Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Profound Details

Sunday, just before the Traditional Latin Mass downtown, thirteen youths, including one of our sons, were confirmed in the traditional rite. It was just glorious and following it, the Mass sung by priest, cantor, and choir and accompanied by organist was absolutely heavenly.

One thing that struck me, though, that I had never seen at a confirmation before was that just after each young man or young lady was anointed and stood up to return to where s/he had been standing, the excess chrism was wiped off the brow. I read in the program that the cotton (if it is not the practice to strap a linen band around the forehead) used for this purpose is later burned and the ashes, along with the water and bread the bishop or priest uses to wash his hands, are poured down the sacrarium (the special basin in the sacristry that drains directly into the ground, used only for sacred species.)

A little detail, but typical of the myriad details that were lost in the post-conciliar liturgical reforms.

I am struck at every traditional Latin Mass by some little detail, of which some are theologically significant, others historically significant. So many of these little details that make the old rite so rich and magnificent have been, for the most part, stripped from the new Mass.

Thanks be to God for Summorum Pontificum. We have already seen some little details return to the Novus Ordo: servers bearing torches for the reading of the gospel; use of the chalice veil, bells at the epiclesis; all of which add to the sacrality of the Mass. (There are many things that can be done without obtaining the bishop's permission as they are still be in keeping with the rubrics of Novus Ordo. Some will say this is "mixing up the rites," but that is simply not the case.)

The intent was for the extraordinary form to be widely available – even in every parish, in order for it to exert its sacred influence. A priest who learns and celebrates in the extraordinary form will never say an ordinary form in the same way again. But obviously Summorum Pontificum has not been implemented anywhere nearly as extensively as intended.

To the extent that all of the Masses we attend do not incorporate those little details and bigger ones (e.g., the ordinary parts of the Mass aren’t prayed in Latin, Gregorian chant isn’t sung, the Mass is prayed by the priest ad populum, is served by girls; reception of Communion kneeling is not facilitated, etc.), we need Summorum Pontificum. The Tridentine Mass instructs us (abetted by with some mystagogical catechesis) about the way Holy Mass was always meant to be celebrated. The Novus Ordo Mass was meant to look and feel and sound like the Mass of all Ages looked and felt and sounded like for approximately fifteen centuries prior to 1970.

So do take advantage of Tridentine Mass opportunities. Then ask your pastor questions – why doesn’t our parish use a chalice veil, any Latin, boys in cassock and surplice, etc.? Make a mess. The Traditional Latin Mass looks and sounds and feels much, much more like what the council fathers actually intended compared to what we’re used to in almost all parishes. Get to know it – it is your birthright.

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