Sunday, July 21, 2013

Re-Visiting the Mass of Paul VI

The Rad Trad has two cars: let us call the newer one the Radmobile and the older one the Crapmobile. The Radmobile is only a year old but in fifth gear makes a high hissing noise. The dealer told the Rad Trad that the Radmobile needs a new transmission, which is fine with his Tradiness because the car is still under warrantee. On the down side, he is stuck with the Crapmobile, a ten year old junker with such bad brakes the Rad Trad dare not take it on the highway. This meant the Rad Trad was unable to attend the Melkite Divine Liturgy and instead had to attend a Pauline Roman Mass 15 minutes away.
The parish has a reputation for doing the Mass "reverently," the common term both "conservatives" and "traditionalists" were using five or so years ago. Discussion has evolved (progressed?) to consideration of the ceremonies and texts and chants of the old rite, the 1962 rite, and the new rite. Yet this parish, with all respect for the very kind priest, seems indicative of what a slow, half-interest reform of the reform might look like. The Mass was certainly not an "Oratorian high Mass"—with 19th century polyphony, priests dressed as deacons, Roman vestments, large chunks of Latin, and an ad orientem consecration. No, it was a low Mass celebrated versus me, polyester vestments, and lay ministers of communion.
So why the reputation for reverence? Well there was no sign of peace. No music at all is probably better than what the neighboring parishes do, where you will hear such hits like "Lord of the Dance." The readings were the ones assigned. Between the readings, psalms, alleluia, Gospel, and sermon the lector sat down for a minute or more of silence (the Rad Trad fought hard to remain awake). The purpose of this is almost certainly to foster reflection and meditation on the readings of the Mass, to allow the faithful to commune with God in some quiet. Yet, is this not an arbitrary way of effecting reverence or peace during the Pauline liturgy? To "build in" periods of reverence? The Canon in the old rite, even at a solemn high Mass (provided it was not an obnoxious polyphonic piece with a 3 minute Sanctus and 5 minute Benedictus) was more or less quiet. What strikes the Rad Trad as qualitatively different here is that in the old rite the silence was the culmination of a single action, the various parts and prayers of which are bound by song and chant. At this Mass it was action, break, action, break, action, break, sermon, break, offertory, break, Eucharist Prayer > 1, break.... To create reverence in the Pauline liturgy without resorting to old music can be futile because most of the Mass is talking, not singing. Disrupting the talk makes the Mass all the more fractious than it ceremonially already is.
At a parish with only 200 in attendance and 3 persons—2 lay—distributing Communion under one kind, communion still took ten minutes or so. The entire low Mass, low attended, took 55 minutes. An old rite low Mass is about 40 minutes, a high Mass 70, and a Divine Liturgy 75 minutes. Yet all three of those feel much quicker and more expedient because the mind and soul are immediately enveloped in prayer (though that is often difficult at the old low Mass depending on the setting).
The practical implications of this are astounding. When this parish has its 1962 Missa Cantata one Sunday a month they usually pick up 50 or so faithful, but the demographics shift dramatically. At the Pauline liturgy half the congregation could immediately collect social security and the young(ish) half is a mixed bag: many come well-dressed, some do not, some are little children, a few families, and many are middle aged. At the 1962 Mass I would guess 75% of the congregation is under 50, most under 40. There are many enormous families (3+ kids, some with 5+). Young men and women come from neighboring towns and schools on their own initiative, too. I do not know what the difference is in the collection plate, but the parish priest ought to realize where the future of his church lays.


  1. Up until recently, just like The Rad Trad, Zephyrinus had two cars: A red car and a green car.

    One week, I happened to turn up for Mass in the red car and the Master of Ceremonies (MC) was delighted.

    The next week, I turned up in the green car and the MC was furious. I asked him why.

    He replied that I had driven up in the "wrong Liturgically-coloured car". (The Liturgical colour for that day was white).

    That's when I knew the Liturgy at that Church was very sound.

    1. Zephyrinus is blessed with a truly sound parish then!

  2. Your penance for the week (month?)! Back in the days of attending the Latin NO for a time, the readings (still being in the vernacular) were spoken in such an unnaturally slow cadence by an American man with phony, affected British accent. It seems it was (maybe still is) a thing to do to the readings what playing a 45 record would sound like at 33 1/3 speed?

    You do well to mention the constant shifting from sung to spoken, from silence to chatter, etc. I think the worst is when the Preface dialogue is sung in Latin and then the Preface itself is spoken in the vernacular (EWTN used to do this ad nauseam). Such is what you get with an anti-liturgical spirit and the breakdown of distinction between low and high Mass.

  3. Alas, dear Trad, I thought you were going to develop this thought into a metaphor where the Radmobile was to be known as the Ordinary Form (of Transport), and the other, the EXTRAOrdinary one.
    But No, your Extraordinary Form of Transport led you to an all too Ordinary Form of Mass.

    -What a pity we did not take that Ordinary form back to its dealers when it was still under guarantee.

    I was wondering if you were about to make a complex point about the usability of the Ordinary form and what a bad job certain people have made of some Extraordinary Forms. I am glad to see you have not. I have rarely seen the Trent Mass done poorly, but like you and your correspondents, I have experienced peculiar modern masses.

    Best to avoid all the masses with music. As you observe, Lord of the Dance and its ilk seems to be standard, rather than the more state of the art material the various protestant sects use, including those nice people in the ‘Church’ of ‘England’ squatting in the Catholic Church’s property. [The more advanced evangelical churches are not recommending themselves to many. Anglicanism, while still shrinking, is becoming more protestant, but this is the religion of the seventeenth century puritans: those with worldly success, often laity, who have the time, leisure and inclination to preach at their poorer neighbours. Not sure if that will feed in to an unpleasant secular moralism.]

    Of course, the best modern ‘masses’ were often performances of the NO by anglican clergy who sang the appropriate parts, all in English and had good, traditional hymns. I knew and attended one years ago that had transposed several plainchant masses for the old ICEL words. Which must have been hard work.

    There are some mixed language masses. I have experienced what was a fairly decent one – it took the place of what must once have been the late morning sung high mass and just became NO when that was established. It was done with little thought or strategy and over time drifted into the priest speaking his parts in English and the sung ordinary from one of the traditional plainchant masses in Latin. These usually corresponded exactly with the few pages in the back of the Collins Sunday missal that gave some Latin texts. So that made for some sort of consistency.
    I have spoken to people who have been trying to organize a more traditional mass where they use the Latin propers from the modern Graduale. The priest has most recently been drifting into Latin for the sung preface but doesn’t always do the canon (or eucharistic prayer) in Latin.

    In general, in Britain, I have found the N.O. done straight as the modern thing it is. You always get the Peace: all the clergy think they have to announce the hand-shaking ceremony. “Let us offer each other…” But in some places, it is as highly curtailed by the priest beginning the Agnus, just as by some choirs starting to sing it. They do it because they seem to think they have to, but it is clear they don’t all love it.

    I think the laity divide into three groups; those who deliberately greet people they know and haven’t seen for a week, which seems human; those who seem obsessively keen on doing everyone several rows away, and those who do as little as possible within as small a circle as possible. They seem the most human of all. Or at least English. The proportions vary at different masses.

  4. ...cont'd.
    From time to time people write in to the Tablet to say that only vat ii and the modernisms ‘kept them in’ the Church. One doesn’t really know how true this is (so, if they hadn’t happened, would they really have denied Christ?), or how many there actually are. I suppose some people do like this, but more clearly didn’t and voted with their feet. It is not true to say they all walked out in the sixties because the Church was wickedly traditional. That’s not to say the sixties didn’t cause a widespread disrespect for Faith, but is a different matter. I think the best recent scholarship has coalesced around the sixties being a delayed general adoption of the moral standards that won us the war: ‘in everything else anything goes, because nothing matters but this one cause’. But now you could pick your own cause. For some in the inner counsels of the Church, this meant the disruptive grooviness of the sixties itself. That came to us via the fifties, when just the elites had had fun abandoning frowsty old ways. To return to your previous thread, Pius XII was part of that particular delight.

    The cultural wars we seem still to be saddled with are between those who think the sixties were the beginning of what’s here to stay and those who don’t.
    To me, it seems clear that the temporary /emergency (lack of) morality of the war years cannot go on for ever. And its concomitant evil – increasing state intervention and state employees to perform that and state taxation or just borrowing to facilitate that – because the people are such children and ‘families’ are dysfunctional who all could not possibly be allowed to go on and make decisions for themselves. The number of guardians required will easily outnumber the inmates.
    If it does – I suppose it might – our civilisation is finished.

    As you observe, the people who were satisfied with what was wrought by and after vat ii are now aging, and it is abundantly clear that they have not passed on faith to any kind of successors, their children or neighbours. Last year I was present at an Easter mass of startling modernity. In a way it was quite enjoyable. Never before or since have I experienced the celebrant strapping a guitar on over his chasuble – gothic and polyester, of course – to lead the Sequence. He also looked exactly like Burt Reynolds did in Boogie Nights, so that might have told me something. But of course, the adults present were all in late middle age or rather, I suppose, early old age. There were a few children present, a very few; Easter morning service was a strong tradition in protestant England, and the aftermath of that lingers on in some minds and hearts; I think the young had been left with the grandparents to babysit just this once while the parents did something more fun over the holiday w/e. There were of course, no teenagers present.

    This is the result of liberal religion. It is exactly as described or predicted by Aquinas. I’m going to get the quote wrong now, but it is the concept that the removal of a positive injunction of law had better be for an exceptionally good cause indeed, because in all cases it immediately results in a loss of observance.
    Liberal religion makes people already inside a religion feel better about their liberalising, but has never won any more adherents. It also makes plenty of people think they are justified in walking away.
    It is always parasitic on the stronger faith of others. Where’s the fun in rebelling or feeling you are against something old and bad if you have nothing old to contrast with?

    There are not yet enough people of any age at the insufficient number of traditional masses. But it is clear that is where the future lies.