The Lament of a Liturgical Loner

Monks live liturgy. “Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God” (Rule of St Benedict 43:3) our holy father St Benedict bids us. The Divine Office and the Mass punctuate and structure our day, uniting our lives with Christ’s sacrifice of perfect praise in his Body and Blood on the Cross. This union is what gives the monk’s life its truest and deepest value. A monk with no taste for liturgy is akin to a bird who fears to fly: things can only be difficult and frustrating. So if some of us monks seem to be endlessly focusing on liturgy, you might cut us some slack. For us, the liturgy is the privileged way to live in Christ’s Body, a privilege which necessarily imposes demands on our daily living outside the liturgy. These demands we spare no effort to meet faithfully, though we so often fail.

If liturgy was a live issue before the Council of 1962-65, it has become in the wake of that Council an explosive issue. Liturgy seems never to be at rest. For some, the Council gave a licence to change comprehensively the performance of the Church’s liturgy, and the change has been unrelenting. For others the changes were unjustifiable, unconscionable even, and they reject them outright. For others still, liturgy has been something to be coped with, an unavoidable battlefield on which they try to find shelter in some compromise that acknowledges the reality of change and seeks somehow to keep it organically connected to the Tradition of the Church. Few have been satisfied.

We might ask ourselves: where is my foxhole, my bunker, my bastion, on this battlefield? So much of my reading the past year or more has shown my foxhole to be filling with mud, slowly but ever more surely. It is not a tenable position in the long-term. Two things that have brought that conclusion home with a whack in recent days. One is an article by Fr Thomas Kocik at the New Liturgical Movement. Fr Kocik is one of the leading lights of the Reform of the Reform movement, which sought to modify the reformed liturgy imposed in the wake of the Council by realigning it with both the actual teachings of the Council Fathers and with the rich liturgical tradition that had developed gradually and organically from the times of the primitive Church to the 20th century. Fr Kocik cites Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI as a prime example of a Reformer of the Reform, who proceeded

not only by his teaching and personal liturgical example but also by legislation. He accentuated the liturgy’s beauty, promoted the liturgical and musical treasures of the Western Church (including of course the usus antiquior of the Roman rite), and introduced more tangible continuity with tradition in the manner of papal celebrations (e.g., the ‘Benedictine’ altar arrangement, offering Mass ad orientem in the Sistine and other papal chapels, administering Holy Communion to the faithful on their tongues as they knelt).

But Fr Kocik is throwing up his hands in surrender. The Reform of the Reform cannot be done. It is impossible. He finds that

the ‘reform of the reform’ is not realizable because the material discontinuity between the two forms of the Roman rite presently in use is much broader and much deeper than I had first imagined.

Things are so far advanced now that it is necessary to go back to the beginning (or rather, to 1963) and start afresh on the basis of the Council’s actual, explicit, written teaching in Sacrosanctum Concilium:

[T]he road to achieving a sustainable future for the traditional Roman rite—and to achieving the liturgical vision of Vatican II, which ordered the moderate adaptation of that rite, not its destruction—is the beautiful and proper celebration, in an increasing number of locations, of the Extraordinary Form, with every effort to promote the core principle (properly understood) of “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful (SC 14).

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The other thing that has sobered me up was a video embedded at Catholicism Pure & Simple. It compares the old and the new Masses in the act of their celebration. It is a little weighted in one direction: the sole example of the post-conciliar Mass is a portly late-middle-aged priest with some annoying American habits (and please, it is not only American priests who can have annoying liturgical habits, I know) who is set against more than one youthful and much slimmer celebrant of the Mass of 1962. The young guys are indeed examples of “best practice” of the preconciliar liturgy, though perhaps many ordinary Catholics back then did not always receive best practice. The older, new-Mass man, is not what you would call an example of best practice; though he is by no means the worst, and perpetrates none of the more spectacular abuses that could so easily have been found on Youtube.

The video, however, put a living face to the theories and principles of the liturgy that have been at issue. And they left me torn, almost asunder. Why?

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Both had aspects that did not attract. The new-Mass man was a little too cavalier in his bearing and demeanour before the most sacred things the Church has in its gift. The loud munching on the Host and the long swig of the Chalice both jar. The music was dire in its banality. The poor man felt a constant need to inject meaningfulness into the words he pronounced, even when they were addressed to God and not to the people. He fiddled around with the traditional formulas (eg “…in Jesus’ name, who reigns gently with You…”) in order to be relevant, or caring, or creative, or whatever. He gave out Communion like it was corn chips and not his God.

Yet, it is hard not to conclude that the structure and the rubrics of the new Mass lend themselves to such a practice and attitude. If you remove so many of the sacralizing elements of a ritual, of course it is going to end up secularized. Rather arbitrarily included after the Council among the “useless repetitions” the same Council had deprecated, nearly all the signs of the cross and genuflections and kissings of the altar were removed from the Mass. To one not formed under the old Mass, these gestures can appear to be fussy and pedantic and almost obsessive. They seem to cry out for some rationalization. But is such a principle appropriate to the symbolic and sacred ritual of the Mass? Are time-and-motion principles suited to something that should take us out of time and out of ourselves?

It is this same unfamiliarity with the old Mass that can make it seem quite alien. Even with my theoretical knowledge of it, it can still throw me to watch it. While I have no beef with the idea of rubrics in liturgy (for one thing, they spare the faithful too much of the priest’s ego), the old Mass can seem dizzyingly rubrical: where exactly the Missal sits on the altar, the depth and direction of bows, the placement of the paten, and the like. It does not come naturally to me. Mind you, should it?

That said, a solemn and formal liturgy does feel right. A solemn, chant-filled new Mass is wonderful. Even the vernacular does not normally worry me, and in fact I have rarely said a Mass in Latin (apart from singing daily the parts of the Mass in Latin). The ritualized movement, if not overplayed, makes sense. One hides, subsumes, oneself into it. Using the little logic that God has given me, it is apparent that in the old Mass this submission and surrender to ritual is taken to the next level. It is hard to object to it in terms of liturgical logic.

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Here probably comes the nub of the issue: the new Mass has the inherent quality that it allows the celebrant to take over. He is “president” (an awful word in liturgy), and too easily he becomes star of the show. I have seen regularly the pressure that some priests unconsciously feel to be creative, to say something relevant or meaningful, to be constantly babbling. Being in the vernacular allows the priest to dominate the Mass, in a way that is near impossible in Latin. In the vernacular he can interject and extemporize at will. There is the modern plague of the opening mini-sermon telling you what the readings are going to be about (cannot the people understand vernacular readings for themselves?!). Then there are the myriad changes and “improvements” that some priests feel that they must impose (must the people be patronized so?). The most dangerous thing of all, perhaps, for the priest is facing the people. Now, everyone’s eyes are on him and not on God and his Christ, who will return from the East. Instead of priest and people together facing God they face each other, a closed and often self-satisfied circle. Many a priest will recite the Eucharistic Prayer with his eyes on the people, and so inevitably end up talking to the people, even showing them the Host as he pronounces “Take this all of you…”, talking to the Father, but looking to the people.

In other words, there is a disjunction between what we are taught happens at Mass and what seems so often to be happening. There is an incongruence between the words and the actions. It is possible to do the new Mass properly; but the new Mass seems to have the inherent flaw that it is so easy to do improperly.

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Then there is the dazzling array of options and variations now available: options for penitential rites, for readings, for Eucharistic Prayers. More is not always better. The more the range of options, the less is it possible to have ritual in the truest sense of the word. The new lectionary has many flaws, not least that it swamps people with chunks of scripture, often out of their context, and too much for people to assimilate in any deep way. Priests either have to retrain themselves as amateur scripture scholars or waffle about some experience they have had or some story that comes to mind to illustrate the easiest point that can be mined from the readings. And not a few end up talking about themselves. Scripture is wonderful, and we should all be spending time with it in some systematic way each day. But Mass is not a scripture class. Nor should it ever be one. The Word serves the Sacrifice which is the real reason we have gathered: to unite ourselves to Christ’s perfect worship of the Father on the Cross. Anything else is secondary in the Mass.

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So this priest is left dazed and disquieted, and feeling rather alone in it all.

It is clear that so many of the young are abandoning the liturgical practice of the Faith, and who can blame them if all they were to get is Fr Superstar and pop muzak they would never want to hear outside of church, and clearly do not want to hear inside either. Why would they come if they are talked down to like children, and are never challenged with hard truths that will give them quality of life? How often do priests confront them, challenge them on things like sex before marriage, pornography, alcohol abuse? Children thrive on challenge, and youth can handle hard truths as long they can see they are not being talked down to but called upwards. If we do not tell them, then we are complicit if they go astray for lack of guidance. And we should all remember our Lord’s warning regarding those who lead his little ones astray. And when was the last time a priest mentioned hell as a reality, and a real prospect for grave and unrepentant sinners?

Communion in the hand is too often an awful spectacle. The Sacred Host – Jesus Christ no less! – is handled and fingered and self-administered in a way that does not seem congruent with what we believe the Host actually is. How I respect the goodly number at our abbey Mass who receive the Host in the throne of their hands and then raise that throne straight to their mouths, not a finger in play. They are usually converts who have made an often painful decision to submit to the Saviour in the Host. But Communion in the hand was a concession that has become the rule, and it can really jar.

Just as many youth are just leaving the churches to an ageing generation who are usually either faithful no matter the cost or who find some sort of forum for self-expression in creative liturgy, so too a healthy number of young are also finding their way into church where the Mass is celebrated properly, with dignity, with a clear sense of worship of God and not a tacky public meeting led by a dominant self-appointed few; and in fact where very often the Mass being offered is the old Mass. They participate actively enough, not by doing things but by losing themselves in the mystery. It resonates with them, it makes sense, and it challenges them, takes them out of themselves towards God.

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So is there no hope for the new Mass? Is the solution for our many dying parishes to return to the Mass of 1962 and then try for a renewal of the Mass that is more consistent with what the Council Fathers actually mandated? We certainly cannot rule out the old Mass – it is the Mass that admirably served the Church for well over a millennium, for which saints thrilled and martyrs died, which so firmly directs our gaze to God and from ourselves. It is authentic worship.

That said, the Council Fathers were neither stupid nor total dupes. They were on to something. I look at some of the interim Missals that emerged towards the end of the Council and just after and see what we might have had. One Eucharistic prayer, in Latin (since it is addressed to God, and he does speak Latin!) with readings in English, facing east but with more streamlined (and not gutted) rubrics; no vast array of options for this, that and whatnot but some apposite offerings for seasons and certain days. In those missals we were seeing the fledgling emerge before, seemingly inexplicably, a cuckoo took over the nest: a new and totally different Mass, constructed by a committee according to their personal theories of what in liturgical antiquity was to be revived (and which often, we know now, never really existed in the form asserted. Eucharistic Prayer 2 is supposedly Hipploytus’ canon, but if you read the original it differs markedly from this rudely brief composition we now have. It’s just one example. Mass facing the people is another. Communion in the hand is yet another). Alcuin Reid gives some insight into that committee which composed the new liturgy in the wake of the Council, here and here.

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So there is life beyond the old Mass, but we will need the old Mass around to inform a renewed liturgical practice and spirituality. Surely the new Mass can be saved, though it requires surgery. The revised Missal of 2012 was a step in the right direction, giving us a vernacular more suited to worship. Yes, it can be clunky, but better that than simplistically banal. But as Fr Z often says, if you do not like the translation you can always go back to the original – Latin. Moreover, maybe I need to learn the old Mass to know what I am talking about in more than abstract theory, to give it a chance. After all, I have given the new Mass over 40 years of undivided attention. Moreover, perhaps the Missal of 1965/67 which is the subject of the Agatha Christie indult should be given another, longer and better chance that the paltry few years it was allowed.

One thing seems sure: without a wholesale renewal of liturgical practice and spirituality the New Evangelization will remain just another expensive white-elephant of a programme. And priests will remain faced with the temptation to entertain and be creative in worship, and in so doing seriously undermine that worship. Without authentic worship the faithful, especially the young, will not be truly challenged to live with integrity, treating their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, and their neighbours as Christs in disguise.

It is a daunting task, and if the Church is relying on me then all may be lost. There are many places where such a renewal is already underway, or where the desire for a true renewal is brimming up. Many priests and people are discovering the liberation of a more God-centred liturgy, and its child, a more surely God-centred life. Many other priests and faithful feel the same I am certain.

Pax.

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53 thoughts on “The Lament of a Liturgical Loner

  1. Anita Moore says:

    One of the things I really like about the Extraordinary Form Mass is that everything the priest does and says is strictly governed by ritual and freighted with symbolism, so that he gets out of God’s way and we don’t have his personality waved in our faces. The priest SHOULD have to do the work: he is the one chosen from amongst us and set aside precisely to approach the altar and offer the August Sacrifice. Meanwhile, there are not a lot of rules to what we in the pews have to do, so that we are free to pay attention, to pray, to meditate and to let Christ do all the heavy lifting. There is a lesson in all this about the awful dignity of the priesthood, and about the futility of trying to rely solely on our own efforts to attain salvation, rather than cooperating with God’s grace.

    With the new Mass, it’s just the opposite. We in the pews are driven like cattle through an obstacle course of noise and ceaseless activity: we have to constantly be doing and saying and singing things, and there are always priests and deacons and ushers to crack the whip and scold us if we fail to keep up with all our many appointed tasks. Meanwhile, the celebrant up at the altar pretty much does whatever he wants. Sometimes, I wish some priests would attend the new Mass in the pews and realize just what a treadmill it is, and ask themselves how it is possible to worship in such conditions. There are times when I come out of Mass feeling almost as if I had just been in a street fight. Yet I have been given to understand that the new Mass ushered in a golden age for the laity.

    I have often heard it said that the traditional Mass ought to exercise a gravitational pull on the new Mass. I guess that means the new Mass ought more closely to resemble the traditional one. If we need something that more closely resembles the traditional Mass, then why don’t we just stick to the traditional Mass?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hi Anita!

      You provide an insightful and vivid view from the pew, one which I cannot ignore. You expectations seem more than reasonable, they seem rightful: the priest to labour on your behalf, while the people are free to watch, adore, pray and meditate fed by the symbolism of the ritual; freedom from priests’ personalities dominating proceedings; freedom from being herded like cattle by the myriad “ministers” we now have.

      Obviously it is not like this everywhere – far from it. But clearly it is like this somewhere!

      Your last question provokes thought. I guess my take on the liturgical movement was that, as it exposed and expounded in a more accessible fashion (eg through hand missals) the rich symbolism of the Mass, it would be good to allow these symbols to shine more clearly. Without doubt the Council Fathers did not expect, or desire, most of these same symbols to be swept away entirely.

      Thus I have this emerging desire to return to Sacrosanctum Concilium, to the missals in the Council’s immediate wake, and to the Mass which was the context for both – and to start again. Could that happen? Maybe; but I doubt it. So I suspect what is needed is priests prepared to say the new Mass in such a way as to use the liberty permitted within the rites to elaborate the symbolism of the Mass as fully as possible. Then seeing what is possible, there may be a clamour, as the youth of today come of age, for this enhanced ars celebrandi to become the norm.

      Worth a prayer?

      Blessings!

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  2. Agnieszka says:

    A holy, reverently prayed/said mass is a spiritual luxury that I can only read about and dream about anymore.
    Thank you for the great post, Father!

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  3. Gertrude says:

    Father,it is a great shame that the ‘Reform of the Reform’ spoken of so often by our Holy Father Emeritus looks unlikely to be continued. I always felt that whilst the ‘new’ Mass is here to stay (whether we like it or not), ultimately the old and new would somehow morph into one with a greater solemnity and spirituality, and the silence of the Mass of Ages would be seen for the particular time of grace we are given.
    Alas, this seems increasingly unlikely, and Holy Mother Church becomes more divided with the evangelicals, traditionalists and modernists (and all shades in between). I am sufficiently mature to have known the preconciliar Church. There were no divisions, no ‘picking’ at the liturgy every couple of years, and all children were quite aware of their catechism and though we learnt by rote, it was a prerequisite prior to making our first Holy Communion (kneeling and on the tongue!).
    This is not a ‘things were much better then’ reply, but a heartfelt plea that we keep those things that are sacred and the faith that united us for 2,000 years together with tradition built over centuries, and that our Holy Martyrs died for rather than renounce.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hi Gertrude!

      You confirm what deep down I knew to be true: that things were not too bad before the Council, indeed not bad at all. Not perfect of course, and perhaps fortress Church (as she was in some places) had grown a tad complacent and self-indulgent; nevertheless it seems the people were content enough. The clamour for the Council and radical reform came not from the people but from clergy and religious. Some might call that clericalism.

      So, as you imply, things may not always have been “better back then”, but neither did they constitute a dire crisis calling for urgent and radical remedy that they have been painted to be. And sometimes the medicine has proved worse than the disease.

      Peace upon you.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      It’s hard to argue him on most things there. He is especially right that mere validity is not enough. It is like the schismatics ordained in the aposotolic succession: it may be valid, but is that all that matters? For the Mass, there must also be spiritual fecundity and a time-hallowed authenticity.

      Pax.

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  4. Dan McNamara says:

    Some good points Fr Hugh :)

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  5. David Hayes says:

    The 1965 Missal is felt by some to be an appropriate compromise. It is used by special indult for Conventual Mass at Fontgombault Abbey (France). It may also be used by this abbey’s four daughter houses, but I’m not entirely sure about that.
    Pope Benedict was a great advocate of ‘liturgical East’, whereby the priest is physically facing the people without actually focusing on them. A significant crucifix in the middle of the altar can help with this attitude.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Salut David!

      You are right about the “liturgical east” compromise of a crucifix. It is a view I have held and practise. However, the crucifix was mandated even when facing East, and is really a sign of the true nature of the Mass, not of direction. There is no reason why it could not be, of course. But it is a compromise that will not serve: priest and people will still be looking to each other rather than to God. The essential dynamic would remain, and it’s all wrong. It is a far more important issue even than Latin!

      Pax!

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    • Papabile says:

      Ironically, it is also used with the modifications of Tres Abhinc Annos in Great Britain on certain occasions. People labor under the impression that the Agatha Christie indult that Cardinal Heenan obtained was for the 1962 rite. It wasn’t. It was for the 65 Missal with the rubrical modifications of 67.

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      • Papabile says:

        SACRA CONGREGATIO PRO CULTU DIVINO
        E Civitate Vaticana, die 5 November 1971
        Prot. N. 1897/71

        Your Eminence,

        His Holiness Pope Paul VI, by letter of 30 October 1971, has given
        special faculties to the undersigned Secretary of this Sacred Congregation to
        convey to Your Eminence, as Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of England
        and Wales, the following points regarding the Order of the Mass:

        1. Considering the pastoral needs referred to by Your Eminence, it is
        permitted to the local Ordinaries of England and Wales to grant that certain
        groups of the faithful may on special occasions be allowed to participate in
        the Mass celebrated according to the Rites and texts of the former Roman
        Missal. The edition of the Missal to be used on these occasions should be
        that published again by the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (27
        January 1965), and with the modifications indicated in the Instructio altera
        (4 May 1967).
        This faculty may be granted provided that groups make the request
        for reasons of genuine devotion, and provided that the permission does not
        disturb or damage the general communion of the faithful. For this reason the
        permission is limited to certain groups on special occasions; at all regular
        parish and other community Masses, the Order of the Mass given in the new
        Roman Missal should be used. Since the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity,
        it is necessary that the use of the Order of Mass given in the former Missal
        should not become a sign or cause of disunity in the Catholic community. For
        this reason agreement among the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference as to how
        this faculty is to be exercised will be a further guarantee of unity of
        praxis in this area.

        2. Priests who on occasion wish to celebrate Mass according to the above-
        mentioned edition of the Roman Missal may do so by consent of their Ordinary
        and in accordance with the norms given by the same. When these priests
        celebrate Mass with the people and wish to use the rites and texts of the
        former Missal, the conditions and limits mentioned above for celebration by
        certain groups on special occasions are to be applied.

        With my highest respects, I am
        Yours sincerely in Christ,
        (Signed:) A. Bugnini
        Secretary
        Sacra Congregatio
        pro Cultu Divino

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Salve, Papabile.

        This is something of a revelation to me! Is this indult still in force, and not abrogated by Summorum Pontificum? If not abrogated, that would suggest that the 1965 Missal could be used licitly today. That is an exciting prospect. Thank you for sharing this, and please share any more that you can.

        Pax!

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  6. David Hayes says:

    Yes, well I actually prefer mass ‘ad orientem’ (I remember it back in the early 1990s at the Novus Ordo Latin mass that was celebrated on Saturday mornings in Caversham, long before all these issues were much debated in the Church), but it seems likely that this will never be reintroduced as an obligation in the Catholic Church. The main issue is, as you say, taking focus away from the priest’s personality and placing it instead on the sacred mysteries. Facing east is not the only way to achieve this, but it is a clear sign that should not have been reduced to simplistic discussion of the priest ‘turning his back on the congregation’. If physical attitudes are all that are at stake in this, it would be possible to argue that a priest facing the people, but scowling, looking depressed, angry and so forth are all forms of ‘turning his back on the congregation’.

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  7. Andrew says:

    Thanks for this splendid reflection, Fr Hugh!

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  8. GOR says:

    A very heartfelt and humble reflection, Father.

    I grew up with the ‘Old Mass’ and while some may criticize the manner in which ‘Low Mass’ was sometimes celebrated (rushed, words mumbled, perfunctory gestures, etc. etc.) there was the sense of the sacred about each one. There was silence (you could hear a pin drop during the words of Consecration), punctuated by bells reminding you of where in the Mass you were. If it was after the Consecration and you had to leave, you did a double-genuflection. And you knew why.

    That it was in Latin was not a problem. From the time of First Communion you had a Missal or Prayer Book – from Children’s with pictures to Adult’s with side-by-side translations. If you didn’t have a Missal you could pray your own prayers, even “tell the beads” which was so much frowned upon post Vat II.

    The Missal also served another purpose. In it you kept the In Memoriam cards of your relatives and friends who had died. It was a reminder to pray for them and that one day you would follow them – and hope that others would similarly pray for you.

    The important thing was that you were there. You knew why you were there. You knew what was going on there. You were praying. It didn’t matter who the celebrant was or whether you knew him. He was a priest and you needed a priest – any priest – to offer the sacrifice.

    Can we recover that in the Novus Ordo? I don’t know. But a return to ad orientem would be a good start!

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Thank you for your insightful and helpful reflections on your experience of the celebration of the old Mass.

      The key part for me was at the start:

      I grew up with the ‘Old Mass’ and while some may criticize the manner in which ‘Low Mass’ was sometimes celebrated (rushed, words mumbled, perfunctory gestures, etc. etc.) there was the sense of the sacred about each one.

      You confirm my intuition that the old Mass inherently tended to the sacred, despite the priest be he good or otherwise, and that the new Mass inherently tends away from the sacred, despite the quality of the celebrant. It is hardly surprising. The old Mass developed over centuries and was, at the very least, hallowed by constant use. The new Mass was composed in a few short years in a committee room by means both of magpie raids on ancient sources and of some creative writing. That fact alone should sound a warning.

      It is my hope that in the Missal of 1965, a modification of the 1962 Missal in faithful reflection on Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, we might discover that same inherent tendency to the sacred.

      Whatever happens, I agree ad orientem would enhance the current, and any, liturgy!

      Pax.

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    • Margaret Allain says:

      Amen to all you say. I think Father has said it all. I have two little books, written by a Jesuit for a Catholic prep school, he was the Headmaster, Fr David Hoy SJ written in 1949 and dedicated to the boys of the school, one is ‘The Priest’s Part’ and the second ‘My part’ in the Mass. The illustrations and the text, simple but delivering the message of the sacredness and the supernatural nature of what takes place. “I will go unto the altar of God, ” etc., and as you say, We might not have had any understanding of Latin, but used a missal and had sound Catholic teachers. Why was it all trampled underfoot at Vat II. What the Protestant reformation could not do…..but finally, where else can we go Lord, this is your Church and we an only go on praying and trusting in the likes of Father Hughand others who, will I fear be unrepresented and possibly demeaned, for the truth and loyalty they have to the Church.

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Hi Margaret.

        You touch on what is very much a sore point for some people; namely, that the new Mass seems to be a wide-ranging adoption of Reformation principles and tenets. Scarier still is the admission on the part of Annibale Bugnini, the architect of the liturgical reforms, that they were made with a view to removing barriers between us and Protestants.

        The other more contentious issues aside, it does rather reveal an attitude that sees the liturgy as a means to an earthly end, something that can be changed to suit policy and strategy at a particular time. That really is liturgical abuse!

        For your kinds words, thank you – and bless you.

        Pax.

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  9. Bede says:

    Dom, this should be required reading in every refectory in the Congregation.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Dear Dom Bede,

      I blushed! But of course you mean that the sentiments expressed need to be more widely acknowledged in our dear old EBC. Too true. Some need to hear that the changes as received and implemented have just not worked, or worse; and others need to hear that they are not alone.

      Pax semper.

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  10. Dear Father,
    I came over to read this article because of Vultus Christi, of which I am an avid reader. Thank you for your heartfelt (and heart-rending) meditation. If I may dare to say so, prompted by a comment of your own, I would humbly urge that you learn the usus antiquior and see how it speaks to your heart — cor ad cor loquitur. So many priests I know have said that nothing has enriched their spiritual life more than taking this step, as demanding as it is initially because of all the rubrics and so forth.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Dear Peter,

      Thanks you for the kind words. If there is one thing this post has done, it is to bring some fine people my way! I know you by repute, and am glad you stopped by.

      Another positive has been that offers for teaching me have come my way, and it seems almost impossible now not to go ahead and learn without seeming a wimp or a fraud. I shall do it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; all good things take time; Rome was not built in a day – those three clichés will express accurately enough the approach I shall take to the adventure.

      What I will also do is investigate the 1965 Missal, which seems so much more like what the Council Fathers might have had in mind. If I can find photographic or film examples I will certainly post them. Between 1965 and 1969 we wuz robbed.

      Blessings on you and your colleagues and students at Wyoming CC.

      Pax!

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  11. I don’t think the reform-of-the-reform will reach the so called “third world” countries. It will take more time to restore Liturgical Solemnity and Reverence by Ad Orientem,Plainchant in Latin and Vernacular,and Yes,Wide Access to the EF Mass. Some like the Philippines(My Country)have seen such Glory on a limited scale,nothing more.

    Praying that the Sacred Be put back in the SACRED Liturgy.

    Josémaría

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    • Desiderius Beneventanensis says:

      Would anyone have any idea if an indult could be granted for the 1965 Mass and missal to be celebrated in a parish, especially a parish within the Personal Ordinariates or Pastoral Provision? A friend of mine is interested in using it, as his parish would probably prefer to keep using a form the english language tridentine mass with which are accustomed to. He is a newly converted priest of anglo-catholic background. He thinks the ’65 missal is the bees knees and has a used copy of it.

      (We think that a mixture of the latin and vernacular text within it would attract a broader range of people to it and better represent anglo-catholic patrimony. We found nice english plainsong settings for the english ordinary and propers matching the ’65 translation. The old lectionary is our favourite.)

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Salve Chris!

        This is just the question that is exercising me at the moment. Recently I was surprised to read that the “Agatha Christie” indult obtained by Cardinal Heenan permitted not the 1962 Missal, but the 1965 Missal as amended in 1967 after Tres abhinc annos. My impression is that Ecclesia Dei adflicta in 1988 did not abrogate that indult but rather liberalized access to the 1962 Missal. My fear is that Summorum Pontificum might have narrowed the range to the 1962 books alone, even as it fully liberated them. I have not had a chance to check but would be happy to hear form anyone who can answer this.

        Revive ’65!

        Pax.

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    • Desiderius Beneventanensis says:

      I agree with you Jose, I too have been disappointed with the limited scope that reinjection traditional praxis in the novus ordo has achieved. In most of the Catholic world it is an almost unknown phenomenon, kind of a theory more than a reality. I wish the reform of the reform the best, but I fear it is going to take else to bring traditional praxis back. The ’62, ’65 and ordinariate masses are the most viable options in my mind. The ordinariate mass is the closest thing to the reform of the reform, though sofar unlike the ’65 it doesnt retain the old calendar or lectionary, which irks many people.

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      • I Prefer even more the EF Roman Missal of Pius X. The 1962 Missal was just the Herald of the 165,1970 Missals.

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        While I can comprehend your motivations, there is a danger that venturing further and further back for the ideal Missal involves the standard of judgment becoming more subjective than objective. Is the Pian Missal issued under Benecit XV in 1920 acceptable? Or is it necessary to go back to the Leonine Missal of 1884? After all, some see in St Pius X’s liturgical changes, especially in the Breviary, as the harbinger of all the following liturgical revisions.

        Surely, for those who want a pre-conciliar Mass then 1962 is the only sustainable choice. For those who want a Missal that accords with the Council Fathers’ express desires, then the Missal of 1965 makes sense. These are points worth considering at least.

        Pax!

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Certainly the Calendar is problematic. As an absolute minimum we need to restore the ‘Gesima Sundays, the Octave of Pentecost, replace “Ordinary” time with Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost (or Trinity if you prefer) and not fiddle about moving solemnities from their logical days (eg Epiphany and Ascension).

        Pax.

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  12. Desiderius Beneventanensis says:

    Here is the online ’65 Missal in english: http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/2013/nov/15/1965-missale-romanum-online/ (The link contains information to finding the ’65 missal in various vernaculars with side by side latin text. I believe it has at least 15 different editions.)

    Here’s a fine selection of english propers for it, for parishes that want something slightly simpler but still very beautiful which are completely gregorian in character.

    http://media.musicasacra.com/books/completeenglishpropers.pdf

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  13. Certainly,I Prefer “Sundays after Pentecost”. Thank you Very Much Father! It was the Sedevacantists(for all their Theological Conflations)who I Credit for Inspiring Me to Appreciate the Liturgy even More. What those Liturgical Reformers did to Holy Week in 1955 was Unspeakably Nauseating. No problem Hearing the 1962 EF Mass,but The Older Missal was More richer in meaning and ceremony.

    Pax.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Well, I do not find the 1955 changes nauseating, on paper at least (I have never experienced them). However it was certainly the first real sign that liturgical reform was in the offing. This fact alone has cast the 1955 Holy Week changes in a much darker light for many.

      But I do lament the loss of Tenebrae!

      Pax.

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  14. Fr Bede says:

    Dear Dom, this really has set the cat among the pigeons. I’ve found this conversation very interesting.

    I am wholly in agreement with you that it is a bit quixotic to be too occupied over which of the preconciliar missals is preferable. It seems to me that on the basis of “what was holy for earlier generations remains holy”, there shouldn’t be much objection to the pre 1955 Holy Week rituals. As a very over worked parish priest, I cannot even conceive of trying to adequately celebrate Holy Week without Pope Pius’s reform. Regarding the ’65 missal. There is no doubt in my mind that it reflects the genuine aspiration of the council fathers. Taken on the whole, the 65 missal, at least at Sung Mass, would be largely indistinguishable from Sung Mass according to the ’62 missal. When I first started my little Oratory, we always had the readings in English facing the people, in keeping with Motu Proprio. Very soon I realized that this was really not needed. We were providing translations of all the Mass texts and people in general preferred the readings said at the altar in Latin. Ultimately what I have learned is that we modern people find it very hard to give up our hyper-rationality (the gift of the age if Reason that keeps on giving). Once one becomes familiar with the Vetus Ordo, and the unfamiliarity of it wears off (for those of us who are ‘children of the captivity’), we see the beauty of its form and the naturalness and interconnected logic of its parts. At that point, issues about the vernacular fall away and the Mass can be what it is supposed to be: unselfconscious, pure adoration and worship.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Dear Dom Bede,

      Salve!

      There can be no argument about the holiness of previous rites. For a right-thinking Catholic that goes without saying, as I think you would agree. The danger is when we start saying one rite/form is holier than another. Since all the various rites and forms of the Catholic Church have been sanctioned by the Church they certainly convey grace, to those properly disposed, when they are celebrated according to the mind of the Church (reflected most surely in the rubrics).

      But as I think you might be implying, there is more to liturgy than the conveying of grace. As worship of God, liturgy must express true worship, in spirit and in truth. It must give us a soupçon of heaven, where we will graduate, deo volente, into major league worship, face to face. In essence, we are not primarily being instructed at Mass or even edified; we are being formed into people of worship, united with Christ’s perfect worship – we put on Christ in Mass, as Pope Francis reminded us a couple of days ago, that we might keep Him on in our daily lives outside the Mass. But I am telling you nothing you do not already know.

      Of course, this is where the new Mass is most susceptible. It expresses, as you say, a rationalism, and what is more, a turn to man rather than to God (as usually celebrated, this is literally as well as metaphorically true). So as a conveyor of grace, the new Mass matches any other form or rite if celebrated in obedience to the mind of the Church. There can be no questioning of validity. Whether it is up to the task in forming us as people of worship is very much open to question since it embodies too insistent a turn to man.

      Thus the matter of readings you raise: vernacular or Latin? I see no problem having them in English. In fact for me, I would be happy talking to God in Latin and to the people in the vernacular, facing each as appropriate! That said, I remember being taken aback by someone young but well-formed in tradition (a Norbertine in fact) that the readings can also be seen as a ritualized reminder to God of his promises to and covenant with us, providing a formal context for the Sacrifice to be offered afterwards (I’ve paraphrased him but kept the meaning). This approach helps tame our “hyper-rationality”; let it run riot in the world, but not in worship, so that we might attain to what you rightly identify as the desideratum of the Mass: pure and un-self-conscious adoration and worship. So I can happily agree with you on the readings.

      However, if we are to regain what has been lost we must recover the proper hermeneutic of worship, its language and logic. Catechesis much match our praxis, indeed precede it, a John the Baptist to the Christ of the Mass. One thing I have learned is that John the Baptist is making his voice ever more loudly heard in the Church. Deo gratias!

      Thanks for dropping by. Do come again!

      Pax et bonum.

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    • Desiderius Beneventanensis says:

      That point may be applicable to europeans, but I would question whether in China for example, latin ought to be the normal liturgical language regardless of what missal used. For than become the most western influenced “eastern catholic church”. ;-) I think you understand my point. The Roman Missal has existed in Church Slavonic in Croatia for 2000 years for example and it was every bit as Roman and orthodox as the latin language missal. In the name of Orthodoxy perhaps latin is necessary for the time being, but in long term as a global language, I doubt it. As we all know the apostles used greek, aramaic or hebrew for their liturgies, not latin at all.

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      • Desiderius Beneventanensis says:

        Make that 1000 years for croatia, my mistake (Cyril & Methodius missionized with both roman rites in slavonic, as well as byzantine in slavonic). Apdf of a printed glagolitic croatian missal, circa 1927 edition, was posted online in the past, it was quite beautiful. I cant recall where.

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Indeed I can only agree that Latin is not the sine qua non of proper liturgy, and that in some places it would be decidedly preferable to use a vernacular. Chine might well be Catholic, not Communist, today if the Jesuits had got the Chinese Missal they desired centuries ago.

        What is essential is to impress the fact that vernacular tongue does not equate to the vulgar tongue (using that word properly). The Book Common Prayer is vernacular but not vulgar, not even in its day. The language of the street is not the language of the liturgy, just as it is not the language of diplomacy or of any formal or solemn occasion. The 1970 Missal was vulgar in this sense, and instead of people flocking to church to experience this new-found opportunity to ‘participate’, they far-too-quickly ebbed away from the dreariness of the newly-relevant and accessible liturgy.

        English being such a politically-charged language today, as evidenced by the ongoing war against the revised Missal of 2012, it seems to avoid it as much as possible in our liturgies.

        Pax.

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  15. Well,At least the either 1962/65 are better options. I should have wrote I mourn the abolishment of all octaves(other than Pentecost).
    I do hope that the OF can be retained for good reasons in the next century or so.

    Once more Dom Hugh:PAX!

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  16. Christopher William McAvoy says:

    Likewise fellas. All my good friends also are enthusiasts for the Octaves and their Sequences. The two complement each other. A few of the Octaves of the greatest church feasts such as Pascha, Nativity of Our Lord and Assumption of the Blessed V. Mary had a different elaborate Sequence for each day of the week. Ones such as pentecost only had four sequences , though I think the one from the first day was repeated for the remaining three days.

    Historically local saints would have their own octave locally, whereas other saints with less devotion in the diocese would not tend to have an octave celebrated but only one day, and they would have only a sequence from the common of saints, instead a sequence with the name and life story told in the music.

    Theoretically there probably can be too many Octaves, but in practice I dont think its likely to be a problem, so long as they are confined to the major feasts, a few dozen of them through the year is dandy. The complaint that there are too many octaves in the calendar is more recent, for most of their history circa 700 to 1700 no complaints were raised about them.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hi Christopher!

      “a few dozen of them through the year is dandy.” LOL. That would not leave many other days! As much as I like sequences you can have too much of a good thing, and too much would cheapen the currency. There is a certain logic to the ” less is more” principle, and the octaves and sequences should mark out the great feasts: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost as a bare minimum; perhaps also All Saints, Assumption, Immaculate Conception, Ss Peter & Paul. That would mark out these significant feasts nicely and be reasonably spaced through the year. Anymore would probably become wearing and blunt the octave/sequence edge.

      But that’s just me!

      Pax.

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  17. […] I typed, rather unwittingly, my personal reaction to Fr Thomas Kocik’s re-assessment of the Reform of the Reform initiative, little did I know […]

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