain.

Shortly after I was ordained in 1980 in my first parish assignment, there were many older people then, my age now, who are now dead, but I digress, who missed the Mass of the Ages which had been suppressed after Vatican II. Apart from the Latin and ceremony, what they missed the most was the silence. But by that point in my life, I didn't understand what they meant.

In fact in the seminary, we were taught that the revised liturgy needed to have more silence. But the way the silence was imposed on the now called Ordinary Formed was contrived. We were to pause for silence after the "Let us Pray" of the Collect and Post Communion Prayer. We were to have silence after the readings. (In those days, the silence was too long in some cases and people thought we had forgotten to move on.) And there was to be silence after the homily and after Holy Communion. At the papal Masses this silence first has to be explained by a commentator so that people don't fall asleep as these silences are quite lengthy, especially under Pope Benedict (less so with Pope Francis, but the silences remain).

However, compare this type of silence which is contemplative, to the type of silence that is built into the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

In the EF Mass, silence happens as the celebrant is actually praying something. It starts with the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Mass of the Faithful). The Offertory Prayers are prayed quietly, although in a Sung Mass, the choir could be chanting some anthem. The Secret is prayed quietly (Prayer over the Offering) and the entire Roman Canon is prayed quietly, except for a few words toward the Per Ipsum.

It was the praying of the Roman Canon quietly that caused me the most discomfort. I felt that I was cheating the congregation since they couldn't hear it. But yesterday I let go of that in our most beautifully chanted EF Mass by our wonderful men's schola. I let it happen and to be the iconostasis of entering the Holy of Holies that the Roman Canon is in the Extraordinary Form.

I allowed the many gestures that are included in the EF's rubrics of the Roman Canon to be the sign language to cue the congregation about the point where the priest is, the genuflections, the bows, the signs of the cross, the nods of the head and the ringing out of the bells.

Now I understand the complaints about those parishioners in their 60's back in 1980 about missing the sacred silence of the Mass of the Ages. Prayer and Sacrifice were taking place during this grand sacred silence and in the grandness of this silence the celebrant and congregation were swept into eternity, the vortex of the eternalness of the one Sacrifice of Jesus now in an unbloodied way and pulled into the entirety of the Paschal Mystery.

When Pope Francis told the Congregation for Divine Worship to focus more on the Paschal Mystery than on reforms, something that Pope Paul VI failed to do with his Consilium who fabricated the revised Mass from suggestions liturgical theologians in the first half of the 20th century wanted to do, like an interior decorator constantly rearranging the furniture, to the Mass what decorators do to homes. But to what avail and to what damage to rank and file Catholics completely satisfied with the Mass of the Ages or at least believing at the time prior to the Council that the Mass could not and would not change substantially other than the congregation singing and saying the parts previously reserved for altar boys, cantor and choirs.

The other discomfort this post-Vatican II formed priest felt with the EF Mass is the fact that so many attending these Masses I celebrate do not respond as is permitted today in the EF Mass; they remain quiet. They are not allowed to be lectors. They can't be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. They must kneel to receive Holy Communion, do not respond "amen" and receive on the tongue. Girls can't be altar boys since altar boys is an inquiry stage (using the RCIA model) into the priesthood.

I let go of all of that yesterday and focused solely on the Paschal Mystery, the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ completely and truly and really present in this celebration.

The solemnity of the Mass, the devotion of the children, even those in early elementary school brought me back to the 1950's and what was the norm at every Catholic Mass of that time prior to the changes and subsequent abuses not envisioned by the initial changes  made to the Mass of the Ages.

The quiet prayers of so many after the Mass, that profound devotion now almost completely lost in the Ordinary Form's aftermath, was also edifying.

I can see why in parishes that celebrate the EF Mass almost exclusively why there are so many more vocations compared to Ordinary Form parishes (percentage wise). The EF Mass and its spirituality and devotion is profound and deep and does not tend toward superficiality and horizontal extroversion, but rather vertical introversion at least in the confines of the Holy of Holies of the Catholic church building and its various liturgies and devotions.

None of this needed to be lost in the revised Mass. In fact I have a suggestion for the Congregation of Divine Worship as it concerns recovering the focus on the Paschal Mystery celebrated at Mass, any Mass of the Church.

1. The Low Mass (with no singing of the parts of the Mass): Allow an all vernacular version of it but keeping the EF's Order of Mass and strict rubrics including all the silences but using the revised Missal. Allow the revised lectionary but allow the Gradual and Tract. Suppress the other Eucharistic Prayers and only keep the Roman Canon. (Now I know this is radical, but keep in mind Pope Paul VI effectively suppressed the Mass of the Ages in its entirety. So just suppressing a few Eucharistic prayers is really child's play compared to that!

2.The Sung Mass, allow the Collect, Preface and Post Communion Prayers as well as the Scriptures to be chanted in the vernacular. Everything else in Latin/Greek/Hebrew.

3. Solemn Sung Mass with deacon and subdeacon is completely in Latin but using the Revised Missal with the addendums I have already suggested.

4. Strive to recover the Catholic culture of the Church prior to the Council as it concerns the sacred, reverence, strict silence in the church and popular devotions. Recover the pre-Vatican II altar arrangement and church architecture for sanctuaries even in modern concoctions.

18 comments:

Cameron said...

you can have your postcommunion in english as long as i can have the Gospel, collects and preface in Latin. to have them any other way would destroy them.

JusadBellum said...

If the homily is heartfelt, theologically solid, and emotionally gripping.... if the pastor doesn't just show up but also waits outside afterwards... if he seeks out those who come to Mass and those on the books who don't... I think these pastoral best practices are (all things equal) of much greater impact on the lives of the faithful than whether there are certain trappings of rubrics or not.

I get Latin Masses - I value and appreciate the language, the pomp, the seriousness. But I'm waiting to be fed emotionally and spiritually and intellectually.

I need to know the priest actually believes this mystery. That he's as awestruck with the mystery as I am.

But I need to understand the Gospel and how the word of God is to have practical impact in my life and the struggles I have as an individual, as a husband, as a father, as a citizen.

It would do you priests incredible good if in every homily you were to smuggle in just a paragraph where you 'connect' with the reality of the people in the pews and it's so incredibly simple and easy!

Start by acknowledging our existential need for Jesus, for the graces we find only in the Church, in the Mass.

"My friends, everyone knows someone struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and relationship problems. We all worry about the future in general and our future in particular. The secular world can sometimes be enticing but it can also terrify and leave people alienated and alone. Our flesh can inspire us but also drag us down. The spiritual world of angels and demons is real and the only defense we have from Principalities and Powers is found in our relationship with Jesus, the Word through whom the cosmos was made.

We all suffer and we all have our own crosses and I say, "come" to Jesus. Let's listen to the Word again and reflect that all our sorrows and fears can be swallowed up the mysterious presence of Christ...."

OK two paragraphs. But the gist takes about 1 minute to say. It connects with 50% of the congregation because we do all know someone struggling with addiction, depression, and relationship problems that seem hopeless.

We do all tend to be distracted during the week and perhaps thus tempted to wonder what's the point of going to Church or praying. It's so helpful to give guidance on how to return to or hold onto the relationship with Jesus that makes all the difference.

If I were you, I'd reinforce in every homily how the rite of Mass connects us with the past, with Catholics from the whole world... with the communion of saints and thus is something we can hand off to others. In Latin - a language foreign to us all - we can find common ground that's missing in the vernacular (English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean).

I'd insert in every homily a line about the hope that exists for people struggling with bad habits, addictive behavior...

And then I'd get myself invited to at least 300 parishioners' homes for dinner throughout the year - to meet them, break bread with them, see where and how they live, bless their home and persons and otherwise make myself present to them, personally.

Do just these two things (admittedly difficult to schedule) and you'll see a boost in attendance at the Latin Mass (and other Masses) because you will have reinforced in their minds and hearts that you 'get it' and care.

Pater, If I were you, I'd try to arrange a dinner with Gene and other antagonists - perhaps on neutral ground with Fr. Mcdonald as mediator! If we can argue online and so pay each other the complement of attention, I think we'd be much nicer in person and it would definitely thaw some of the hard edges here.

rcg said...

FrAJM, Did you hear it in the soft whistling wind of prayer? "What dost thou here?"

Anonymous said...

Our priest likes to explain the Canon is offered to God and whispered because He is there and present at the altar, no need to speak out. The silence opens us to the Mystery. We are grateful to all our priest's who bring us this form of the mass.

JBS said...

JusadBellum offers some very helpful thoughts. But I would like to add that I think sometimes there are members of congregations who expect more display of the celebrant's personality than really is appropriate. The focus of the Mass is on the Sacrifice of Christ, not on the personal commitment or personality of a particular priest. When the faithful call upon a priest to bless their homes and businesses, to administer Unction of the Sick to their relatives and friends, to provide spiritual direction, etc., the faithful grow in appreciation for that priest's commitment to the salvation of souls for Christ. That burden of personal interaction ought not be placed upon the Mass.

Gene said...

Jusadbellum, I do not argue with Ignotus to pay him attention…I argue with him because he needs to be called on his BS, and others on the blog may need to have his between the lines unorthodoxy pointed out.
As with Anon 2, I will not meet with people I consider to be enemies of the Faith…see II John again. I do not believe that negotiation, mediation, and a conciliatory approach will accomplish anything with such people.

Joe Potillor said...

Well, my first suggestion would be to have all the texts proper to the Liturgy in the Missal itself.

Introit, Collect, Reading I, Gradual, Reading II, Gospel, Offertory, Canon, Communion verse…

Only then can we even begin to speak of a reform…at present the disconnect between the Liturgical books is a problem.

(Obviously this could be done for Years A, B, C and weekdays I and II as to not make the books so burdensome to lift)

George said...


The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sept. 8)

It could be argued that Mary's nativity should have a greater prominence. By virtue of her being the Mother of God, the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary has a special status, a special pre-eminence above that of any other human being. No greater creature was ever born into human existence and no creature ever made a greater choice than she did in consenting to be the Mother of God. It was she who provided Christ his human nature.The Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who eternally existed with God the Father, was incarnated by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the human nature of Mary. The Holy Virgin being “full of grace” signifies to us that there is a pre-eminent presence of the Holy Spirit within her, above that of any of the saints. There exists a unique spiritual relationship between her and God which is superior to and transcends that of any other human being, even the most holy. Man, as scripture says, is “made in the image and likeness of God” aand Mary is the pinnacle and pre-eminent example and reality of that image.
The feast days of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption have greater liturgical prominence and rank and properly so. Let it be noted that while they while these solemnities involve the Blessed Virgin, they testify more so to the Magnificence, Goodness, and Power of God. In other words, while the Mother of God is venerated in these celebrations, the Divine Trinity is glorified. While Mary's birth involved another creature (St. Ann) co-operating with God's grace and creative Power, the other feasts involve a special privilege conferred by God alone on Mary alone, superseding that provided to any other creature. The major Marian feast days point to God - His Power, Glory, and His Goodness. It should be noted and recognized that Mary always points to God. As she says in her Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Lord". The Holy Virgin we honor is the greatest of God’s creatures, the paradigm and exemplar of all Christians. So she is rightly and properly honored by the Church in her nativity. When we love and
honor the Blessed Virgin are we not doing what God Himself does? How can anyone say that it is wrong to do this when God Himself does this? Sings the Church in her liturgy :" Thy nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, has announced joy to the whole world".

quicumquevult said...

Father, I'm at one with you on having only the Roman Canon. I wish we didn't have the other Eucharistic Prayers, or at least I wish that the Holy See would mandate the Roman Canon for Sundays (#3 and #4 are alright on their own merits; perhaps they needn't be gotten rid of entirely—just not used on Sundays). I've seen our younger priest use the Roman Canon quite a bit, but our pastor always uses Eucharistic Prayer #2.

Personally, I think if I were a priest I would want to use the Roman Canon every Mass, weekdays and weekends alike.

quicumquevult said...

And also, George, do you write those meditations/treatises yourself, or do you find them from somewhere (and if so, please pardon my ignorance for not knowing where)? They're really quite nice, either way, and provide quite a bit of food for thought.

Anonymous said...

My main problem/concern with the OF and I guess by extension, Catholicism, is that it claims to be an ancient Church founded by Jesus Christ with 2,000 years of Sacred Tradition. Yet the Mass the Church uses is only 44 years old😑. That's hardly ancient. Say someone was converting and noticed that, if they did not know any better what would keep them from converting to Orthodoxy, or heck, lutheranism and anglicanism's "services" beat our OF by almost 500 years.

Pater Ignotus said...

Jus - Not once has Gene ever given evidence that what I have said or written, here or anywhere else, is unorthodox. Not once.

Gene is unhappy because he sees his dream - a fantasy, really, - of a church home that supports and encourages him in his racial attitudes, his belligerent posturing toward those who disagree with him, and his entirely Protestant beliefs regarding the hierarchy of the Church, disintegrating before his eyes.

He can't silence me and the vast majority of Catholics who do not share his views, and that just fries his grits.

In response to this post, I fully expect he will say that "everyone knows" that my beliefs are heterodox and that, once again, not one shred of evidence will be offered.

Gene doesn't meet face to face with those he has falsely accused because, deep down, he is ashamed.

JusadBellum said...

Gene and Pater,

I must confess that I'm a believer in the power of the spoken word and maybe I'm too cocky for my own good.

See, I have this attitude that if I'm right, if I'm standing on the unassailable intellectual and moral high ground, then I can afford to be magnanimous with those who disagree with me.

Being magnanimous, I can go that extra mile with them, hear them out and gently show them the error or the root of the error of their ways, verbally, via intellectual discourse.

Then, if they've at least a bit of common good will, at least a bit of intellectual curiosity and integrity they can at least agree that my point of view is not without basis even if they can't quite bring themselves to agree....yet.

It's called planting seeds to let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

What I've been shocked to see though is that this attitude is relatively rare. People stay in their epistemic closure, in their ideological bubbles, preaching to their respective choirs or throwing rhetorical bombs without substantiating their claims.

That of course works inside the tribe but can't work outside.

But if we're going to argue at all, then we need to at least try to win over those who disagree and that starts by magnanimity.

Jesus in the Gospels always started from the common ground; with Greeks he spoke in metaphysical terms. With Sadduccees he spoke from the Torah. With Pharisees he quoted the Prophets. With pagans he spoke in terms of natural law and logic and revelation ("you have had 5 husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband").

Gene calls Pater a heretic. Pater calls Gene an archie bunker, Protestant. Those are the taunts of children guys. If you are both intellectual adults and both think you stand safely on the high ground... why not meet?

I'd be happy to facilitate the encounter or send an emissary. Who knows, you both might disagree with me and thus feel the need to form an ad hoc alliance in common cause to knock me off my high horse.

That'd be fun. That would be great fun. Nothing quite like intellectual sparing over a good meal and drinks.

Anonymous said...

At the OF Mass, not only is the priest open to distraction, the members of the congregation distract each other!

I have yet to witness or experience that at an EF Mass.

Thanks, Sheila

Gene said...

Bellum, there is a very fine line between magnanimity and condescension.

Ignotus, you are far too clever to make honest statements about your true beliefs. I am not the only one on the blog who sees your true colors. Others have posted the same. No, I am not ashamed to meet with you…I have met with far better than you in difficult or adversarial situations. I just do not waste my time like that anymore.
No one wants to silence you, Ignotus. It is actually rather entertaining to come on here and call you out and listen to your yammering.

George said...

quicumquevult:
They just come to me,although i do have to gather my thoughts. I don't know how to explain it. For some reason, I find it easy at times to come up with something when it comes to the Blessed Virgin. Although these things can come and go. If I put down something that has been written or said before, it is inadvertent (other than what is in quotes).

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Yes, I am clever, but I don't use that gift to hide anything. Your claim to be able to read minds and hearts never ceases to amaze me.

Yes, you do want to silence me - and you have, at least 4 times, said that I shouldn't be posting on this blog at all.

What upsets your apple cart is that you can't make the people who do not share your un-Catholic views, your racial prejudices, and your inclination to violence stop talking.

Jus - I can be as magnanimous as the next person, but when Gene (or anyone else for that matter) makes false accusations against me or others without ONE SHRED of evidence, I'm going to tell him he's wrong.

I'll also correct factual errors, which is necessary in common dialogue. I appreciate it when other correct my factual errors.



Gene said...

Ignotus, here is another one of your typical twists of someone's words. I said that, if this were my blog, I would have banned you long ago. That is not the same as saying you should not be posting on the blog at all, since this is not my blog. I think you definitely should be posting here because people need to see just what they are dealing with in Priests like you. Post on, please!