Thursday, December 2, 2010
CELEBRATING THE MASS, EITHER THE EXTRAORIDNARY FORM OR THE ORDINARY FORM, WELL AND WITH DIGNITY
Just how do we celebrate the two forms of the one Latin Rite Mass well?
Let me start with the older form, what is now called the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
I believe it is easier to celebrate this form of the Mass well. It is very clear, the rubrics are very specific and no creativity is allowed. That's simple.
The priest and altar servers need to know what they are doing. The priest and the altar servers need to be deliberate in all they do, not rush the Latin prayer which is a great temptation in this Mass and to be aware that they are leading the "priestly people" of God in offering Jesus' one Sacrifice to the Father. The laity count! This was made very clear in the liturgical movement of the 1950's. But this movement was born of previous eras that sought to highlight the role of the laity during the Mass.
The laity should be encouraged, cajoled and even chastised to participate out loud with all the parts of the congregation once voiced only by the altar boy. Of course they should be encouraged to have a missal, follow the prayers and speak and sing those parts that pertain to them. Music directors should pick settings of the Mass that the congregation can sing also. Only rarely should "concert" Mass settings be sung that are impossible for the laity to sing also, but there is more than one way to participate in the liturgy and silently is a venerable tradition, but should not be the primary one.
The Scripture readings of the Mass should be read to the congregation and in the vernacular.
Silence is built into this Mass with the various prayers of the priest including the Roman Canon prayed silently or in a low voice. This should not be seen as to exclude the laity from hearing these prayers, the laity should indeed follow in their missals, but the low voice is to show forth in a particular way the sacredness of what is prayed, done so in hushed tones.
Attentions to detail is important too. Clean cassocks and surplices for the altar boys, nice vestments for the priest and deacons and well decorated, uncluttered altars, with beautiful altar clothes. All the accouterments should be worthy of the celebration that perpetuates the one Sacrifice of Christ.
Now for the Ordinary Form of the Mass:
This form of the Mass is more difficult to celebrate well. In terms of all the accouterments of the celebration from altar server cassocks and surplices to what the priest wears and how the altar is vested should be similar to the EF Mass and there should be continuity while still respecting the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the Ordinary Form of the Mass.
The official antiphons of the Mass, Entrance, Offertory and Communion Antiphons should be sung or chanted by the choir or the cantor. The congregation should be encouraged to participate. However, because these change each Sunday, there is no reason why a processional hymn sung by all could not be first and then the choir or cantor singing the Introit. In other words these antiphons should not be omitted even if other hymns are selected in addition to these.
There is not as much built in silence in the OF Mass as in the EF Mass. Therefore, there should be silence after the Scripture readings, after the homily and after Holy Communion, even instruments should be silent. This is a time for contemplation. The OF Mass is very wordy with almost everything prayed aloud.
The prayers of the Mass should be prayed by the priest and deacon in a way that makes clear that these prayers are not directed to the laity or congregation. The priest should not "read" these prayers as though he is reading the Gospel to the congregation. If the presiding chair is to the side of the altar, the priest should not turn directly to the people to pray the orations of the Mass, but turn toward the altar which represents Christ in a symbolic way.
Having the Benedictine altar arrangement for the prayers at the altar (Liturgy of the Eucharist) will help the priest to focus his eyes not on the congregation but on the crucified Lord. This will help to reduce the visual appearance that the Eucharistic prayer and the other prayers are being prayed to the people.
I do not rule out Ad Orientem celebrations of the OF Mass, but this should be decided in consultation with the pastoral council, the other clergy and staff of the parish and ultimately with the bishop. It should not be foisted on people or based upon the sole discretion of the priest celebrating a particular Mass. There should be consistency in a parish setting and even in a diocesan setting, not to mention the Universal Church.
Lay lectors, Extraordinary Minsters of Holy Communion, and altar servers should be well practiced and there should be a choreographed plan for all the movements of these "ministers." Those who wear lay apparel for reading and distributing Holy Communion should wear Sunday best. If this presents a problem, then they should be vested in an alb which could be understood as the baptismal garment of the people of God whether clergy or laity. The surplice over the cassock serves the same function as it is a "mini" alb.
As with the EF Mass, the priest celebrating the OF Mass should "SAY THE BLACK; DO THE RED." There should be no improvising, narcissistic creativity or personal or congregational adaptations. The laity should not change their parts either.
As for music, the best should be chosen and there should be a strong repertoire of congregational singing for the actual parts of the Mass and any additional hymns. I recommend buying a hard back good traditional hymnal and avoiding at all costs paperback hymnals and misalettes that contain music. New music constantly thrown to the congregation is the best way to cause them to stop singing.
At St. Joseph Church, we have had our current People's Mass Book for over 6 years. In my previous parish, they've had the worship hymnal now for almost twenty years. The congregation sings with gusto! They know a strong, traditional, easy to sing repertoire.
As it concerns the distribution of Holy Communion, my personal opinion is that kneeling is better and looks more reverent and instills reverence in the congregation. However, the norm in the USA for the Ordinary Form of the Mass is to stand. Say the Black do the red and be consistent! Thus until the option of kneeling for Holy Communion is explicitly decided by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and USA Adaptations, we should teach our people how to reverently receive Holy Communion while standing, either by tongue or by hand. It takes catechesis and regularly so. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal has guidelines for the reverent receiving of Holy Communion while standing.
PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! WHATEVER YOU DO, IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OR THE ORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS,IN THE NAME OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, NEVER, EVER, EVER DO THIS: