Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Reflections of My First EF

Over at the Musica Sacra Forum, '08 CMAA Colloquim attendee "Gerry" posted an eloquent and insightful commentary about attending EF Masses that I somewhat categorize in the "Great Expectations" folder.

I thought that revisiting my own '07 Colloquium EF experience might bring yet another perspective that confirms that in our liturgical pilgrimage, we should never expect to actually ever "arrive" home in this life.


A "different take" on the TL from this convert of 37 years:I would first emphasize that these thoughts and recollections surfaced to conscious expression in rather anticlimactic environments, namely airports and while confined in the surreal silver tubes flying me “home.” And, of course, all of these are thus visceral and immediate “feelings” that I called up and laboriously scribbled (as BMP would say) before drifting into other activities one does while in transit. From my journal:“Sunday, June 24, 2207. Sitting in Dulles, chilling from unexpected flight rearrangements.I went to my first Tridentine Mass yesterday. My initial and still current feeling is that, for me, it was an “alien(ating) experience as worship in this era. In one way, I wish that feeling would have melted away during the Mass. An now (it seems) that the other rites/forms celebrated during the CMAA colloquium served as “first courses,” or precursors to it.As I understand it, the TL is consistent and consonant with all of the various and unified Roman Rites from the 5th-16th centuries, and that the TL was a necessary and consistent, faithful reform itself (see Bugnini critiques.) So the need and argument for “reform of the reform” is based upon not only canonical imperatives, but upon a morality of faithful adherence to nearly 2 millennia of Roman liturgical culture.But, can’t it also be a valid and worthwhile contention to point out where certain aspects and affects of a well-sung TL Mass can either “cause” or result in both engagement and disengagement with the liturgy among the lay worshiper? For example-*The ad orientem posture of the celebrant et al is not an obstacle to “engagement” in and of itself. It is a powerful posture for obvious reasons. However, it’s “presentation” is so incessant it seems unrelenting and, even for a stalwartly interested novice, becomes difficult at the least to remain focused, intent, engaged- active within the subtle nuances of unheard orations and ornate actions.*I don’t believe I’ll ever be reconciled to the notion that it is more beneficial and, of course, proper to barely hear the “Lessons.” Why is the “Verbum Domini” solely to be sung or spoken in Latin? Porque? Oh yes, we’ll have the missal with the side by side. But there seems to be a sort of duplicity when defending the parallel missal when it’s Latin to vernacular, while disdaining the very same formula for vernacular to vernacular. The (refuge) argument, I suppose, is that Latin is our “Mother Tongue” during the “table prayer” and we don’t switch “moms” in the middle of dinner. But I think I recall that Jesus’ words were spoken in the language appropriate to those of His listeners- Aramaic to the masses, Hebrew for the clerics. And didn’t St. Paul also make a point of deferring to the befitting tongue? When the Church codified the canons of scripture and the dogma the Christ is the “LOGOS” (not the “Verbum”,) doesn’t that imply a malleable notion calling for a fully vocalized and fully verbalized intelligibility? Bottom line: I was adrift a lot, and a compass (missal) would likely not have made me feel closer to home. Lastly, if within the TL there is still a distinct Liturgy of the Word, shouldn’t it be heard by all and understood?Yes, I know I need schoolin'. I'm doing it. But I share this with you all as a seeker still on this life's journey of faith. I'm not trying to advance any judgments, per se.

These were just my initial thoughts, post-CMAA.

Charles


Those reflections led to this good exchange with my RPI friend, Andrew:


Charles, thanks for your thoughts on this matter. It's nice to hear a response to the classical liturgy that isn't full of derogatory metaphors and mockery.


You know, Andrew, the way I figure it, there's a huge amount of stuff "at stake" in these matters, so I don't take them frivolously. I'm gratified you appreciate my concerns.


Do you see this as something that may change with repeated exposure? I'm quite accustomed to "ad orientem," largely due to a frequent experience of it in Anglican churches, and I prefer it, without exception.


Yes, and I agree with the Holy Father's rationales (Spirit of the Liturgy)for "ad orientem." I, like Mike, wished Msgr. Skeris (sp?)could have projected certain orations more fully. I know that there's a great deal of debate regarding authentic, proto-Christian practice of re-creating the "Last Supper" versus the advent of "ad orientem," but if only for losing the "cult of personality" I'm in favor of facing east.


Are you referring specifically to the proclamation of Scripture here, or to the Mass at large? You make valid points. However, I would point out that while Jesus preached in Aramaic, he would have been speaking Hebrew in the Temple. Even when our Lord read the scroll of Isaiah and ended with, "This has been fulfilled in your hearing it," the reading would of course have been in Hebrew.


Really just the Lessons and Gospel, Andrew. But, you'll notice I did cite our Lord's obvious command of liturgical propriety regarding speaking Hebrew in temple. But I think I take your point about both propriety and consistency within the structure of formal rites (ala "not changing moms in the middle of the meal.")Thanks for engaging and helping me out here.

Charles


Then my other RPI bud and mate at '07, Dr. Mike O'Connor chimed in:


Do you see this as something that may change with repeated exposure? I'm quite accustomed to "ad orientem," largely due to a frequent experience of it in Anglican churches, and I prefer it, without exception.


Yes, and I agree with the Holy Father's rationales (Spirit of the Liturgy)for "ad orientem." I, like Mike, wished Msgr. Skeris (sp?)could have projected certain orations more fully. I know that there's a great deal of debate regarding authentic, proto-Christian practice of re-creating the "Last Supper" versus the advent of "ad orientem," but if only for losing the "cult of personality" I'm in favor of facing east.Regarding ad orientam, for me it weens me off listening to the priest (natural reaction of his facing an "audience") focusing on the text in the missal. I find that I engage with the words more than when I just listen. Also it really does de-emphasize his personality and make him seem more a part of the group who steps into the sanctuary to lead rather than a situation where he is the focus of attention and we are there to see him do his thing.

2 comments:

Gavin said...

I agree that the Ef can be alien(ating). Then again, take a step back away from yourself. I recall last Christmas when I hired a high school trumpet player who had only EVER been to an evangelical megachurch. Even the ideas of hymnody, liturgy, a church year, and organ playing were bizarre to him. Not to mention chanted prayer, incense, Latin, and Gregorian chant! So keep in mind that YOUR normative experience is going to be alienating to someone unfamiliar with Catholicism.

I don't get the opposition to ad orientem. To me it is a totally rational thing: the priest isn't talking to me, so he doesn't have to face me. I might prefer it if he faced the congregation for the preface dialogue or some more point, but that's quite minor. I guess how I see it is that there's many "groups" active in the liturgy: the priest, the servers, the congregation, the choir. Each, in ad orientem, have the impression of doing the same thing, because they're all facing the same direction. At least ideally that's what would happen. Isn't always that way, particularly when the dialog Mass is suppressed! But with chant and the congregation making the proper responses, it doesn't become a hierarchy but a series of groups all focused on the same goal.

I have no idea why people aren't using Benedict's suggested readings in the vernacular. I think I get the point of them being in Latin, namely that the readings are themselves an act of worship by proclaiming what God has done for us. But later on the readings are recited in the vernacular before the sermon; so if there is value in them being understood, why not have them in the vernacular in the first place? It doesn't diminish them as an act of worship. As for the tone of voice, that varies by priest. The place I go to for the EF has a priest who loudly sings the lessons, and I doubt I would go to a Mass where they are whispered inaudibly.

All in all, even after going for some time, I still think the REAL value of the EF isn't as a superior form of devotion, but as a ruler to measure adherence to tradition.

Charles said...

Gavin, regarding "opposition" to ad orientem- I must assume that you're speaking in general terms. My own very last paragraph in the post testifies to my personal belief of its efficacy; would that any of my "guys" would even consider it. And, as a matter of fact, over lunch just yesterday I proposed that one, specific action be implemented at at least one of our Sunday Masses in an otherwise unaltered, OF vernacular Mass. The pastor and senior vicar remained firm in their lukewarm opinion of that action speaking volumes to the PIPs. C'est la vie.