Saturday, March 18, 2017

MAYBE IT WAS THE LATIN, THE SILENCE AND WHAT SEEM TO BE OBSCURED THAT LED TO THE WIDESPREAD ACCEPTANCE OF A LESS THAT RICH FORM OF THE MASS?


I was a young teenager when the Mass began to change. First there was the hybrid revision of the EF
Mass with Latin/English. Then the altar was pulled forward for the priest to face the congregation. Then the canon was allowed to be spoken out loud but in Latin. Then English was allowed with three additioal cannons.

I loved each and every change because I didn't need a missal for the translations and I could see the Mass with the priest facing us. For the most part, I did not realize that what was happening was a dumbing down of the richness of the spirituality and devotional quality of the Mass especially when the poor criteria of translating even the dumbed down Mass from Latin to English was instituted for the 1970 Missal.

The only thing I did not like about the Mass facing the congregation was the priest eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ in front of us. It seem like poor etiquette and we were all shocked that the priest chewed his Host since all of us were told not to chew!

I can remember as a young child, well before Vatican II, asking my father why the priest did not face us. My dad felt the same way and mused that maybe mirrors should be hung over the altar for us to be able to see.

But back to my point about the majority of Catholics by 1970 accepting the new order of the Mass with its new dumbed down prayers and poor English translation that was unfaithful to the new Latin texts and why:

1. It was shorter---and for most Catholics who went to the Low EF  Mass, shorter was better even in the EF!

2. Most people did not really pay attention to the prayers of the Mass because these were in Latin when prayed out loud and those which were prayed silently were ignored and simply taken for granted.

3. Thus when revisions were made to prayers or prayers like the canon were prayed out loud, one did not make distinctions between beauty and richness of spirituality contained in the older form of the prayer, they were just grateful to hear and understand.

For example, take the two different versions of the Offertory Prayer over the bread. In the EF the richer form of it was prayed silently, so no one noticed that the revised form had no richness, depth of spirituality or reference to the "priestliness" of the sinful  priest offering the spotless host!

The newer form was nice to listen to but lacked any spiritual richness, devotion or reality  and only focused on what the bread is not what it would become. It is vapid. But in the Ordinary Form these prayers may be prayed silently or out loud, and it sounds nice out loud. No one really paid attention to the dumbing down of the Offertory Prayers in the new Mass because of the Latin and silence of the old Mass!

So take note of the Offertory Prayers over the bread from both the EF and OF Masses that I post below. I now firmly believe that if the Old Mass had been prayed in a quality vernacular and most prayers out loud, that more people rather than an  elite group, would have protested the changes in 1970:

Accept, O holy Father, almighty eternal God, this unblemished Host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present, as also for all the Christian faithful, both living and dead, that it may avail both me and them for salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.
Compare with the Offertory Prayer for the Host in the Newer Form of the Mass:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.
My final comment:  The EF's prayer prayed in English is obviously richer, deeper and more spiritual than the silly OF revision which is a completely new prayer. The EF version is a personal prayer of deep spirituality and ultimately names who the sacramental priest is compared to the High Priest he represents and what the offering will eventually accomplish for those offering it. 
The new Offertory prayer does none of this but only praises the earth and the humans that made the bread. There is no sense of the sinfulness of the priest who needs the Sacrifice of the Mass as much as those behind him and the many who need it as well nor is there the reason for the priest who will offer the bread which is  that God will make the bread offered into the Body of Christ for the salvation of us poor, helpless miserable sinners. 
It is clearly a dumbing down of the Mass to say the least. But no one noticed but the elites of 1970's and today who realized it, the liturgical nerds not the masses! The Latin and the silence keep the masses in the dark and thus they accepted the dumbing down hook, line and sinker. 

17 comments:

Victor said...

An important issue that you neglect to mention is that from 1965 onwards people were stopping coming to Mass in droves. The faithful in general did not ask for the changes to the liturgy that began in 1955. When the vernacular came, people got fed up with how banal, uninspiring, and boring the Mass had become, and demonstrated it with their feet. Those ivory tower reformers were living in their own word of pride, with the condescending attitude that only professors at universities could understand and appreciate the old Mass with its Latin language, so a new rite had to be invented for the level of the dumb uneducated masses, one that is based on simplicity to cater to the lowest common denomenatator in the pews.

My experience was different from yours. When I was a very young teen, I sadly experienced the changes as an attack against me and my friends. From the sanctifying beauty of the ecclesiastical Latin came the banality of street language. From the exclusive focus upon God and His mysteries came the butcher block meal tables whose focus was on the clap trap community. From the high-art music that represents the mature, high spiritual, stage of human civilisation came the primitive nature bound stage of folk music, and even so the folk music was profanely fake. You had to have a lot of Catholic Faith to continue going to Mass after those changes.

TJM said...

My experience was far difference from yours. THe normative Mass at my parish was the Missa Cantata and there was an extremely high level of participation. My own father who was trained in the 1930s at a parish where the Low Mass was the normative Mass, got with the program and began to recite or sing the responses in Latin. Because I was trained in chant from the time I was 6, I was appalled by the trite and simpleton music which took its place.


I was appalled and outraged by the changes and my immediate reaction was evil was afoot and I have never changed my opinion that such was the case. Satan was very successful and the proof is in the pudding. Mass attendence has crashed and only the looniest of ideologues could think this is a good thing. And it will get even worse, my friends, without a serious and concerted change of course back to tradition. My territorial parish which 25 years ago was standing room only, is maybe 2/3rds full at best at the busiest Sunday Mass AND demographics in my community haven't changed other than there are more YOUNGER people now with children. Another Vatican Disaster II Story. Because Christ Himself promised that the Church will always be here, I know it will, but there will be far less adherents.

John Nolan said...

You're completely missing the point. Nobody, apart from a few liturgical 'experts', wanted widespread changes in the Mass. Nor was there any enthusiasm for the vernacular. In England, with a powerful established Church of England which had an English liturgy (in those days in an elevated style of English) our adherence to the pre-Reformation Latin Mass was part of our Catholic identity.

The changes were imposed from above, in a very short space of time, on a laity who became increasingly bewildered. Decline in Mass attendance in the 1970s does not seem to indicate widespread acceptance. No doubt there were other factors in play, but this is beside the point.

Catholic cultural identity was deliberately targeted and undermined, with the result that in the space of two generations it can hardly be said to exist. Surveys of practising Catholics in the USA show that a majority reject Catholic moral teaching and have no idea of what the Mass is really about.

Similar surveys have not been carried out here, but would probably yield the same results. Meanwhile the secular establishment in the West has, in the last thirty years, turned its back on three thousand years of Judaeo-Christian morality (not to mention the ethics of the pagan Classical world) and is relentlessly imposing its new 'morality' on society, even to the extent of using the criminal law to suppress dissent.

It can be argued that shortcomings in the old Rite led to the promulgation of a new Rite which is an improvement; but to argue that the shortcomings of the new Rite are the fault of the old Rite is bizarre and perverse.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The laity did not request this, but prior to, during and immediately after Vatican II, the laity were obedient to the pope and Magisterium and while they thought things in the Catholic Church were immutable and unchangeable and handed on from the historical Jesus Christ, they did not question the changes in a prolific manner although some did. What they liked was the simplification of the Mass, especially the Low Mass in the Ordinary Form, the vernacular and the audible cannon. They did not reflect deeply on the dumbing down of prayers, although surely they should have. This is taking place today, the questioning of the dumbing down.

I have to say that the older form of the Offertory Prayers, captures the complete essence of purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which requires an ordained priest to facilitate in the "Person of Christ." Everything in a short paragraph is captured in that one prayer and completely abandoned in the revised offertory prayer over the bread that become the bread of life--but not clearly stating that this is Jesus Christ.

The crisis of faith that this dumbing down leading to the loss of faith and the true understanding of the Mass as a Sacrifice not only for the sinful priest but for sinful humanity occurred very quickly in the 1970's and although better understood today, it is not recaptured until these kinds of prayers are restored, as they are in the Ordinariate's Divine Worship, the Missal.

rcg said...

Fr. This is forcing us to address for the fortieth time the relationship between the changes in the Mass and the precipitous drop in attendence of Mass and support for the Church. Could it be that when people finally heard in their own language what was in the prayers that they figured out it was a load of bull? But wait; it isn't the same even if the vernacular is bull. There are people who deny there is causation of people leaving the Church and the change in the Mass. They blame the broad changes in society for the fall of the Church. Could they have that backwards? Could it be the fall of society came when the Church fell asleep?

Henry said...

During the 1960s I attended sevem parishes in four dioceses in three regions of the U.S. and served variously as parish council member, parochial school board member, religious education teacher, college Newman club faculty advisor, liturgy committee member, etc--and hence had wide contact with typical pew Catholics. I never perceived any deep or broad enthusiasm for the changes in the Mass.

It’s true that societal change was in the air, and some attraction to novelty in all things, but the attitude of most was simply one of acceptance of the authority of the Church. Many did not personally like all the changes, but had no way of knowing the falsity of claims that were all mandated from Rome. This acceptance was often reluctant, and by the 1970s there was left in the pews a selection of those whose reservations had been the lesser—many having left because they were convinced the Church they’d known and loved had left them.

In regard to the effects of these liturgical changes, a wonkish discussion of the texts and language—Latin or vernacular, hieratic or pidgin, etc—of the Mass really does miss the point as to what happened in the 1960s. Because the meaning and power and attraction of the traditional Mass lay not in its words but rather in its actions and symbolism. Peter Kwasniewski recently remarked on

“how little catechesis, relatively speaking, was required [even for children} to perceive the meaning of the gestures of the priest at the traditional Mass-and how powerfully those gestures remind one of the meaning learned and continually reinforce it, burning it into the memory. Once you know a little about what Jesus did at the Last Supper and on Good Friday, the actions and prayers practically hit you over the head with a chain of mysteries - meditation, redemption, atonement, satisfaction, adoration. It doesn't take a lot to be equipped to perceive the traditional Mass as an awesome Sacrifice joining earth to heaven, the sinner to the Savior, the altar to the Cross.”

The loss of the ceremony and symbolism in the Mass is more likely what resulted in a loss of belief and personal connection with the liturgy on the part of that multitude of ordinary Catholics who (then as now) were not focused on the words and text of the Mass or their subtleties of meaning, and for whom the vernacular may have been a welcome novelty while still new, but one that wore off rapidly, leaving behind only the negative results that are so evident now.

TJM said...

Bather McDonald,

With all due respect, the proof is in the pudding. If the changes were "welcome" where are all those folks? The changes were implemented in a ham handed manner and people voted with their feet. I come from a huge Irish Catholic family and it would have been unthinkable for any of us to miss Mass before Vatican Disaster II. If I had to guess today, I suspect 20% of my family attend Mass, at all, other than save Christmas and Easter. In 10 years, that number will plummet further. Just from a crass point of view, a lot of dollars have been lost.

But the power brokers in Rome and in the world's chanceries will continue with the current silliness with rare exceptions. When I attend the EF at a couple of local churches, they are full and there are young children, lots of young children. But the hierarchy either doesn't care about them or are in denial of this trend. Apres moi le deluge is their mantra.

Victor said...

There is another beautiful and powerful prayer at the end of the offertory in the TLM that was a great thorn to the post V2 reformers, the "Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas" which, as Dom Prosper Gueranger pointed out in his explanations of the Holy Mass, no longer speaks about the the matter of bread and wine, but about something far higher: the priest is presenting the Offering of the Great Sacrifice which is soon to be accomplished. If any prayer had to be removed it was this one, as it did not fit into the ivory tower logic of compartmentalising things, where praying about the Sacrifice during an offertory was out of place, and must be confined the a Eucharistic prayer, where Sacrificial prayers belong:

"Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation which we offer you in memory of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Saint John the Baptist, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the Saints. May it bring honor to them and salvation to us. And may they intercede in heaven for us who keep their memory on earth. We pray this through Christ our Lord. Amen."

It makes me wonder how much even the fathers responsible for Sacrosanctum Concilium actually knew about the liturgy, that is to say, whether their views were not primarily shaped by listening to ivory tower experts at the time.

John Nolan said...

'What [the laity] liked was the simplification of the Mass, especially the Low Mass in the Ordinary Form, the vernacular and the audible cannon (sic).'

What are your grounds, Fr McDonald, for making this assertion? The Mass may have been simplified from the celebrant's point of view but the laity, forced willy-nilly into noisy participation, did not see the Novus Ordo as a simplification. With its manifold options, excessive wordiness, cumbersome lectionary (including a responsorial psalm which takes far longer to read than does the Gradual), explanations which become in effect mini-homilies, tiresome bidding prayers and long-winded hymns which bring the liturgical action grinding to a halt, it lasted longer than the Mass it replaced.

This was brought home to me in the late 1970s when I attended Mass at my erstwhile parish a week after attending the Solemn Latin Mass at Brompton Oratory. At one hour and twenty-five minutes it was as long as the Oratory Mass, despite the Gloria and Credo not being sung (the Oratory had had Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Haydn's 'Nelson' Mass, plus Credo III and the Gregorian Propers). At one stage there were thirteen people in the sanctuary as opposed to the Oratory's eight (which included deacon and subdeacon).

As for the vernacular, it was liked by some but I got the impression that many didn't like it, and this was not confined to the older generation. 'And with you' for 'Et cum spiritu tuo', used from 1964 to 1969 in England, was the subject of much ridicule. When Evelyn Waugh first heard it he added 'And toodle-oo!' before walking out.

In the years to come I frequently met Catholics of my age who no longer went to Mass but spoke wistfully of the Latin Mass of their childhood. They were usually surprised to learn that the NO could be celebrated in Latin - they had been given the impression that everything had to be in English.

Of course this is anecdotal evidence, which Fr Kavanaugh would dismiss out of hand, but it is better than no evidence at all.

John Nolan said...

Victor

Good point. In older rites, such as the Dominican, where the chalice is prepared earlier in the Mass and both elements are offered together, a version of the Suscipe Sancta Trinitas is the principal Offertory prayer. There is no reason why priests should not say it quietly in the OF between the lavabo and the Orate Fratres. Since it isn't technically a mixing of rites, adding some of the discarded Tridentine prayers is a good example of bottom-up 'mutual enrichment'.

After all, the Offertory prayers were only added in the second millennium and were the priest's private prayers before they made it into the Missal. The prayers at the priest's Communion also vary from Use to Use.

Come to think of it, what's wrong with the priest reciting the psalm Judica me as he approaches the sanctuary (as in the Sarum Use), or saying the Placeat when leaving the altar (a practice which was actually recommended in 1967)?

No point in waiting for a ROTR which ain't going to happen. The Ordinariate Missal points the way forward.

Anonymous said...

Philistines! What are your grounds, John Nolan, for making this assertion?

"Because I say so" is insufficient.

Gene said...

Anonymous @ 8:59, Perhaps John Nolan can slay these Philistines with your jaw bone...

John Nolan said...

I hope Anonymous @ 8:59 is not Fr Kavanaugh. Despite his wrong-headedness on many issues, he is not a troll. Unfortunately he sometimes does hide behind 'Anonymous'.

I think this troll has his cave on my side of the pond. However, since he will not identify himself, one can only speculate.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

Glad to hear we are not the only ones with trolls!

I bet Anonymous at 8:59 AM would have scathing words for his parish priest if he walked out in
a Fiddleback Chasuble and faced the Lord and celebrated Mass in Latin. "Philistine" would be a term of endearment after we heard his rant!

Adam Michael said...

I did not grow up in the pre-Vatican II era, so my perspective is pretty limited. However, I think that people's perspectives and experiences of the liturgical reform of the 1960s varied. Some probably loved the changes, while other intensely disliked them, and many accepted them from obedience. However, I do think that the effect of the accumulated changes was a loss of Faith among many Catholics. Most people don't make sharp distinctions between doctrine and practice. When old practices change, many assume that the Faith, itself, is relative. This tendency was not helped in the 1960s when many of the more avid supporters of the liturgical changes were, themselves, opening doors to a revisionary understanding of Catholic doctrine. I think this was why the faith of many Catholics corroded during the liturgical and disciplinary reforms of the 1960s and 70s.

Regarding whether the silence and Latin of the pre-Vatican II Mass led to increased acceptance of the new Roman Mass - I don't think most Catholics have ever taken a micro approach to the Sacred Liturgy. People's fond memories of the older Mass almost always revolve around macro/general things like the old high altar, the priest facing away from the people, the Latin, chant and polyphony, altar boys, gold patens, incense, Communion on the tongue while kneeling, silence, and women wearing head coverings, and maybe an oft-repeated Latin phrase or two. Most of the laity has never focused on the prayers (despite the attempt of the liturgical movement) or the details of liturgical ceremonial. I doubt that the older prayers would have had more formative influence on the laity if they had been spoken aloud in the vernacular. However, the change of prayer and ceremonial did affect the priests, who preached to the people, wrote the books, counseled the faithful, and led missions. When their emphasis changed, eventually so did the people's.

Anonymous said...

The only actual comments about the changes in the Mass that I heard came from my family. I know that my mother and her sisters all took the changes very badly but attended through obedience. However, they always knelt for communion and received on the tongue - even into their late 70s - and never from a lay person. If my knees were sound I would still receive kneeling at the OF Mass but I can only do so at the EF Mass where there are altar rails. Everything was done to prevent the laity from kneeling for communion, including being called "singular" by the parish priest from the pulpit but that didn't make the slightest bit of difference and those who chose to kneel to receive our Divine Lord continued to do so.

Kneelers were also removed from the churches and people were encouraged to sit or stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. My cousin being tiny had difficulty seeing the host during the elevation with people standing in front of her so she gamely used to go and kneel in the aisle during that part of the Mass, and even knelt for communion to the bishop who used to advocate standing through the Mass. I must say he always gave her communion but some priests weren't so kind and they would wave the host in an upward motion indicating we should stand. The secret was to kneel with your eyes closed, tongue out and wait and you were eventually given communion with the odd audible sigh.

Trying to receive communion from a priest could be difficult too. One priest when he realized what was up used to wait till you got into his row and then move to another aisle, but of course the trick was to move with him. Other priests appreciated the fact that people wanted to receive from the consecrated hands of a priest and not a lay person.

I am sure that many Catholics wouldn't have been quite so willing to attend the new Mass if they had read the objections to it outlined in the Ottaviani Intervention but at that time nothing like that was available to lay people, except perhaps in the UK and America and so most dutifully obeyed. However, I have read that many people wept the first time they had to attend Mass in the vernacular. The following quote sums up the way my family felt about the Mass and some of us still do:

"A member of the Latin Mass Society of Ireland has described the old rite as “the Mass which, in its essentials, inspired the saints of the western church for well-nigh 1,500 years, from Pope Gregory the Great up to and including Thérèse of Lisieux and Padre Pio.

“The Mass beloved of Austrian aristocrats, French bourgeoisie – and of course Irish peasants who risked liberty, life and limb to assemble at the Mass rocks”.

Jan

TJM said...

Jan,

Amen.