Friday, June 29, 2007

Et cum spiritu too cool

The Pope announced a Motu Proprio, an "on his own volition," meaning that he made a decision that will affect the whole Church, but is not an infallible pronouncement. He is asking that there be greater exposure and use of the Tridentine Mass, the form of the Mass used for centuries.

The press has been handling (or mishandling) the announcement over the last few days. This has a been a hot topic of discussion in the Catholic blogworld for a couple of years. I was interested but not surprised to find a negative reaction from a Jewish group. Sadly, I was also not too surprised to find push-back from some bishops, who think their flock have brains like...well, sheep.

There will be many thoughtless, uninformed Catholics who will describe it as "the priest mumbling in a language nobody knows, with his back turned away from the people, and old ladies praying their rosaries in the pews" and there will be a smaller, but more fervent group who will welcome this development TOO happily, perhaps disgusted by the fooling-around of some priests with the ancient and sacramental language, the "theme" Masses, etc.

I am pleased, for several reasons:

1. Nostalgia. I am old enough to remember the Tridentine Mass, and the mystery and the awe of that Mass penetrated my little grade-school brain. We knew we were doing something way greater than we were. I went to a Tridentine Mass in Chicago last year, and it grabbed me by sight and sound and smell and sound, pushing me back into the childlike wonder about the love of Jesus for me that I felt when I made my First Communion 15,000 years ago.

2. Universality. I've not yet had the experience of attending Mass in a foreign country, in their own language. I asked a priest what one does in that situation, thinking that the right answer is to use your own language very quietly, praying the same prayers. He said no, that you should try and use their language, so that you are praying in union. In a Latin Mass, no problem for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. You can read the daily Scripture readings in your own missal, and pray for the priest while he delivers a homily you don't understand.

3. Challenge. The Latin texts are much closer to the original Scripture AND the original earliest prayers of the Church. We are a highly-educated people, and human nature rises to a challenge anyway, and a little learning or re-learning of the prayers and responses will make us more aware of what we're praying. If our attitude if right, anyway.

4. More Latin in the Novus Ordo, which is actually in Latin in the first place! If we could more of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in Latin, I think it would accomplish the first three items, bringing us back in better touch with history, being more united in prayer at Mass elsewhere in the world, challenged to think about the words we pray.

Sadly, my parish will probably not be where the Tridentine rite is celebrated, because our "liturgical east" altar, the back altar, was disassembled decades ago, and we only have a front altar. (Yes, you have to play Hunt the Tabernacle at my parish, although it's an easy find, in a side chapel.) Our priests will not be able to face, not away from the people, but in the same direction as the people.

The arguments will go on. Good, maybe it means that more people are startled into caring. I just want to say that THIS is beautiful!

Neat links:

Guide for the altar boys' prayers in Latin, with audio. I used to watch the altar boys praying their part along with the priest; deeply impressive.

Badly formatted, but useful: side-by-side English-Latin guides to the Novus Ordo and the Tridentine Masses.


Roz said...

I'm in the middle of The Spirit of the Liturgy by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). It's very helpful and clear about the antecedents of the Mass in the sacrificial worship instituted in the Old Testament. With that in mind, we can see a church as far more like the Temple in Jerusalem than a synagogue as we know it today where exploration takes place, but not worship.

The Holy of Holies is where the mysterious presence of God dwells and in which the priest offers sacrificial worship. But, thanks to the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, we too can go into the holiest place -- and receive Jesus, besides.

So the model of "let's gather around the table, eat a meal and sing some songs" isn't the only way to go, I guess. Well, I'm all for variety. Any way I can get a glimpse of another facet of God's nature is a Good Thing.

kc bob said...

Latin Mass? I don't understand what you are saying :)

I think that, for English speaking folks, the words of St Paul cover this one:

Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified. (1 Corinthians 14:13-17)

Not everything in church needs to be understood but I think that we don't have to put artificial barriers in the way of understanding - but then again I am a protesting sort of guy :)



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