Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Alternative Has Become the Norm"

Responding to my earlier posting about how the Roman Mass is de facto the Hippolytan Mass, an "anonymous young priest" (we assume, a Catholic! perhaps a Coo-ees contributor? but probably not to that aCatholic Catholica...) has emailed me to remark that:

- At least in Australia, clergy exercising legitimate options have routinely opted for the simpler and shorter.  “2 is the new 1” as far as EPs go.  But I’m also thinking here of the option of substituting a suitable hymn for the proper chants of the Mass.  The exercised option over the long term has meant that the alternative has become the norm, and there would rarely be an “option” in parochio-political terms of returning to the more elaborate and longer.  The point to be made is that the options need to be of equal “weight” in order to be true options, otherwise we arrive at the imbalance presently encountered. 
- Putting together recently a Funeral Mass I discovered the huge variety in Scriptural readings (45 readings), which bewilders rather than frees one.  The options for readings for Mass for the Dead also seem to be chosen on the basis of their ability to console mourners, rather than the mystery of Christ’s death and ours.  The example I give for the consolation vs communion selection: St Matthew’s Beatitudes (but not St Luke’s) may be read at a Mass for the Dead.  Why?  Probably because there is an escape clause: “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  The options provided for choice need to be in harmony and consistency with the rest of the liturgy as the work of the whole Church, of which the Funeral Mass is but one occasion.

"Parochio-political" – marvellous phrase, terrible reality!

Liturgical minimalism, and all other forms thereof (e.g. terrible preaching, worthless catechesis, etc.), constitute the worst enemy of Catholicism in Australia: it is a terrible plague of mediocrity, the counterpart of that lukewarmness of which Our Lord in the Apocalypse so frighteningly said, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot. But because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." (iii, 15-16)  Such lukewarmness, such mediocrity, is but the prelude to spiritual death – as can be seen in the deadness of our churches Australia-wide, which are little Laodiceas, nearly every one: "thou sayest: I am rich and made wealthy and have need of nothing: and knoweth not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." (iii, 17)

Your comments, young Fr X, about hymns totally replacing the sung Propers are too true; at least some work is now being done in the States and even here to try and remedy the truly awful condition of so-called sacred music in parishes.

As for funeral Masses, does not the Supreme Pontiff formerly known as Cardinal Ratzinger wish for the two Forms of the one Roman Rite to cross-fertilize?  I believe that the Missale Romanum (1962 and earlier editions) suggests the following four pairs of Epistles and Gospels, and none other (well, I could cock a glance at the 1738 Missale Parisiense for more if asked...):

  • I Thessalonians 4, 13-18 & St John 11, 21-27 [for funerals, month's minds, &c.];
  • I Corinthians 15, 51-57 & St John 5, 25-29 [1st Mass of All Souls];
  • II Machabees 12, 43-46 & St John 6, 37-40 [2nd Mass of All Souls, and for anniversaries];
  • Apocalypse 14, 13 & St John 6, 51-55 [3rd Mass of All Souls, and the daily Mass for the dead].

In my experience, it is much easier choosing from a restricted compass rather than from a bewildering number of possibilities – when I had a part-time job as a salesman at Myer as a schoolboy, I was told to give customers no more than three choices.  Not having a modern Lectionary handy I cannot be sure all of these are options in the Ordinary Form, but I suspect they would be.  Something for you, Fr X, to check!

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