Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Prior to the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the liturgical wars once only the privileged domain of theologians came to the world when Blessed Pope Paul VI celebrated a hybrid Latin/Italian Mass with a slightly revised 1962 Tridentine Mass. But it showed clearly where Blessed Pope Paul VI would take the Church with the revised Mass of 1970.

What this Mass showed us would be some of the good, bad and ugly that would happen in rank and file parishes throughout the world beginning on March 8, 1964 and accelerating after the 1970's Missal was mandated.

What did we see at this historic Mass in 1964? Apart from the Italian/Latin hybrid, we saw the following:

1. The stripping of the historic ad orientem altar and hiding it and its tabernacle with a curtain. (IMHO, horrible)

2. Placing the bishop's or priest's presiding chair (in this case the Bishop of Rome) dead center in the church where the high altar once was. (IMHO, questionable)

3. placing the altar in the nave of the church on the people's side of the altar railing. (IMHO, horrible!)

4. The reading of the Scriptures from a lectern rather than at the altar. (IMHO, good)

5. Standing to receive Holy Communion (IMHO, questionable)

All five of these innovations, some having historical precedence in the ancient churches of Rome and elsewhere would become the template for going backwards in time for a modern rationale for the destruction of historic churches throughout the world and how new ones would be designed. It foretold not only the subsequent liturgical wars, but the iconoclasm that would take place in so many churches in terms of the dismantling of the traditional sanctuary to accommodate not only a new liturgy but a new ecclesiology, a new Church.

Almost immediately with the advent of the 1965 missal in this country, still basically a Tridentine Mass, was the move to modernize the hymns that could be sung at Mass by the inclusion of so-called modern forms with guitar accompaniment. Apart from the reordering of the Mass and the ensuing casualness of it, the music of the Mass has been one of the most divisive issues in the revised Mass for almost 50 years. Folk music, then renamed contemporary music, as well as Protestant hymns were dragged into the Mass when hymns are sung, the traditional four of a low Mass, beginning, offertory, communion and recessional. Often there was little concern for the doctrine or theology of the words of these hymns, some quite banal, others quite heretical, some quite schismatic as in the case of Protestant hymns with their doctrine, theology and sentimental spirituality and devotion.

With the parts of the Mass, contemporary sounds and accompaniment  were devised for a twanging guitar. Often hymns that approximated the Gloria and Sanctus were chosen. Fortunately this trend of selecting equivalent hymns for the parts of the Mass was quickly stopped by Rome and the bishops.

Today, I think things are better than in the 1970's and early 80's. There is a danger of returning to the past, going backwards, today with some of the more silly trends of that early period in terms of architecture, music and equivalency in the vernacular as it concerns the translation of the Latin template. Pray God this will not happen.

Music, however, remains the most divisive issue in the liturgical world and with rank and file parishioners. Often taste trumps theology and spirituality. If one gets an adrenalin surge from high speed music which has soaring sounds, then that's good, but if it is of a more traditional sound or of the Church's heritage of chant which is more subdued and contemplative but with very good theology and spirituality, this is suspect! How did this happen?

Today's divisiveness has a new twist, although the 1970's still rears its head with these other issues.

Today we are free to celebrate the EF Mass. Liturgical progressives hate this. They also hate the thought of a new reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass more in continuity with the EF Mass and its sensibilities.

In a sense, these progressives and their hatred of the EF Mass and any revision of the OF Mass along the lines of the EF Mass, to include architecture of the sanctuary, can lead them to become like fascists and progressive liturgists are known. The old question about the difference between a progressive liturgist and a terrorist being one can negotiate with a terrorist is so true and perhaps more so today!

The only way rank and file Catholics who are normal and open minded to survive today's new liturgical wars is to remain balanced. Love the Ordinary Form of the Mass and promote its proper celebration by following the General Instruction of this Mass as well as its rubrics and by promoting better liturgical chant with the organ being the king of instruments for the Mass. In lieu of that go back to the earliest tradition of the Church, chanting without musical instruments.

Appreciate the EF Mass and promote it as Pope Benedict envisioned it, as extraordinary and as a way to improve the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Cardinal Robert Sarah, Pope Francis' pick to be the new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship knows very well this truth and pray God he will influence the "reform in continuity" movement begun by Pope Benedict!


Rood Screen said...

I think those formed in liturgical reverence prior to the innovations were able to appreciate the innovations easily enough, precisely because these souls had earlier been formed in reverence. But the following generations, formed only in ritual novelty, have failed to appreciate whatever value is contained in the novelties, because these deprived souls have not been formed in liturgical reverence.

It's okay to change the gift wrapping, as long as you don't forget about the gift.

I suppose the simplest way to achieve balance between traditional reverence and worldly novelty is to have the Liturgy of the Word with vernacular prayers, folk music, gesticulating clergy and laughing laity, but the Liturgy of the Eucharist (isn't the whole thing the "Eucharist"?) with Latin, Gregorian Chant, sober clergy and a serious congregation.

rcg said...

It seems that the way to maintain equilibrium is to know WHY one is going to Mass: To pray and worship God. Sometimes you just have to look past what is going on up front. The execution of the Mass should support prayer and worship, but the New Liturgy seems to be teaching another lesson that would seem to be some sort of fraternity with Jesus and therefore God. I have not seen the Mass at St Joseph's Cathedral, er, Parish, but in other NO parishes the causal familiarity and, frankly, disrespect, shown in the Presence was always distracting. I have been told that here is no catechesis in Mass, but the hymns seemed to be leading the congregation in the dance of disrespect.

Doesn't it seem odd that the democratic process used to modify the Mass by various Liturgical committees to add dances, modify prayers, etc. suddenly became very problematic when a group of people ask for a Mass based on an actual Missal?

Cletus Ordo said...

Hatred of the liturgy that has served the Church for over 1600 years is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Disdain for the patrimony of the Church is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Despising one's venerable past is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

CPT Tom said...

If anyone is interested in looking over the 1965 missal, Jeff Ostrowski over at "Views from the Choir Loft" has it Online

John Nolan said...

'The traditional four [hymns] of a Low Mass'. I never heard four hymns at Low Mass. Perhaps one after the Communion on a Holiday of Obligation. I remember entrance and Offertory hymns from 1965 onwards (the latter were new compositions about what we were all supposed to be doing at the Offertory in the genre of 'Lord accept the gifts we offer').

A new Catholic hymnal which came into use at this time had a foreword by Cardinal Heenan to the effect that hymns formerly sung to accompany popular devotions should properly be sung at Mass since the Mass was now the 'popular devotion'.

People barely had time to adjust to the 1965 changes (which amounted to a lot more than a slight revision) before they were hit by another round in 1967. Ironically the introduction of the 1970 Missal made little practical difference. By that time the most suitable hymn text would have been by Joni Mitchell - 'Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got till it's gone'.

'Hymns that approximated the Gloria and Sanctus' [and the Credo and Agnus Dei]. A custom in Germany even before the Council, and even at High Mass. The German bishops were allowed by Rome to break the rules which the rest of us had to follow. The custom persists to this day.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John, even if the Germans were singing equivalent songs during a High Mass, the priest celebrant was still saying the parts of the Mass in Latin. As you know, there was a disconnect between choir and priest in the EF Mass (in fact one of the first things that the 1964/65 revised Tridentine Missal mandated was that the choir and priest be on the same page and the priest didn't have to say these parts independently, there should be unity.

But with the said and the fact that we now have the 1962 Missal as the EF Mass, I can't understand why the choir couldn't sing the parts of the Mass in English when the priest is still saying all the parts including the choir parts in Latin.

If the choir is simply a voice over in the 1962 Missal, what prevents their music from being in the vernacular?

John Nolan said...


What on earth would be the point of the schola cantorum singing vernacular versions of the Ordinary and Propers in the context of a Latin liturgy? It makes a lot more sense to sing Latin Ordinary and Propers in the context of a vernacular liturgy, thus preserving the Church's incomparable musical heritage.

Simple syllabic chant just about works in English (as in the Missal chants) but the Graduale Propers which date mostly from the first millennium are melismatic and need to be in Latin for a number of very good reasons. The Kyriale (arranged into about twenty complete Masses) cannot be sung in English without doing unacceptable violence to it, and these texts (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus, Agnus Dei) do not require translation since everyone knows what they mean. Would you have a polyphonic choir sing Byrd, Palestrina et al. in English? Try telling that to the (Anglican) choirs of St Paul's and Westminster Abbey where the liturgy has been in English for five-and-a-half centuries. It's absurd. A 'Mass' in musical terms actually means a setting of these unchanging Latin texts.

Nor is it true to say that the schola provides a 'voice over' in the traditional Mass, although it might appear so for those who know only the linear, sequential, flat-lining Novus Ordo. It's in fact the celebrant who is providing a 'voice under' for the choir. It's an extra layer, not strictly necessary, certainly not a 'disconnect' and in no way detrimental to unity.

The Church in recent years has provided a rite which allows as much vernacular as you want, and gives you a great deal of leeway when it comes to music. It's now called the OF. The music for the EF is integral to the (Latin) texts of the Roman Rite. It's there in the Liber Usualis, over 2000 pages of it.

John Nolan said...

Further to the above comment, if it had been decided in the 1960s that the epistle and gospel at High Mass could be sung in the vernacular (in a decent translation) and should be sung facing the people; if the priest were no longer obliged to recite privately those parts which were sung by schola and assembly; then few would have objected. But we know it didn't stop there.

The worst thing about the 1964/5 change was the switch to the vernacular for those parts of the Ordinary which the people were completely familiar with in Latin. It killed at a stroke one of the main aims of the liturgical reform, namely to get congregations to sing plainchant together. There had been some progress on this; as James MacMillan has pointed out 'Plainsong for Schools' which first appeared in the 1930s, was a best-seller and never out of print.

Apart from its adverse effects on music, the wholesale veracularization of the 1960s encouraged the informal people-centred 'liturgy' which in turn spawned abuses. I have never seen anything of the sort in Novus Ordo Masses celebrated in Latin.

Tony V said...

Yesterday I got in the post an old copy of Folk Hymnal for the Now Generation, which I found on Amazon. Seriously--go look it up yourself.

Remember 'Sons of God'? Groovy, man.

Of course, you can't sing 'Sons of God' anymore because it's not gender-inclusive.