Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Reform of the Reform: What Can We Do NOW?

Shawn Tribe's latest post invites us to ponder where the reform of the reform is headed. Anyone who is familiar with this blog and with the growing body of literature about the reform of the reform knows that the actual project of reforming the reform has not yet achieved complete clarity and unanimity with regard to what, exactly, a re-reformed order of Mass should look like. However, those who are committed to this program appear to share a common conviction that there is more to reforming the reform than beautifying the liturgy, improving translations, or following the rubrics faithfully: beyond these, the reform of the reform would inevitably involve some structural changes in what is now called the "ordinary form" of the Roman liturgy. Inevitably, not immediately. Leaving aside the matter of ritual revision, let's consider how the reform of the reform can be implemented even now, without any need of special episcopal permission.

A few suggestions for my priestly confreres:

* Priests and deacons who are available to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion should do so, even if they are not concelebrating or assisting at that particular Mass.
* Sing the orations, Gospel, and Preface, at least at the principal Sunday Mass.
* Incense may be used at any Mass in the Ordinary Form, whereas in the Extraordinary Form its use is restricted to High Mass. Use incense every Sunday, at least at the principal Mass, and not only for "special occasions."
* Use Latin at every Mass, even if only for the Sanctus or Agnus Dei. (It's a start!)
* Begin catechetical preparation for celebrations ad orientem, then introduce (or re-introduce) the practice gradually. Advent suggests itself as the best time for implementation (or at least preparation): the Church awaits the coming Lord, symbolized by the rising sun. "People Look East!" commands the hymn. Yes, including the priest!
* Take advantage of all legitimate options to strengthen and amplify continuity with tradition.

Regarding that last point, many examples can be given:

* Use a chalice veil and burse. The use of the former, while not required by the most recent General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002), is deemed "praiseworthy." The latter is not mentioned, but one would have to espouse the papally discredited "hermeneutic of discontinuity" to oppose the use of a burse.
* Wear the cope whenever permitted; e.g., marriages outside of Mass, baptisms, the final commendation at the funeral Mass.
* Wear violet or black vestments for funerals and other Masses for the Dead.
* Do not omit Sequences, even when their use is optional.
* Instead of a Responsorial Psalm, use the Gradual. I recommend this especially for funerals, when (understandably) few people are inclined to sing. At most funerals, the Responsorial Psalm is, in fact, a solo performance by the cantor.
* In the weeks containing few or no feasts/memorials, celebrate one or two votive Masses, or some of the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions. No need to go the whole week using the prayers of last Sunday's Mass.
* Have a "preferential option" for Penitential Rite 'A' (the Confiteor and Kyrie).
* Have a "preferential option" for the Roman Canon, especially when the saint of the day is mentioned therein or when a special Communicantes can be used.
* Although, lamentably, the Octave of Pentecost does not exist in the Ordinary Form, there is nothing to prevent the offering of the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit (and thus the use of red vestments) on the ferial days after Pentecost Sunday. This would give the appearance of observing an octave.

This list is not exhaustive. I invite liturgically informed readers (clergy or laity) to suggest other legitimate possibilities for realizing the reform of the reform hic et nunc.