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.