Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fr Longenecker's 'Questions'

about the Traditional Mass: in the context of the expected Motu Proprio, what is the point of it, and particularly what is the point of the Latin and the silence? Fr Longenecker is a recently ordained, extremely zealous convert, and his questions must reflect those of many 'conservatives' in the Church.

I've posted the following in his comments box.

One key idea which needs to be emphasised is that the Mass is an act of worship offered to God. The people's participation in it is extremely important, but this is a participation in an act of worship directed to God. So they follow with their eyes and prayers when the priest disappears behind the Temple veil, the iconostasis, or the rood screen, or simply turns towards the crucifix. They know that what is important is the offering the priest is making to God, and they know what that is - from catechesis or from their missals. They don't need to hear the words or see the actions; on the contrary, the fact that the priest is in a sense alone with the offering and God is the most eloquent expression of what is going on. The use of a liturgical language, special clothing, special vessels made of precious metals, etc. all serve to emphasise the same point.

BXVI makes some very strong points on the eastward orientation in 'The Spirit of the Liturgy': it shows the Mass is a worship of God, whereas versus populum suggests a 'closed circle' with the people. The orientation, the language, the silence, the vestments and so on are all part and parcel of this idea.

I'd defend Masses - Low or Sung - in which the people make little or no verbal contribution on the simple basis that interior participation is more important than exterior participation (isn't that much obvious?) and that it is a fact of pastoral experience that exterior participation can be a barrier to interior participation. I'm never so distracted from the sacred action as when I am looking up a hymn number, or even enjoying singing a hymn.

As for readings in Latin: obviously, people can follow them in their missals, but note two things. First, the more restricted lectionary is a great boon in enabling the people to gain a familiarity with the texts. That great passage from Proverbs is always read on the feast of Holy Women; you know what's coming next when the choir sings 'Cogitationes corde mea' (viz., a votive Mass for the Sacred Heart), the liturgical year kicks off with St Paul telling us to put on the armour of Christ. The readings and prayers become old friends, and you hear them preached repeatedly. My own experience of daily Mass in the Novus Ordo and maybe twice weekly Mass in the TLM for a much shorter time is that my engagement with the scripture is far deeper with the latter.

Second, the proclamation of the scriptures in the liturgical language is an integral part of the act of worship offered to God. The pedagogical value is subordinated to this. Everything in the Mass is subordinated to its essential character as an act of worship (isn't that as it should be?) That the readings retain their pedagogical value in this context is part of the genius of the traditional liturgy.

Finally, I assume you've read BXVI 'The Spirit of the Liturgy'; I urge you to read 'The Heresy of Formlessness' by Marin Mosebach, which addresses many of these points.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:24 pm

    Latin is the language of the Church. It reminds the people (I'm sorry, I meant, the People) that the priest is talking to God and not to them.

    The silence is there so that people can pray, without having to be interrupted by lots of noisy acting up from the Sanctuary.