Sunday, July 12, 2009

Archbishop Augustine DiNoia and the Installation Mass

The ordination of Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, who is becoming the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, at the National Shrine, provided another opportunity to size up the current liturgical moment and assess its direction.

On a forum I follow closely, the comments began highly negative and turned positive in light of highly realistic issues such as: what might this same ceremony looked like 10 years ago? In this way, the balance of the opinion was that the liturgy and ceremony, with new emphasis on decorum and the sung propers of the Mass, was a splendid sign for the future.

It is becoming ever more clear than the dismembered Roman Rite is slowly coming back together again, through education, a changed culture, and the influence of the preconciliar form that is becoming ever more present. This Mass in particular is a show case of the present moment.

The usually strict critic Michael Lawrence writes a detailed case for why this Mass was a huge step in the right direction. He makes excellent points:

When the archbishop went around the church blessing people, the Te Deum chant was sung. This is one of those moments that tends to be smeared with cheering and the like. But that doesn’t seem to happen when the accompanying Te Deum setting is to Gregorian chant. Also, Cardinal Levada sang most of the celebrant’s prayers, which really is a magical formula for making the liturgy work better. This kind of singing tends to make the celebrant less of a “president” and more of a co-participant in the goings on. Maybe that’s not the best way to say it, so if someone else can chime in, feel free.

Finally, at the end of the ceremony, Archbishop DiNoia ascended the pulpit and said something to the effect of, “At the conclusion of such a glorious liturgy as this one, there is a great temptation to congratulate ourselves. But to God belongs all the glory.” I’ve always wondered when I might hear a clergyman say this. I had to bend down and pick my jaw up off the floor. The archbishop continued on with some very appropriate, perfunctory remarks which were the antithesis of egotism. Of course, some people still clapped, but the applause sounded tepid, as if most of the congregation did get what diNoia was trying to tell us.

If this, in conjunction with the music selected for today (which no doubt benefitted not only from DiNoia’s requests but also music director Peter Latona’s leadership) is any indication, things are looking up at the CDW.