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Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Parish Latin Mass musings

I'm getting a little feedback on our Latin Mass last Sunday. Chris(tine), our RCIA catechist and a convert herself was bowled over by it. She had comments from others ranging from enthusiastic to indifferent.

One problem is that the Mass was quite a bit longer than the usual 10.30am Mass. For a normal parish Sunday Mass, this can be awkward for non-trivial reasons, especially for families. The sung Latin ordinary takes much longer than the sung English version that we usually use - and we don't sing the Creed when saying Mass in English.

If we continue with the Novus Ordo, I would seriously consider dropping the Bidding Prayers; and I am very tempted to implement Cardinal Ratzinger's suggestion of a silent Canon (in fact, the Canon said quietly). "Tempted" because he was suggesting that the liturgical norms be changed, not that we just do it. Then again, there's no rubric saying you have to use a microphone or shout as the Protestant reformers insisted.

From a parish priest's point of view, I am increasingly convinced that many elements of the Classical Rite would actually be more pastorally effective than the new rite in Latin. The people who will rustle through the book to find and recite the various prayers will probably always be a minority. For example, it would be easier for most people if we had the old prayers at the foot of the altar while the Introit was sung and then began the public prayers with the Collect which is so dignified and, well, "Roman".

I also feel a little uneasy with waiting until the end of the Sanctus and Benedictus, then saying the Canon out loud. Again only a minority of people will actually follow it in a book. Many will simply be distracted by Father saying a long prayer that they don't understand.

Those who have come to the Church out of interest and are unfamiliar with the Liturgy, and those who are coming back to the practice of the faith which they lapsed from in their teens are actually disadvantaged by a heavily didactic liturgy in which finding your place in the book or "worship aid" is given great importance.

By contrast, the Classical Rite allows people to participate in different ways without being self-conscious or feeling that they are not "joining in" properly. Most especially, there is a very dramatic silence surrounding the consecration. Everyone can understand this without the need to read anything or hear anything except the sacring bell. The elevation of the sacred host in the midst of this silence, and the genuflection of the priest (which can be more clearly seen if he is turned ad orientem) cries out without words that this is the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.
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