Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All Souls' Day, Last Night

Last night, St. Joseph Church celebrated its first EF Solemn High Requiem Mass for All Souls in well over 45 years. It was my first Solemn High Mass and my first Requiem. We have been celebrating low Masses and Sung Masses in the Extraordinary Form for over two years, but none have been with deacon and sub deacon.

The choirs of St. Joseph under the direction of Ms. Nelda Chapman combined to sing Faure's Requiem in D Minor. They were outstanding! They helped in allowing everyone to enter into what has been called, "The Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven."

As I celebrated the Mass and heard the choir and saw the reverence of it all, I could not help but think that our Ordinary Mass, a product of reforms after Vatican II, needs to be reformed, especially the Ordinary Form Funeral Mass. Our starting point must be the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Last night's Requiem sang what is prescribed for a Requiem. The Introit, offertory verses and Communion antiphon with their words seeking eternal rest for the faithful departed. The Dies Irae Sequence with its apocalyptic anticipation tied the liturgy together as a prayer seeking God's mercy on those who face their particular judgment and anticipate the final judgment.

I could not help but contrast this to the Ordinary Form Funeral Mass where so many options for music and prayers cause it to disintegrate into gross sentimentality and superficial "good feelings." Always the prescribed "entrance antiphon" is omitted in favor of a metrical hymn of dubious merit. Normally "On Eagle Wings" or "Be Not Afraid" are chosen for their dripping, sing songy, saccharine qualities. The choices that are given allow all semblance of personal judgment and apocalyptic anticipation to be eradicated in favor of banal canonization of the deceased.

Even with the current Ordinary Form Funeral Mass, it would be easy to rectify some of the problems our funeral Masses have become by simply singing the prescribed chants and done in Gregorian form. It would be wise in any future "reform of the reforms" for the Dies Irae to be reinstituted as a sequence prior to the Gospel. The traditional absolution of the body at the end of the Requiem should be reinstituted as well, or at least only the options in the current funeral liturgy sung or recited instead of metrical hymns.

I am grateful to Pope Benedict for allowing us to once again celebrate the ancient liturgies of the Church. These will guide us in the "Reform of the Reform."


Gene said...

"...a banal canonization of the deceased." Man, that nails it. Must the "feel good" mentality follow us to the grave?

Anonymous said...

It's right that Father wants things to be correct. Too much touchy feely only dilutes the true meaning and purpose.
However, there IS a necessary place for some 'love thy neighbor' in worship. Jesus' second great commandment.
Is it wrong to have a hymn or two at the funeral Mass that comforts the grieving?
Music is a powerful thing, and maybe it's not so wrong for there to be some sappy options available from which to chose.
Cannot they remain to some extent while still incorporating some more reverence too?
A bit of sympathy and understanding for God's children who have lost a loved one would be nice.
But I must say that if some how my own parents' funeral Masses had been more focused on what the deceased was passing through it may have shifted my focus to that to more of a degree, and less on my own grieving.
So, once again, Father is right.
I just sounded heartless and condescending to refer to hymns that the greiving family members choose as "drippy, sing songy hymns of saccharine quality".

Anonymous said...

Father wrote:
I am grateful to Pope Benedict for allowing us to once again celebrate the ancient liturgies of the Church. These will guide us in the "Reform of the Reform."


I will never ever forget that Mass as long I live.
Thank you so much for celebrating it and thanks to all who put so much effort into it.
That All Soul's Day Requiem touched my soul very deeply.
In such a way that I had longed for all my life.
Words cannot express my gratitude to the Pope and to Father.