Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Shortest Options

Given the love for a quick Mass that causes many a Catholic to languish, I thought it might be a service to servants of the Liturgy (i.e. priests) to list all the shortest, fastest, quickest options in the Ordinary Form (especially in this Olympic year):

  1. Never use incense;
  2. Never sing (stick to Low Mass, in other words, just like in the old days);
  3. Always employ a server (to hold the Missal, set the altar, and so forth, rather than yourself having to wander back and forth to the credence at the offertory, for example);
  4. Say Mass facing the people (this saves on turning round to face them a couple of times);
  5. Have the reader read the Entrance Antiphon while you march in via the shortest route (yes, it must be read, no, it's illicit not to, despite how common its omission is);
  6. Always say "The Lord be with you" at the start of Mass;
  7. Always say "Brethren" not "Brothers and sisters" (let alone the unrubrical "Sisters and brothers");
  8. Never ad lib the introduction to the Penitential Act, or change the words of any formula, let alone make introductory comments (permissible, alas, as they are) to the Mass of the day right at the start, or to the readings, the Preface and Eucharistic Prayer – all such temptations usually end in ungrammatical and banal wastings of time;
  9. Always use the second, the least-used form of the Penitential Act, the one employing those versicles "Have mercy on us, O Lord" and "Show us, O Lord, your mercy", since (believe it or not) they have fewer words than if three invocations (tropes) are employed to interlard the Kyrie (although, yes, the Kyrie must still be said, and even then doing so is quicker; and, yes, while some just say the Kyrie followed by the Misereatur, that, too, is illicit) – then again, perhaps saying those tropes yourself, and having the people simply repeat the invocations "Lord, have mercy" and "Christ, have mercy" after you, is after all quicker (you'll have to time it to be sure);
  10. Make sure the reader is forbidden to read anything other than what he has to – so none of that nonsense about saying "The First Reading is..." or "The Responsorial Psalm. The Response is..." or "Please stand for the Gospel Acclamation" (if people can't work out all that, they shouldn't come – Mass has been in English for fifty years by now, after all);
  11. Omit the Alleluia or Verse before the Gospel when there is only one reading before the Gospel (this is perfectly legitimate, especially when it isn't sung);
  12. Never preach, except when obliged to do so, as on Sundays – and if you must, make it short (the people will love you for it, especially if you are of usual preaching ability for a Catholic priest);
  13. Never use the Prayer of the Faithful (it's not compulsory – if it really must be, though, use one of the handily short examples thereof in the back of the Missal, they are much briefer than the longwinded rubbish usually composed by well-meaning persons – and above all never let people ad lib their own intercessions, that turns the Mass into a Quaker prayer meeting which goes on world without end);
  14. Always use the Apostles' Creed (when a Creed must be said);
  15. Never have an offertory procession (of course, on a Sunday, the collection can still be taken up – and taken straight to the sacristy for safekeeping);
  16. Always say the Offertory prayers sotto voce (it saves time, especially as the people don't have to respond "Blessed be God for ever" – but, while offering up the bread and wine together with one prayer mashed together from the two provided is even faster, it is still most illicit, so don't try it);
  17. Always use Eucharistic Prayer II (any of the three Memorial Acclamations will do, they're all almost exactly the same length whether compared by number of words or syllables);
  18. Always consecrate enough hosts for all present, on weekdays at least (that saves on going to the tabernacle unless you have to, either to get more or put alway the excess later – you can tally how many hosts to ready while surveying the congregation during the readings earlier on, thus giving you something to keep you occupied profitably at that point);
  19. Never allow the Sign of Peace (it saves both saying "Let us offer each other the sign of peace", and then much tedium while the overzealous exchange the sign of peace per omnia sæcula sæculorum); 
  20. Only use one priest's host (it being the sole one to break at the fraction) and the rest small people's hosts (so no more need to be broken, and the subsequent purification of the vessels will be less of a messy hunt for Crumbs);
  21. Always say the second alternative prayer for preparation for Communion, Perceptio (it's shorter than the first);
  22. Have the reader read the Communion Antiphon;
  23. Only give Communion under one species (this saves on time and on much dithering giving chalices to yet more EMHC's);
  24. Get the faithful to come and line up across the sanctuary for Communion (it is definitely faster and more ergonomic to walk back and forth briskly communicating them in workmanlike fashion than to stand at the head of the queue as up they come dawdling one by one);
  25. Never go to the chair after Communion, but straight back to the altar;
  26. Leave the vessels to be purified, suitably covered, on the altar and purify them immediately after Mass, after the dismissal (as is perfectly permissible);
  27. Never make announcements before the end of Mass (print them on the parish bulletin - it gives the people something to read during the Mass);
  28. Always use the short form of the blessing (never those long solemn ones to which the people never quite know when to say "Amen");
  29. Always use the shortest dismissal – "Go in peace".
The congregation will indeed acclaim, "Thanks be to God."

It is amusing how several of these options are quite traditional, in the various senses of that word, throughout the Church!

Jokes aside, celebrating ad orientem shouldn't really make the Mass at all slower, especially as the priest for almost the whole second half of the liturgy won't be distracted and discouraged by staring out at the congregation – indeed, he may be able to focus more easily and proceed more swiftly, joy to the world!

While I have seen Masses at which, juxta rubricas, the Alleluia is indeed omitted before the Gospel, in practice the reader and congregation may be discomfited by its omission, as they expect it, printed as it is in the Lectionary and their hand-missals.

It could also be argued that purifying the paten, chalice and ciborium, especially with a server standing by with the (wine and) water, ought really be a swift action whose accomplishment gives the congregation a moment's peace ere the Prayer after Communion be uttered.

Likewise, in Latin at least, Ite, missa est is just as quick to say as Ite in pace.

My heart rebels against replacing the Confiteor and Nicene Creed with shorter alternatives, and as for not using the Roman Canon... but many priests happy with the Ordinary Form are evidently unconcerned by such sentiments.

Oh, and if you want the quickest Mass, but in the traditional Latin form, either find your way into a Charterhouse (which could prove difficult) or, more realistically, attend a Dominican Low Mass, which is satisfyingly fast, and certainly faster far than the Roman Low Mass, what with its Psalm 42 at the foot of the altar and those long offertory and communion prayers!

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