Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Tale of Two Missals

All this motu proprio talk had got me thinking that I should seek out our local Latin Mass group again, especially since I'd heard they were not down at the Cathedral which, as you can see, definitely has a good setting for it.

Past experience suggested this would not be the best move for the entire family, so we went to our own parish as a family at our usual mass, and then I drove down to the Cathedral on my own for the 3:30 Tridentine mass.

The celebrant of our parish mass was the pastor, rather than the new associate pastor about whom we've waxed eloquent a few times. Our pastor goes in for the basics. Unless you specifically ask for guidance, he does a 2-3 minute confession. In regards to liturgy, his philosophy is one of doing everything required by the GIRM and nothing more. The music leaders for the different masses has told me that pretty much his only guidance is to do what people like and not make the mass longer by continuing with extra verses after the entrance, offertory or receiving of communion are over. So while our pastor doesn't go on any quests for liturgical beauty, he also shoots down without a thought all the zany additions that well-meaning people sometimes suggest. "How about if we have the children do a skit as part of the homily, Father?" "No." "What would you think of some liturgical dance for Easter?" "Absolutely not."

So it was from a pretty basic novus ordo mass that I set out to experience the Tridentine mass.

I've done a fair amount of reading about the Tridentine mass over the last few weeks, so I think I grasped more clearly what options were being followed than in the past.

There were perhaps 150-200 people in the congregation, mostly young through middle-aged. There can't have been more than a dozen people there who were adults when the 1970 missal was promulgated. The cathedral organ was in use, but there was no choir, and I'd picked up enough recently to discern from the two candles lit on the altar that this was to be a low mass.

It proved to be a sort of half-dialog low mass. The congregation responded with "Amen" and "Et cum spiritu tuo" but with the longer responses only the servers spoke. This may in part have been because the priest celebrating (a fairly elderly one) was not using a microphone, and his Latin was very fast and quiet. Unless he slowed down and raised his voice, it could be difficult to know what he was saying, and thus when to respond. (If you had an Irish Catholic grandmother like I did, we're talking about the HailMaryfullofgracethelordiswiththee speed that you grew up with on the rosary.)

I wasn't clear from the instructions in the missal if it was an option for the congregation to join in saying the credo and the pater noster. It seems logical that it would be, since I believe it's an option for a choir to sing it instead of the priest speaking it, but whatever the options they were in this case said only by the priest. I understand, of course, that speaking is not necessary for participating in the mass. Still, I must admit to much preferring symbolism of the entire congregation saying these particular two prayers in union with the priest. (And besides, I was looking forward to getting to say "consubstantialem"; it's not a word you get to use every day.)

In the Eucharistic Rite (is that the right term in the old missal?), I was having enough of a challenge reading through all the Latin (my Latin is rusty but passable, and I was trying to read as much as possible on the Latin rather than the English side) that I didn't have the change to read all the rubrics written in the margins of the missal pamphlet I'd picked up at the beginning, so although I know that certain sections were supposed to be said silently by the priest, I'm not sure if all of them were, or if the priest was simply speaking so quietly that I thought he was saying them silently. The period was essentially silent (impressively so considering the number of children present) punctuated only by the ringing of the bells and the rustle of pages.

It was an interesting experience. In a sense, it struck me that this was very much to the old missal what our normal Sunday mass is to the new: follow the rubrics and do nothing more than is required by the rubrics. I'd kind of hoped that the group might have a schola, in that MrsDarwin is trying to help get one started in our parish and I was hoping to get some of that mutual enrichment between the missals that the pope wrote about. As it was, the quickly and quietly spoken Latin reminded me again how much I appreciate our new associate putting in the time to chant the entire ordinary of the mass. (Nothing special, just basic plainchant.)

Lurking somewhere in the back of my mind, when I head off to something like this, is the experience (perhaps grown with dimming memory) of attending Wednesday night masses with the Eastern Rite group during the college semester I spent in Austria. There were only 25 people present, and the huge, burly Slovakian priest would arrive just after dark, say mass for us, and wolf down dinner and a liter or so of beer before driving off again.

Still, for being a weekday mass for two dozen people in a side chapel, the priest chanted the entire liturgy, and the incense censor swung wildly about. The congregation sang the responses beautifully (MrsDarwin and I joined in as best we could phonetically, not knowing Old Slavonic) and though I could see there were sections that the priest was saying silently, there wasn't the ten-minute-total-silence experience that the Latin low mass seems to involve.

There are those I know who truly breath the air of the Eastern lung of the Church, but the fact is that I am Latin to the core. I feel like it would be mere liturgical tourism for us to join an Eastern Rite parish. And yet, I keep hoping that I'll run into the Latin Rite equivalent of those Wednesday night masses in the dimly lit, incense filled side chapel of the Kartause.


Literacy-chic said...

there wasn't the ten-minute-total-silence experience that the Latin low mass seems to involve

My one and only experience of attending a Latin Mass--indeed, a Tridentine Mass--I was not quite as familiar as I am now with the novus ordo. I remember the main challenge as knowing when to stand or kneel. It was a High Mass and so entirely chanted. And I must say that I don't remember there being so much silence. The priest certainly prayed silently when he would have prayed aloud now, but we did not find ourselves waiting for the next spoken Latin. Interesting. I hope to be able to attend another sometime in the future!

Myth said...

I've been looking for the same ever since I came back from Austria.. though I agree, I couldn't just join an Eastern Rite parish either. For a while I was able to go to (and sing at) Latin Masses most Sundays, and I'm looking forward to having some chant.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

At the front of my copy of the Saint Joseph "Continuous" Sunday Missal, is a page titled: "How to Use This Missal at a Dialogue Mass."

It explains that there were three degrees of participation:

1st DEGREE: The congregation recited the simplest responses to the priest (given here in English):
"And with your spirit." (Currently translated as, "And also with you.")
"Thanks be to God."
"Glory to you, O Lord."
"Praise to you, O Christ."
And from the Preface, "We have lifted them up to the Lord," and "It is fitting and just."

Not much, but probably very exciting (and not too taxing) for a congregation that was used to having all the responses made by the altar boys. The missal helpfully marked these responses with a "(1)" to let the people know which were their lines. (So they didn't even get to say the Kyrie or the Confiteor! The server said it for them along with everything else.)

In a 2nd degree dialogue Mass the people were to recite all of the responses of the server plus the triple "Lord I am not worthy..." at the Communion of the people. All of these prayers were marked with a "(2)."

In the 3rd degree of paticipation, the people recited everthing in levels (1) and (2) as well as reciting the Gloria, Creed, Santus, and Agnus Dei with the priest. (Woo hoo!) All these prayers were marked with a "(3)."

As an additional option the people might also be permitted to recite the Our Father with the priest.

So it looks like your Mass was going for just the first level of responses. I seem to recall that the Masses I attended as a kid were at least level (2) and more often level (3). (I went to several different parishes in the course of my childhood.)

Darwin said...

Hmm. Interesting. I guess that explains that.

BTW, does it say anything in that missal as to whether all the Eucharistic Rite prayers are said silently? I'm honestly not sure if they were, or it's just that the priest was speaking quietly and I couldn't hear him.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...


There are quite a lot of "stage directions" in this missal probably to help the congregation to keep track of what point in the Mass the priest had got to, such as: "Making the Sign of the Cross with the chalice, he says..."

But it doesn't specify whether the Canon of the Mass is said silently or aloud. Of course the Secret was said in a very low voice which is how it got its name.

Okay, I've just checked a different missal from my husband's side of the family. It says that the Canon, during which the Consecation takes place, is to be said in a low voice out of reverence. The Canon started right after the Sanctus and went right up through the "Through Him, and with Him, and in Him . . . " after which comes the Our Father. So I guess the Canon might have sounded as if it were being said silently.

Bernard Brandt said...

As the last time that I was at a Tridentine Mass was when I was 13 (I am now 54), I could not give much information as regards that Mass.

I can, however, give a bit more information as regards what would be involved in making a change from West to East, as I have been doing that for the last 20 or so years. It involves a profound intellectual and spiritual change of outlook, and a great deal of physical, mental and spiritual effort.

While I believe that the change in my case was of great value, it is not one which I would recommend to anyone save those willing to make such change.