Friday, September 27, 2013

Two Different Kinds of Worship

One of the Rad Trad's pet projects in his liturgy-oriented posts is to shock those attached to the older rites out of legalism and an undue attachment to the baroque, Counter-Reformation mindset—which includes aesthetics and style.
Behold examples of two very different kinds of worship, nominally using very similar books. Below is a very baroque low Mass on Paschal Thursday. A dandy organ plays flourishes and arpeggios over the prayers before the altar, the Gloria, the offertory, the Canon (!!!), and the end of Mass. The chasuble would only look proportionally correct on someone four feet tall. And the sanctuary, although rich and elegant, somehow does not look beautiful to my eye. Perhaps I am too picky, antiquarian, or stodgy. Moreover, something about this arrangement does not do justice to the liturgy. On the bright side, there is a votive commemoration for the Pope and something missing from the Canon. Some here will know what that means!

It is probably unfair to compare this weekday Mass to a solemn Mass done to the nines, but hear me out. The Sarum Mass below (I mention the rite so much I ought to do a series on it at some point) represents, I think, a very different approach to the liturgy, one that goes beyond high Mass vs. low Mass. The architecture of the sanctuary, the aesthetics (which even in the Middle Ages were distinct from the secular), the presence of cantors, the restrained use of instruments, and the role of those in attendance as more than spectators all contrast starkly with the vestments, style, and architecture latent in the above video. Moreover the variations in Sarum from the Roman rite, like the kiss of peace between the sacred ministers prior to ascending the altar, indicate a charismatic, spiritually adroit outlook in the celebrants who formed that liturgy.
Just food for thought.


  1. An acquaintance of mine, who runs the blog Modern Ledievalism, did a series of posts on the Sarum rite.

  2. C'mon, you are comparing apples to oranges here. I do take your point and agree, though I am partial to some Baroque elements (e.g. chasubles - of the right proportion of course - and trumpets). As for aesthetics, I've always been of the mind that instruments, other than the organ, and polyphony should be used very sparingly and only on very special occasions (e.g. wedding, baccalaureate Mass). This would be an area where my current former-Ecclesia Dei parish overdoes things with frequent polyphonic Masses; we never ever get to sing the Ordinary "fons bonitatis" since every (Double) first class feast is polyphonic!

    1. John, I admitted the comparison would be somewhat unfair, but the point I was trying to make concerned the mindset of those who built the churches, made the vestments etc.

      As far as music during Mass, I tolerate a tastefully used organ (queuing the people when to join in, filler music during the offertory and communion, during the procession and recession). I like polyphony but only a finite amount of it is actually good. After overuse it all sort of runs together when, instead, it ought to be special. Some baroque vestments are alright, again with the right proportions. In the City of Rome one is more likely to see a Roman chasuble that looks like it is descended from the ancient planeta.

  3. I really like this kind of churches - Romanesque and gothic are my favourites. But especially i like when the altar is up high.

  4. That image certainly recalls the elevation of the altar in the older St Peter's Basilica. In fact many churches in the first millennium had that arrangement.

    Romanesque and gothic, which their vertical emphasis, are my favorites, too!

  5. Speaking of raised altars:

    Church where St. Teresa of Avila was baptized:

    A church (which is now only used for concerts and such) in a town near where I live: