Barnhardt and the Latin Mass

Ann Barnhardt has been discussing the Tridentine vs. the Novus Ordo Mass. I’ll be quoting here, due to the stupid non-linkability of her individual blog posts.

I can tell from my email box that the vast, vast, vast majority of people out there have absolutely no fathom what the Mass looked like before 1968. Most Catholics think that the Mass was pretty much like it is today, except in Latin.

Um, that would be very, very, very wrong. The Mass today, the Novus Ordo Mass, has been so radically altered, you can only tell that it is even related to the Tridentine Mass by a few phrases here and there, namely the Gloria, Creed, Orate Fratres (Pray, my brothers and sisters), Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

The Mass today IS pretty much like the Tridentine mass…and it IS, normatively, in Latin, with national translations.  The language is quite similar. The differences IN THE MASS ITSELF (as opposed to its implementation) are the options for the Penitential Rite and the Canon, the substitution of the Responsorial Psalm for the Gradual and the Gospel acclamation for the Alleluia, the addition of one reading, the Great Amen and the sign of peace. Add to that the three year lectionary.

Now, some of these changes are good, and some aren’t, but they don’t in themselves create “superfun rockband church”. The options are silly and confusing; go with the Confiteor and the Roman Canon, and get rid of the twofold Kyrie (which member of the Trinity got demoted?). Now, the Responsorial Psalm is an issue. It’s one of those things that are good in theory; you get a whole psalm, and the congregation sings the antiphon. More Scripture and more participation are good.But the congregation doesn’t read music, and they’ve never heard the piece before, so they get to sing (or not sing) some inane jingle that in theory can be picked up after the first repetition, and repeatedly interrupts the psalm. Then you have some cute babe at the ambo (or whatever wretched lectern substitutes for it) — and why are 90% of cantors female? Solo voices (and particularly solo female voices) are not really part of the Catholic tradition. Sure, they’ve always been there, but not as a prescribed and customary part of the liturgy, and not front and center. It’s a performer culture: “Listen to my beautiful voice.” The deal is, the psalm does not, legislatively, have to be solo or responsorial; it just IS, in the American church. The Gospel Acc is a wash. the extra reading is a good thing, and the Great Amen is not prescribed… you can sing “Amen” recto tono and be fine. Get RID of the Sign of Peace. The 3 year lectionary I’m not sure of; more Scripture is good, but so is more repetition of Scripture, and Scripture as a marker for where you are in the year. And I HATE HATE HATE the term “Ordinary time”

If you look at Sacrosanctum concilium, you find that the Vatican II participants wanted to improve the mass experience. And Low Mass, and Low Mass with hymns, definitely needed improving. The stereotype of the little old ladies saying the Rosary because they didn’t understand anything is a valid one. In essence, they wanted to make the High Mass normative, with permission for SOME English in the mass, and a greater role for the congregation in the responses. A Mass according the the vision of SC would probably have Latin Ordinary, Confiteor and Canon, and English readings and propers (instead of doing the readings in Latin and repeating them in English).

As I explained it to one person, the Novus Ordo Mass is FAR closer to Superfun Rockband church than it is to the Tridentine Mass.

IN PRACTICE, it’s hard to contradict her. So how did we get SRB?
It was the bishops (particularly Bernardin) and the implementation. Before Superfun Rockband Church, we had Superfun Hootenanny Church, which was a movement bubbling up from the late 50s on. Well, those were the people who had songs and Ordinary settings ready when the bishops decided to turn the Church on a dime and go ALL ENGLISH, so they got used, and people liked them… which is why Church music today sounds like 60s/70s folk rock. Worship ad populo? Not Vatican II. Communion in the hand? Not V2. Announcements and chit-chat during the mass? Not V2. Female altar servers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion? Not V2. And the Missal of Paul VI, the Novus Ordo itself? NOT VATICAN II.

It’s very important to make that distinction, else you’re headed to SSPX-land. It’s very hard to exclude a general council of the Church from the Magisterium. Fortunately, there’s no need to do so. If you read the conciliar documents on the liturgy, they are eminently sensible. The only problem with them is that they constituted an unfunded mandate on parishes to provide a High Mass experience. Priests couldn’t or wouldn’t sing, and there was at most money for one professional musician besides the organist (the cantor).  Worst, they butchered implementation of the Propers in English, by including different texts for spoken and sung use, and by including a huge loophole in the GIRM which allowed for congregational hymns to replace the Propers, which is how we got the “4-hymn sandwich”. Essentially, the typical Ordinary Form deployment became a hybrid of the Low Mass with some elements of the Missa Cantata.

So, given that we have 2 generations of Catholics that never knew anything else, how do we fix the Mass? Start with the little things. Have the priest sing more, even badly. Have him face East. Install altar rails for Communion, and save your EMHC for shut-ins. Use the Propers.  Have processions. Post a dress code at the door of the sanctuary, and mention it periodically in the homily. Sing a little Gregorian Chant. Use a little Latin, for texts the congregation should know. If we performed the Mass we have reverently, we’d be 90% of the way toward where we need to be. And if we keep on offering the Latin Mass, people will see what the Mass can be, and be influenced by it.

6 Responses to Barnhardt and the Latin Mass

  1. jeffrey smith says:

    I’ll be contrarian from another perspective: the Novus Ordo mass, even in its Superfun Rockband guise, is superior to the Tridentine mass because the Tridentine emphasizes the transcendence of God, whereas the Novus Ordo more clearly points to His Immanence and the Incarnation.

    And always remember that the Body of Christ that is really the focus of the Mass is not the piece of transubstantiated wheat product on the altar and or in the tabernacle, but the collection of people in the pews.

  2. jeffreyquick says:

    It’s hard to get more immanent than the Eucharist, where your very cells are made up of God. And that stays the same, both forms. I’m not sure that the formality of the EF ipso facto makes God seem more transcendent, but if so, that’s not a bad thing, because, duh, He IS transcendent, and there’s a tendency to forget who is really in charge. Having come from a hyperimmanentist religious tradition, I’ve observed that without a healthy appreciation that God is more than we are, there’s a tendency to think that God is WHAT we are, and that we are God.

    As for your second point, it’s both/and … is “the holy sacrifice of the Mass” the fact that you had to get up early on Sunday?

  3. jeffrey smith says:

    To me the formality does make it the Divine seem more transcendent, and the whole point of the Incarnation is immanence–Emmanuel, God is with us–of which the most striking part is the priest in front of the altar and facing away from the people.

    To put it one sentence, the things that Barnhardt likes the most about the EF are the things I think are the most glaring flaws–or if not flaws, the things that are most easily cut out while retaining the substance. And it’s emphasizing the transcendence of God that is most likely to lead to abuses–of clerical power, of people not taking spirituality and prayer seriously–and not the emphasis on the immanence.

    Of course, I come from a tradition which is much less formal despite the emphasis on ritual observance (a typical Jewish Saturday morning prayer service can best be described as organized in the main features, chaos in the details and kibitzing is ongoing at all but the most important moments of prayer) and the musical tradition is much less developed, to point out an area that is of course highly relevant to you personally. And yet we remember just fine how high and holy and transcendent God it.

    And getting out of bed “early” on Sunday? Around here 10 AM and 11 AM seem to be the most popular times (I’m not sure how popular Saturday evening vigil masses are nowadays).

  4. jeffreyquick says:

    I don’t think that transcendence leads to not taking spirituality and prayer seriously; quite the contrary. And yea, lots of folks at the so-called vigil mass.

  5. bloodyspartan says:

    Quick says it all , I think he wants it over faster.

  6. bloodyspartan says:

    Meaning JS of Course not you Mr. Quick

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