Monday, January 21, 2008

The New Mass: Caricature and Possibility

This Sunday, we sang at Mass in what has become our usual way .We sang the Graduale Introit as a prelude, followed by a stately hymn. We sang the Gloria in English Psalm tone, a fauxbourdon Psalm setting, a Gregorian Alleluia, the Offertory proper in English followed by a Renaissance motet, Latin Sanctus, English sung Pater, Latin Agnus, the Communio from the Graduale, another motet and hymn, and a solid recessional. Nothing with accompaniment.

It is the Ordinary Form through and through but we are aware that it is not usually presented this way. The result is pretty well radically different from what most Catholics experience in their parish week to week. It is quite and contemplative, and the sang in which I sing is exceptionally great. We know this, but it is interesting to hear someone talk about it after attending for the first time

So I'm paraphrasing his rather sophisticated comment to me:

I've never been to such a beautiful Mass in my life. It didn't seem like the Novus Ordo, which I associate with peppy tunes and happy talk. It was solemn and beautiful and prayerful from beginning to end. Oddly, it didn't quite seem like the old Mass either because it was in English with only some Latin, thought it partook of the ancient sensibility. It's almost like the music caused this Mass to be a third way, a completely new Mass, one we might imagine that the Council fathers had in mind. I can't imagine that if this were common practice, that there would be such an intense demand for the old Mass.

I was intrigued by this on a number of levels. One, we forget just what a different environment the music makes. It sets the tone for the entire liturgy. Two, we forget how bad people's experience have been in the ordinary form over the last several decades – to the point that people cannot disassociate the nonsense that has been permitted to go on at the new Mass from the liturgical structure itself. Three, there are possibilities that exist within the new Mass; it is not a foregone conclusion that it appear impious.

There is no parish in which this model is impossible. It can be done.

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