Monday, 4 August 2008

Mutual Enrichment

At dinner at Merton College, Oxford, during the conference organized by the Latin Mass Society last week, the guest of honour, Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, gave a very well received speech in which, among other things, he spoke of the mutual enriching of ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite envisaged by the Holy Father in his letter Summorum Pontificum. He made a humorous aside, remarking that perhaps it might be wondered how the extraordinary form was actually going to benefit from the ordinary. The words were received well.

The blogosphere has picked this up, and here and there you can find references on one side or another. But I have to say that I can see ways in which the ordinary form might enrich the extraordinary. Here are a few (and I expect that some of you may want to express other views in the comments box).

1) A greater awareness of the ex opere operantis dimension of the sacramental celebrations is, I think, the most important thing. How often have we heard it said that the Mass used to be celebrated perfunctorily? In fact, it is one of the charges most commonly levelled against the EF, with the presumption that those of us who celebrate it these days are still doing the same thing, such as gabbling a Low Mass in 12 minutes. Actually, I cannot remember ever having seen a perfunctory celebration of the EF in all my life—though I cannot exclude, a priori, the possibility that such celebrations do go on. But perhaps a greater awareness that the people of God are both present and matter to the celebration of the Sacrifice is not an unwelcome thing to bear in mind as we celebrate.

2) Clearly the addition of the more recently canonized saints cannot be but a good thing. Fitting them into the traditional calendar may not always be easy, but with a little good will and flexibility, this ought to be possible.

3) The new prefaces. Well, I'm not totally in favour of uncritically augmenting the prefaces, but there are many very good new ones, and I wouldn't mind using them with the EF. And actually, if you were to look at the pre-Tridentine Roman Missal, there were many more prefaces than are now to be found even in the current OF. I seem to remember that many, if not most, saints had one of his or her own in a Roman Missal of 1470 that I looked at.

4) The new collects. In some cases the collects have been somewhat robbed of their depth (and, as a commentator has reminded me, in some cases theologically mangled). But in others, they have been considerably improved (I'm speaking usually of the Latin here, not the 1970s ICEL). If you compare the collects in the Sanctoral cycle, for instance, you will find that in many cases in the EF, the collects are taken from the Common, with the name of the saint simply inserted. In the OF, proper collects have been written which actually reflect something about the saint's life or teaching. This I can see as an improvement.

5) The use of the vernacular in some of the celebrations of the Ritual. The sacraments of Anointing or Baptism for instance, it seems to me, can benefit from some use of the language of the hearers, which enables the celebrations not only to have effect but also to teach and comfort, since often booklets for the participants are not available, and at emotional moments, managing service books with parallel texts is not really convenient.

6) A more relaxed approach to rubrics. Now, before you jump down my throat, you should know that I am very keen on correct rubrics, as any of those who were under my tuition at Merton will confirm. It is just worth remembering that rubrics are God's table manners, and not the dinner itself. I remember a priest at school telling me that a candle had blown out while he was saying Mass. He mentioned that if he had continued saying Mass with one candle, he would have committed a venial sin, and with no candles, a mortal sin. I can't be doing with that attitude (and, to be fair, no more could the priest who was telling me this). Another blogger grumbled that at Merton some priests were wearing their birettas incorrectly, and that the celebrant at one Mass had pronounced the ekphonesis nobis quoque peccatoribus with a short instead of a long 'o' in quoque, and spoken it too loudly, too. For him this seems to have been the abiding memory he carried away from the Mass. A shame, to remember this in a Mass that was otherwise celebrated very beautifully. But then, that particular blogger has other things on his mind right now.

And, of course, I agree with Bishop McMahon that the the EF has a very great deal indeed to teach the OF. The coming years will show just how that will play out.


PeterHWright said...

An enrichment for both uses ? A real bona fide no-holds-barred enrichment ?

Restore the Octaves.

Pastor in Monte said...

Well, Pentecost, anyway.

Adulio said...

Just two points:

1. In regards to the collects of the new rite, have you read Dr. Lauren Pristas' study of the theological difference between the collects of the old rite in comparison to those of the new? I believe that once most people had read this study, they will be more wary of advocating collects from the Novus Ordo into the older form. According to another study, she says that collects for the Dominican doctor saints in the new missal, are actually theologically inferior to those of the old missal.

2. Regarding the use of vernacular in some sacraments, wasn't some concession already allowed for things such as baptism in 1958? One person who acts as an MC at the old mass I go to, says that actual sacrament of marriage was said in vernacular with only the blessings said in Latin, long before 1958. I think we must retain the form of the sacrament in Latin, as this does not pertain to those present but is a solemn act of God. I also understand that for things such as Extreme Unction, it is more comforting to hear the priest use the language of the church.

Anonymous said...

'The rubrics are God's table manners and not the dinner itself.'

That is so well put, Father. There must be many priests who wish to celebrate the EF but who are perhaps afraid of making a mistake with the rubrics. I do hope you were able to help the priests overcome this - your story of the candles puts it in perspective.

I am curious to know how a priest will know when he is ready to celebrate the EF. Will it be up to his own judgement or will he really need to be 'tested' as has been suggested.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is both helpful and interesting. It is good to see a generous balance being offered at a time when it must be tempting to be triumphalist. If the attitude you display is evident across the board it will make the general acceptance of the EF all the more smooth. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Here's an enrichment for both missals: restore the pre-55 Holy Week ceremonies to both.

Anonymous said...

What about enrichment from the cycle of reading from the OF? On weekdays the idea of 'continuous reading' from scripture seems so much more preferable than repeating the previous Sunday readings.

I would be in a minority no doubt but I would welcome concelebration and Communion under both Kinds too into the EF.

Pastor in Monte said...

I thought somebody would bring up the Lectionary. Actually, I don't think this is an improvement (at least as regards the Sunday cycle). Maybe you have a point about weekdays; there was an initial lectionary reform which did just that. It retained the traditional Sunday cycle (which is, by the way, very ancient) but had a two-year cycle for weekdays.
As for concelebration, I really think this needs revisiting. Maybe its occasional use is a good thing, but it is way over-used now, and I think the fact that priests can claim a stipend for having 'said Mass' is an abuse that needs reform, even though it was also the case in the EF at an ordination.
Communion under both kinds? Again, I'm not against in principle, but it is over-used, to the point that some people think they haven't been to Communion properly if they haven't received from the Chalice. And I really dislike the use of Extraordinary Ministers, except in truly necessary situations.

PeterHWright said...

All right ! What I meant was : restore to both calendars the privileged Octaves suppressed in 1955. And the privileged Vigils.

Yes, I know it's not likely to happen, but it would be a truly magnificent enrichment.

Anonymous said...

I don't fully understand PeterHWright's comment.

In the EF 1962 calendar the Vigil of Pentecost and Christmas are both 1 class (of course the former has lost its splendid blessing of the font etc). The Vigil of the Epiphany was a privileged vigil of the 2nd class in the pre-1955 rite.

As to privileged Octaves, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost are still in 1962. Pentecost is debatable as why have a 50-day point extended eight days? The other privileged octaves were Epiphany, Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart, the latter being of very late introduction having been granted by Pius XI and removed by his successor. On the other hand the octaves of SS Peter & Paul, St. John the Baptist, St. Lawrence, the Assumption and Nativity of the BVM all had a noble pedigree.

Kate Edwards said...

This is a nice post on a debate I suspect we have to have! On calendar, I actually like the repetition of the Sunday during the week (its a pretty rare week when you get it more than twice) and there are always votive masses if you want variety!

But what might be a good enrichment in the EF is the use of the wider variety of readings for different classes of saint - the foolish virgins and one or two other texts get an awful lot of workout in the EF during the week!

Anonymous said...

I most heartily agree with all your points, especially 2 and 6.

I have recently changed from the Liturgia Horarum to the 1962 Breviarium, and I have to say that not only do I miss the more recent Saints, it also feels strange to celebrate them on different dates than most of the Church, when praying the Breviary is so much about praying with the Church. To my mind, a harmonised calendar is really something we should hope for (of course, this ought, IMHO, to be largely the calendar of the EF. With the Saints sometimes one has the impression that they wilfully changed the date just for change's sake.)

As for the rubrics, it is just like you say: Of course observing them is very important, and a conscious disregard should not be encouraged, but reading old manuals of moral theology it is almost as if it were impossible to celebrate Mass without committing a mortal sin. This simply can't be. (As for the "Merton grumbler" you mention: unless I'm very much mistaken, the "o" of "quoque" is actually short, not long. [It would only be long if it were the ablative of quisque, which it isn't in this case.])

Regarding the lectio continua someone mentioned: I am not a big fan. First of all, it only makes sense if you really attend Mass every day, and even if you try, there will often be days when you can't. But then I am also not sure whether parts of Sacred Scripture like the book of Kings where ever meant to be proclaimed in the liturgy of the New Testament. Even if longer passages are read, it is often rather hard drawing any teaching or application to Christian life from them; combined with the fact that there is normally no homily on weekdays, in my experience these texts are rather lost on most people, and they make the Mass of the Catechumens unduly long. All of this might be fine in a monastic context, but I find it rather unhelpful in a normal parish.

gemoftheocean said...

Gregor, I have been at daily Masses during periods of my life where I hardly missed a day. I noticed that there seems to be (in our parish at least, and presumably most) a "hard core" of daily Mass goers. I've found it to be the case that when priests just do a little 5 minute sermon that over time this can be very beneficial. I learned a lot of bits and pieces and because of this practice of the priest of giving short little homilies most of us did benefit. [The priest didn't give a homily every day .. but quite often he'd speak specifically to the meanings and application of the readings.]

People can often gain a lot by it. I think the NO readings could stand some tweaking, for instance I would not wait for Cycle B to do the John 6 readings.... I would do those EVERY YEAR.

I have heard from MANY educated Catholics (who should have known better!) who claimed the church discouraged them from reading the bible - they were quite comfortable with the unchanging parts of the Mass, but they derived the definite impression that the bible was for protestants or wasn't important.

I was a bit surprised to find in St. Therese of Lisieux's writings that she was astonished at the treasure in the Acts of the apostles (after she became a nun.)

I doubt if many LM society people would agree, but I really think vernacular readings ought to be done of the readings.

Unless one has a hand missal and uses it religiously or knew Latin to the point where they don't need a translation, the average pew goer would really miss out.