Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reform the Mass? Or Reform Ourselves?

Pat Archbold at Creative Minority Report did a post listing "7 Things To Restore Sense of Sacred Your Pastor Could Do Tomorrow"  [HERE].  The list is as follows:

1.  "Ad Orientum" - "the priest and the faithful face the same direction, (liturgical) east", or as some people see it, the priest says the Mass with his back to the people.

2.  "Restore chant and polyphony" - "Ditch the lame hymnal and its happy-clappy anthropocentrism and bring back chant and polyphony."

3. "Latin, yes Latin!!" - Archbold is okay with the readings in the vernacular, "but the parts of the mass that are the same every week could be in Latin".

4.  "Proper Reception of Communion, Kneeling and On The Tongue" - I think that pretty much says it all.

6. "No More Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" - 'Nuff said.

6.  "Appropriate Attire" - this is not just about the laity dressing in a more proper manner, but about the attire of the servers:  "ditch the altar server's potato sack robes and replace them with cassocks and surplices."  Also, "Priest's [sic] could teach about the sacredness of women and encourage use of the veil."

7.  "General Reverence and Sacredness" - Archbold gives these specifics:
  • Eliminating the Sign of Peace by the Faithful. It is only an option and not mandatory and often very disruptive.
  • More Incense.
  • Great attention to reverence and precision by the Priests and servers.
  • Priestly ad libs banished!
  • The priest avoid wandering around during the homily.
What is Pat Archbold really saying in all of this?  It's quite simple.  He wants to replace the Ordinary Form of the Mass with the Extraordinary Form.  He obviously has no use for the Ordinary Form as it has evolved, and for all intents and purposes, Archbold wants it abolished.

There are a couple of problems with this.  First and foremost, - it ain't never gonna happen! 

Secondly, Pope Benedict XVI gave us Summorum Pontificum so that those who want the TLM would no longer need to ask permission.  Summorum Pontificum was not about replacing the Ordinary Form with the TLM.   In fact, His Holiness told us that the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form can be mutually enriching.  However, as can be seen in this post from Pat Archbold, traditionalists feel the extraordinary form is, without question, the superior Mass, and more to the point, as one person commented on Archbold's post, "the real Mass."

I have a rather unique perspective on this subject because until recent months, I was a strong adherent to the Traditional Latin Mass for several years, attending almost daily.  The reasons for my exclusive adherence to the TLM included all the reasons stated by Pat Archbold.   I, like most traditionalists, felt that the TLM was the "real" Mass and the Ordinary Form of the Mass was just downright painful.  

But in the past few months I have done a 180 degree turn.  I now exclusively attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  I still love the TLM as much as I ever did, but I have come to find the Ordinary Form of the Mass as much of a prayerful and spiritual experience as the TLM ever was.  I did not change the Mass, as Pat Arcbhold suggests.  I changed myself, and that has made all the difference.

All of the suggestions from Pat Arcbhold on restoring sacredness to the Mass involve changing the Mass.  Since that is not going to happen, I think it is much wiser to work on our attitude and prayerfulness and seeing what we can bring to the Mass.  Following are my suggestions on "restoring a sense of the sacred" to the Mass.

1. If it is at all possible, try to arrive early and stay for a while after Mass. This is not as easy to do on a weekday when most of us are working, going to school, etc. We are on tight schedules then. But even if you are married with several kids, you should still be able to invest extra time at Mass on a Sunday. My Sunday Mass starts at 8:45 a.m., and I try to get there by 8:00. It's not necessary to be that early, but try to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament at least 15 minutes before the beginning of Mass. If you can, say a Rosary. Read and meditate on the readings for the Mass. Or just be in prayer, asking for the right attitude to open your mind and heart to Our Lord. This is a time to quiet your thoughts and center your mind on the fact that you are about to participate in the re-presentation of Our Lord's Sacrifice on Calvary.

2. Use the song books. You may not like the music, but force yourself to look up the hymns and sing along. It has been my experience that the words to the hymns are usually very moving and draw me closer to the meaning of the Mass. The hymns are part of the prayers. To refuse to sing is the same as refusing to pray. This is one of the advantages the Ordinary Form has over the TLM. The music at a TLM is all in Latin and only the choir can sing. But at the Ordinary Form, you are part of the choir. Sing out in praise! Chant and polyphony sound great, but I really appreciate understanding the words, and that is what we are given in the Ordinary Form. Take advantage of this!

Magnificat Magazine
2. Read along with the prayers and readings in the Mass. I find the best tool for this is one of the most beautiful monthly Catholic publications in history: the Magnificat magazine [HERE]. This publication contains daily Mass readings with evening and morning prayer, wonderful articles and artwork and more. Even though everything is in the vernacular, it has been my experience that just listening at Mass is not enough. I find I get much more of the meaning when I read along with what is being said at the altar, and it keeps my mind from wandering off. Again, I believe this is an advantage the Ordinary Form has over the TLM. You can hear and understand the prayers of the priest, and pray right along with him. Done correctly, this closely unites celebrant and laity before the throne of God.

Praying the Mass
3.  To quote from Father Z, "Say the black, do the red."  I would add, don't just attend Mass, but "Pray the Mass."  Follow the rubrics.  Stand, sit and kneel as directed in the Mass.  Try to this all of this as prayerfully as you can.  If your hands are free, fold them in prayer.  And say ALL of the responses.  Listen to (and hopefully read along with) the priest as he says the prayers of the Mass, and respond with "Amen."  As much as possible, be one with the celebrant of the Mass.

Sign of Peace
4.  Participate reverently and lovingly in giving the sign of peace to those around you. The sign of peace has a couple of different meanings. First of all, it is done as a symbolic response to Christ's command found in Matthew 5:23-24
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
As I wrote in a previous post, for me it is also a time to recognize Jesus Christ in the people around us, and realize that if we cannot love them, then we cannot love Our Lord.  We will be judged on how we treat others. We have just adored Our Lord in the transubstantiated bread and wine.  Now we must give the peace we have received from Him to others.   Once again, as in all other parts of the Mass, approach this in a prayerful, reverent manner.  You will be amazed at how this one little action can change you.

5. When the time comes to receive communion, again do so in a prayerful attitude. Walk with your hands folded in prayer, and actually be in prayer, asking the Blessed Mother to make your heart and mind humble and submissive.  Think of the greatness of the gift you are about to receive: the Body and Blood of your Creator, the One who died for you on Calvary and rose again to give you life eternal. Once more, I think our physical actions can add to the sacredness. Holding your hands in prayer as you walk up to receive will put you in a prayerful attitude. The United States bishops have asked that we receive standing, but that doesn't stop you, if physically possible, from genuflecting right before you receive.

And here I can agree with Pat Archbold - receive on the tongue. This definitely does instill a sense of the sacredness.

When I receive on the tongue, I am reminded that this is different from everything else in my life. This is not just a piece of bread that I am consuming. This is my Lord and Savior who is giving himself wholly and entirely to me. Receiving on the tongue truly instills the sense of sacredness while receiving in the hand makes receiving communion no different from anything else in my life.

Here are a couple of readings from the early fathers of the Church:

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 23:21:
In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof ; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?
John Chrysostom Homily 3 on Ephesians:
Tell me, would you choose to come to the Sacrifice with unwashen hands? No, I suppose, not. But you would rather choose not to come at all, than come with soiled hands. And then, thus scrupulous as you are in this little matter, do you come with soiled soul, and thus dare to touch it? And yet the hands hold it but for a time, whereas into the soul it is dissolved entirely.
When we receive on the tongue, we do not have to worry about fragments that we may drop or that are left on our hands. We don't have to worry about desecrating the consecrated host in any way. Remember, receiving on the hand is an indult. The Church prefers that we receive on the tongue. Just do it and you will be amazed at how it will change your life.

These suggestions come down to one thing: be in a prayerful, humble attitude. That is what will make the Mass sacred. Traditionalists tell us that the Latin Mass is what makes it sacred. If that is so, please explain why all sedevancatist groups are devoted to the Latin Mass, and yet they still remain separated from the Church.  

The First Mass, celebrated by Our Lord in the upper room the night before He was crucified, was filled with those who were clueless as to the deep, profound meaning of Our Lord's actions.  One man was actually plotting on how he was going to betray Christ.  The others had no idea what Christ was talking about.  This is His Body and Blood?  We have to wash each other's feet?   Christ is going away to the Father and they can't come?  

The apostles' lack of understanding took nothing away from the sacredness of that first Mass.  Maybe those around you don't understand what is going on.  They don't realize the great mystery that is the Mass.  But that doesn't change what is happening.  By putting yourself in the right prayerful attitude, you can be a part of the sacredness.  And just maybe, you will lead others to this same sacredness that you have discovered.  

The Mass doesn't have to change.  It is already sacred.  It is we who must change.  Let it begin with you.

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