Sunday, June 26, 2011

Liturgical Wars

Sophia Mason treads into the shooting range of the liturgical wars here and "tags" me in her post. Now I'm much more comfortable giving my opinion when it's not asked for, but I'll jump into this anyway.

Sophia mentions her fondness for the "Latin Novus Ordo", more properly the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite untranslated. I, too, have a fondness for the Untranslated Ordinary Form, especially as celebrated by Fr. Brian Harrison and the Oblates of Wisdom at St. Mary of Victories Chapel in St. Louis. But the "Latin OF" is hard to find, and that's a shame.

It's a shame because, with the aid of the booklet The Mass of Vatican II published by Ignatius Press, which features the Latin text of the Mass on one page with a private-use English translation on the facing page, one can see how profound and solemn the "new Mass" actually is. The harm done by the "Novus Ordo" was done by those on the ICEL committee who deliberately mis-translated it into English years ago. Beginning this Advent we will have a corrected translation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, which, I hope, will fix the dumbing down of the current mis-translation, a translation which at times is much more of a paraphrase, and a bad one at that.

The other thing about the Latin OF (Ordinary Form) at St. Mary of Victories is the reverence with which it is celebrated - ad orientem, Gregorian chant, incense, traditional hymns, excellent homilies, in a church filled with beautiful art and architecture. Plus it attracts Catholics who aren't contracepting, and who fill the church with dozens of delightful fidgeting children.

Indeed, I personally think the heterodox music of the typical suburban parish is far more the cause of the abandonment of faith than the dumbing down of the translation of the Mass. Marty Haugen and his ilk have the distinguishing talent of having written appallingly bad music that defies genre or classification or description. There's no music this bad, this cloying, this icky, this smarmy anywhere else but inside thousands of suburban Catholic churches every day of the week. Almost no men like this dreck. And it's not even the insipid lyrics that do harm, but the utter narcissism of the melodies. These songs do not even make good pop tunes or Broadway show tunes - they don't make good anything but good distractions. And invariably the effeminate music minister and the butch lady cantor in her jumper and female falsetto pick the absolute worst of the worst to "perform" for Communion - making it impossible for me, at least, to reflect upon the utter solemnity of this moment or to pray after I receive.

And speaking of distraction, I might as well deal with a charge that always comes up in the Liturgical Wars. This battle is not a distraction; it's not something that takes us away from worshiping God and serving Christ; it's central to that, it's the foundation of that, it's the supernatural backbone of that.

But, having said all this, I must add that the Extraordinary Form (the EF), the Tridentine Mass, is not a guaranteed solution. Sure, you won't get Marty Haugen and the St. Louis Jesuit Gay Guitar Chorus at an EF Mass, but you also won't get the Perfect Church. As a rule, most Suburban Catholic Marty Mass attendees are casual, secular, contracepting, and indistinguishable from the pagans who surround us outside of church; most EF attendees are judgmental, Puritanical, hateful, venomous, rancid and apoplectic people.

Now I'm trying to be funny here. This is a stereotype and a vast generalization. You will find good Catholics at both Masses, better Catholics than I am at both Masses. But I guarantee that you will find sinners at both Masses. If you're the only one there, you'll find at least one sinner at Mass.

Today on the Solemnity of the Body of Christ, Fr. Gregory Lockwood (who will soon be departing for Kansas City), a good priest who has brought much needed liturgical reform to St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish in St. Louis, instructed the cantor to sing the Sequence for Corpus Christi, a beautiful piece written by St. Thomas Aquinas, before the reading of the Gospel, right at the heart of this Ordinary Form Mass in English, right in the heart of the St. Louis suburbs.

"What is this?" people were wondering, for the sequence is long and adoring and patient. The packed church was fidgeting mightily, and not just the few children present. The sequence was in Latin, and not included in the skinny little Mass booklets in our pews. And it was beautiful, reverent, devout.

At Fr. Lockwood's homily, he kept stressing how everything the priest does at Mass, everything the deacon does, everything the servers do, everything we all do - is supposed to be about God and not about Us.

Anything at Mass that takes us away from that, from bad music to the temptations to judge our neighbors, is a corruption of the central act of the Body of Christ.

And the next time this topic comes up, I'll be even more blunt about how I feel - especially if no one asks me to!


jrdkn02 said...

"War"??? What war? The Church in her infinite wisdom permits a wide range of liturgical music. It doesn't much matter whether you personally like it all, or not.

But there is no war.

The end.

Anonymous said...

"for the sequence is long"

Actually, the Novus Ordo I attended (which had an archbishop in attendance btw) had a version that was shortened by half. In Latin, but bowdlerized.

Tom Leith said...

The Lauda Sion should run between five & seven minutes. I personally prefer a faster tempo for chant, almost as fast as spoken word, but different strokes, eh? A less experienced schola might be a little slow.

Here is a fine example:

and a score with a very good (non-poetic) English translation:

Tom Leith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

There is no such word as 'contracepting'. If conception is the act of conceiving, then contraception is the act of contraceiving.

pachri7 said...

You hit the nail right on the head! I had to back off the liturgy before I lost my sanity!