Sunday, March 13, 2016

Oratorian Mass


I am told that since the Birmingham Oratory has switched their Sunday Mass from a solemn Latin Paul VI Mass to the 1962 rite attendance has plummeted like George Bush's approval rating in 2005. This is a shame to be sure. I never had any interaction with the Birmingham Oratory, only Oxford's, but the English Oratorian manner of celebrating the new rite can be very instructive and moving. It would be a shame to lose it in place of the rather dull replacement that seems to have come into place in Birmingham.

The old old rite benefits from octaves, vigils, dramatic ceremonies, varied choir movements and other diversities that keep the assembled faithful's attention. One of HJA Sire's observations about the compact, streamlined post-Tridentine liturgy is that the simplification of cathedral worship turned Mass from an action to a spectacle. Paul VI's rite, when well celebrated, can also engage the faithful. The English Oratories sing the entirety of the Mass in Latin, but read the lessons in the vernacular and the Gospel sung, even the Passion during Holy Week; traditional hymnody is employed; in the 1980s the Canon was sung; processions are usually observed. While one can approve of a given Sunday Mass in the 1962 Missal, it is not as pastorally potent as either what preceded it or, when celebrated in a traditional manner, what came after it.

Devotees of traditionalist communities who are familiar with particular changes to the lectionary, orations, and Ordinary of the Mass may disagree, but what of the mainstream parishes which, like Birmingham or Oxford, were opened for any Catholic in town and not adherents of a specific set of ceremonies? There is also the possibility that the traditionalists, occasionally their own worst enemies, rubbed the congregation at Birmingham the wrong way.

John R may advocate my immediate execution, but would it be so bad to repeat the readings in English immediately after their proclamation in Latin so that they are an integrated part of the Mass rather than a prelude to the sermon? The solemn Masses at the Chartres pilgrimage last year followed this habit. In France Missae Cantatae often see the epistle in French and the Gospel in both Latin and French. The FSSPX and its daughter organizations (FSSP etc.) in France, Germany, and Switzerland typically read in the local tongue at low Masses. Perhaps the old rite cannot learn from the new textually, but it could learn from the Oratorians pastorally.

25 comments:

  1. As Archimandrite Serge Keleher put it, the argument for the universal use of Latin without any vernacular ("tourism": any Catholic going to churches in foreign countries will see the same ceremonies and rites, not merely essentials) is idiotic. I must admit the argument to be emotionally powerful, too, as he aknowledged, but there's no substance to it.

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    2. I'm not familiar with that "argument", which indeed lacks any cogency. However, once we start down the road which diverges from the external signs of unity which communicate, realize, and fortify an actual internal unity within the Church we run the grave risk of arriving at the _Vel_ Missal of 1969. Instead of condescending to the lowest common denominator of the Faithful, why don't we exalt sacred liturgy and allow perfect understanding to be something for the Faithful to tend towards over a lifetime. To be sure, very few of us will ever actually comprehend the entirety of sacred liturgy; dumbing it down gives a false sense of comprehension. Moreover, Missals are available for those who wish to follow along in the vernacular. We don't need to read the readings twice or read them in the vernacular if the congregants are holding the facing translation in their own hands!

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    3. It still doesn't have the same effect. Vernacular can be done very well, and there is no need for an all-or-nothing solution. A little vernacular, using hieratic language, is a good thing. Remember, St. Cyril said the Roman Mass totally in Slavic, though the Frankish bishops were against him.

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    1. It's not John Rao, but another John.

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  3. Take the Anglican Ordinariate Mass the way it is celebrated in San Antonio, have the celebrant do the Canon in Latin, keep the rest as-is, use this as the model for Western Liturgy, call it a day, smoke a cigar, and drink some cognac.

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    1. You could do worse. And nearly every parish does.

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    2. After watching a parish near me (where the church building looks like a school auditorium) gradually insert older gestures and externals (such as true Gothic vestments that put any fiddleback to shame) into the Pauline Rite, I have become convinced that a full restoration of the "Old Rite" in whatever year will not be the future. Instead, we will see many of its elements and practices gradually creep into the Pauline Rite until it is something that none of us today would recognize.

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  4. Do i see some positive things said about the New Rite?
    Better prepare for a snowstorm :P
    JK
    Nice post.

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  5. Hello!

    What kind of pastoral lessons can the old rite learn from the Oratorians?

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    1. Isn't it obvious from this post? Vernacular (the hieratic kind) integrated into the rite, not repeated separately from the pulpit, as commonly done in American traditionalist communities. And the old rite, as used by the Rad Trad, is meant 1962. The older pre-1955 rite is far more pastoral, especially with regards to Holy Week.

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    2. Speaking of a "pre-1955 rite" is bizarre to me, especially in this context. Look, I dislike the Pius XII Holy Week as much as anyone here; I'd love to get some of those Octaves back as well, along with September Ember Days that are actually predictable. But there simply are not enough differences imposed by Pius XII and John XXIII to go so far as saying that they made a "new rite." The changes were unprecedented in certain ways, and they certainly damaged the rite....but even Dobszay was willing to reserve a "new rite" designation only for the Pauline missal (though arguably the 1964-67 changes were tantamount to it).

      if there are pastoral lessons to be learned from the Oratorians, it would have to be in something more specific to their liturgical praxis.

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    3. Well, having been to both pre-1955 and 1962 celebrations of the Roman rite, the losses have become too apparent to me, especially with what happened to St. Gregory the Great on Saturday. Reduced to a mere commemoration?!! He, one of only three popes called "Great"?! For the Benedictines, it's natural, even for the '63 rite, to have his feast above the Lenten ferias, but for the Roman liturgy to downgrade him is shameless! For me, the 1962 can be only a new rite, albeit still having a lot of the older rite.

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    4. Hi Paul,

      Won't disagree with your complaints about the revised calendar, which I also share. I just don't think it counts as a separate "rite." Still the very same Canon, Ordinary, Lectionary, and largely the same calendar.

      Perhaps I could see, down the road, it being allowed as a "Pio-Johannine Use of the Roman Rite" for those who want it (in America, just call it the Irish-American Use), after some sensible restoration of the Roman Rite takes place. It will probably occur after we're dead, though.

      I'd still like to know more about what we can learn from the Oratorians. I have yet to visit the English Oratories, and the ones I have been to in America don't present anything distinctive enough in their celebration of the Pauline missal, beyond a generally more reverent praxis than the norm, for me to figure out what this might mean.

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  6. Off with his head! I'm trying to get rid of repeating the readings in English! If the congregation has hand missals or translations available, why encumber the rite with that kind of repetition?

    I have seen (heard) vernacular readings read over the Epistle and Gospel once at an SSPX Low Mass. If I'll concede you anything, limit this to Low Mass, but don't overlay vernacular and take away from the singing of the readings at High Mass. Remember, these still serve primarily a latreutic purpose.

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    1. I'm against repetition as well, but the Ordinariates have demonstrated to me that a sung reading can be done well if you use an older and slightly more "archaic" English.

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    2. I don't see why the opposition to repetition is warranted. I've seen readings done at a given service in several languages owing to the diversity of those assembled (Arabic, Greek, English) and never found myself scandalized. I think John's objection is that the readings are *purely* for worship under his scheme and hence should not be repeated because they are not for popular reception anymore than the offertory prayers or the Munda cor meum.

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    3. Your last point, precisely my objection.

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    4. It is obvious from Lent alone that readings aren't primarily latreutic.

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    5. But even so, Marko, teaching the faithful is at the most, a tertiary priority. Primarily they are for the worship of God, and secondarily, they proclaim salvation history.

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  7. The Old Rite Papal Mass had the lections in both Latin & Greek-I wonder how, if at all, that bears on this question.

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  8. "...Sunday Mass in the 1962 Missal, it is not as pastorally potent as either what preceded it or, when celebrated in a traditional manner, what came after it"

    Apart form readings in vernacular, what in your opinion makes a Novus Ordo celebrated in Latin in the Oratorian style more engaging or pastorally potent?

    A fortiori, what makes the pre-tridentine Mass such? Besides the fact that the so-called Tridentine form itself predates the Trent by at least a cople of centuries as the use of Roman Curia, the earlier or regional versions do not differ that much. Those "dramatic ceremonies, varied choir movements" need a "choir" in the first place, i.e., a chapter of canons and other clergy, as it was in cathedrals. The congregation would remain 'spectators' anyway.

    All the nice things in the Ordines romani are of the papal stational Mass or (mutatis mutandis) a solemn pontifical Mass in a cathedral. What regards a parish church, does the current situation with the 1962 books in a 'normal' Sunday differs that much form, say, 1262? The last edition of Roman ritual (1954?) contains a lot of processions and similar things, complete with adaptations for 'ecclesiae minores', even more in the regional editions of the Ritual. Just use them.

    To sing Epistle and Gospel in two languages – why not? Only one has to issue the traditional lectionary for various languages and adapt the chant. Latin and Greek in Papal Mass is a good precedent, as is the praxis in the Eastern rites.

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    1. I don't think The Rad Trad was referring to the pre-Tridentine Mass, but to the 1920's rite (before the unpleasant changes up to 1962, including Signum Magnum and the Common of Supreme Pontiffs). As for myself, the fact that on ordinary Sundays, there are still commemorations of saints lower in rank than the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary is a good thing. '62 wise, Sundays hardly have any commemorations, except the Apostles and all other 2nd class feasts (excepting 2nd class feasts of the Lord, which trump the Sunday [which is then not even commemorated]). That is one of my main beefs as well!

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  9. I'm left to wonder just why a switch from a Latin Paul VI Mass to a Latin John XXIII was so lethal to attendance in Birmingham. This has certainly not been the case with communities on this side of the Pond that have done so since 2007.

    While I'm not intimately familiar with what's been happening with the Birmingham Oratory, I do know they've have internal difficulties (i.e., "the Birmingham Three") with some of the clergy in recent years. If there has been a dropoff, I wonder if there aren't other factors involved. Like, even, boisterous traddies getting boisterous.

    Having attended a Latin Novus Ordo almost exclusively three years, I tend to agree with Dr. Joseph Shaw that such a celebration really works against the grain of the Pauline missal. But I am certainly not opposed to doing a minor pastoral adaptation like a repetition of the readings in the vernacular (assuming a good and noble translation) immediately after the Latin.

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