In the Church and the world, there can be polarizations. But this post is on the Mass. If the Ancient Latin Mass promotes transcendence to the nth degree, the Modern Vernacular Mass promotes immanence to the nth degree.
In regards to immanence and transcendence, let me highlight the extremes in both Masses.
Let’s start with the Ancient Latin Mass in its modern celebration:
Priests become robotic and the hiding of the priest’s personality in terms of warmth, humanity and manner of celebration is central for many young priests new to the old Mass. When I was a child and the TLM was the Mass, there was no other for most of the Latin Rite, priests were not robotic and most were not scrupulous about the rubrics carried out in a robotic way. That is not the case today with modern priests. They seem like an AI concoction.
Now for the extreme in the Modern Vernacular Mass:
Priests personality and ad libbing overwhelms the Mass. The priest is the star of the show with co-stars who are lectors, altar servers, Communion Ministers and the like. It is a contrived loved fest that doesn’t manifest itself in the hoards of Communicants trying to get out of the parking lot first. It is contrived immanence with little room for the transcendence of God.
What I notice in watching Modern Vernacular Masses in person or on video, on-line:
Of course we have all seen the clown priest and Masses that are literally a joke, there is no transcendence or mysticism. I think, I pray, I hope that these are in the minority and are known only because they are so outrageous but rare.
In Masses where there is no clown priest, the priest or the bishop takes liberty with the parts of the Mass that the rubrics seem to allow “In these or similar words.” Similar words becomes a blabfest and turns the celebrant into a kind of talk show master of ceremonies where his eloquence or lack thereof becomes central. It turns the celebrant into a kind of greeter.
But there is another kind of problem, usually with younger priests, where the rigidity of the Ancient Latin Mass is applied to the Modern Vernacular Mass. The priest becomes a robot and exudes not immanence but only robotic transcendence. In those parts of the Mass which are directed to the assembly, there is no eye contact, warmth or flexibility of gestures, especially in the extension of the arms towards the assembly. I’m not talking about exaggerated gestures, but just normal, non robotic, but rather, very human movements.
The priest acts as though he’s the only one in the room, self-contained, introverted to the extreme and an affective pre-Vatican II piety.
There is an art to implementing and making visible in a sacramental way the immanence and transcendence of God in the Mass.
When words of the Mass are directed toward the assembly, there should be warmth, eye contact and flexibility of gestures. When these words are prayer directed to God, especially the various canons of the Mass, no gestures, especially at the consecration should be directed toward the assembly and no eye contact with the assembly when facing the assembly. Ad orientem would take care of that especially for the liturgy of the Eucharist.
LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR! The various canons of the Mass are not meant to be a script for acting out the Last Supper where the priest plays the part of Jesus at this Sacred Meal on the first Holy Thursday and the congregation play the parts of the apostles at table with the Lord.
The canons of the Mass are meant to show forth Good Friday and Easter Sunday, NOT HOLY THURSDAY! The prayer recalls to God the Father in heaven, but in a humble way, what His Divine Son, Jesus, did at the Last Supper, when he spoke to the Apostles only, not to everyone at that point, the words of Consecration or institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and that the apostles were to celebrate the future Mass, as His ordained priests, in remembrance of Jesus, passion death and resurrection, as well as ascension, sending of the Holy Spirit until He returns at the end of time to complete His work of redemption and judge the living and the dead.
DURING THE EUCHARISTIC CANONS, ESPECIALLY THE CONSECRATIONS OF THE BREAD AND WINE, THE CELEBRANT IS NOT TO GESTURE TO THE CONGREGATION WITH THE BREAD OR THE WINE AS THOUGH THE CONGREGATION IS THE APOSTLES!!!! Of course, ad orientem would take care of that.
It is at the “Behold the Lamb of God” that the celebrant gestures toward the assembly and invites them, sinners that they are, to be healed of their unworthiness by God Himself to be able to receive the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
Immanence and transcendence are one reality at all Masses. Mass should be celebrated in that way.