Skip to comments.Welcome to the Golden Age of the Liturgy
Posted on 10/15/2012 2:09:06 PM PDT by NYer
A couple months back, I wrote an article asking, what What was the Golden Age of the Liturgy? For it would seem, that every period has had its challenges, and also, it’s good points. The question of what is the golden year, the paradigm, is most pertinent among traditional Catholics, who largely regard the Golden age of the liturgy to be at some point in the past.
Though the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated according to the form it had in 1962, most traditional Catholics would set the ideal year, the Golden age, long before that. Yet, there is great debate as to what that year should be. Informal inquiry among traditional friends of mine yielded various results. Many look back to the mid-1940s, still others set the date at the turn of the last century, with Pius X’s reforms. Still others, go back to the 16th century, just after Trent , still others all the way back the 5th century.
Recently however a priest friend of mine, a priest and friend I consider to be very solid and thoughtful, asked me to consider that this is the golden age of the liturgy. He is a priest, about 10 years older than I, but ordained later, a fine musician, classically trained, well read in Latin and Biblical Greek, and well acquainted with the history of the Church. His contention, that this is a golden age of the liturgy, is evidenced by his observation that, perhaps as never before, many are deeply engaged, and well aware of the critical questions of the liturgy, and have a highly developed sense of their own role in the worship of God.
He does not root his vision merely in modern notions of the liturgy. For indeed, there is all whole cadre of laypeople concerned for, and devoted to, the Traditional Latin Mass. Yet unlike many of their forbearers who attended the Latin Mass, say in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, they are passionately involved, and follow the liturgy carefully through the use of their missals, and their awareness of liturgical details, details of which their grandparents were either unaware, or uninterested.
It is also true that there are others engage in more modern forms of the liturgy, but who are also passionate, involved, and aware of their legitimate roles. There are lectors, who are well-trained, there are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (I know, I know) who are needed, and aware of their role and the limits of their involvement. Servers, ushers, and choir members are also involved, active, and increasingly, well-trained.
Clergy too, especially younger clergy, are more aware of the rubrics, and the meaning of liturgical customs, and carefully observant of them. This goes for both the older, Traditional Latin Mass, and for the Ordinary Form. It is also far more common for the clergy to teach and draw the faithful into the deeper meaning in the liturgy.
Yes, both clergy and laity, are increasingly attentive and conscientious in terms of their role and the meaning of the liturgy. There is a greater flourishing of traditional forms of the liturgy as well as legitimate and diverse forms of the ordinary form of the Mass.
I know, some of you will say But father, but Father! What about the dancing girls, what about too many Eucharistic ministers, what about what about I will not deny that there are abuses, and excesses in modern expressions of the liturgy. But the dirty little secret is, there have always been such things.
Get in your time machine and go with the to the 1940s. Yes, even then, there were problems: mumbled Latin, rushed hurried gestures, half genuflections by the priest, poor sermons, and completely omitted sermons, 22 minute Masses, even on a Sunday morning, the rejection of Gregorian chant as “too complicated” and the replacing of it with poorly sung, even bellowed recto tono (usually 8th tone) chanting by Mrs. Murphy in the choir loft. The overall refusal of the sung liturgy in favor of low mass, to a fault. True, every mass could not be sung, but at least one, preferably several masses on Sunday should have been sung. But rarely were they, and up to a dozen masses were celebrated in the local parish all before noon (upper church and lower church – 6:00 am, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, 9:00 (upper and lower church), 9:30 (upper and lower church), 10:00 (sung), 11:00, 11:30), often rather rushed, hurried and in a kind of mass production, factory sort of way. Some of the priest from that era tell me they’d go out and start distributing communion at the rail right after the homily while the priest went up to the altar and said the current Mass.
Few Catholics in those days were aware of many of the abuses and short cuts. Much was hidden, under poorly pronounced and mumbled Latin, rushed and hurried low masses etc. But the older priests assure me, priests that I trust, (not haters of the “bad old days,”) that things were often not beautiful in those days.
Neither today are things always beautiful. But now, as then, there are good things, and many are in fact engaged quite deeply in the celebration of the sacred liturgy. It is a sad truth that attendance is low, perhaps as low as 20% of Catholics on a given Sunday. But among those who do attend there is increasing awareness of what we do and why. We can only ask that this will grow. Abuses in liturgical practice must continue to be addressed in loving, but clear ways.
But I wonder, if perhaps my priest friend isn’t right. Perhaps we are in a golden age today.
I was privileged today to celebrate the novus ordo (ordinary form) on two occasions, and then, in the evening, to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. All three congregations were engaged, aware, and excited about the liturgy that was celebrated. There was fine music, though from different traditions, at all three masses. There was traditional hymnody, a youth choir, gospel music, a Latin Gregorian schola, and a choir that sang Renaissance Polyphony.
I cannot tell you how blessed I feel, how it enriched, how excited I am to celebrate the sacred liturgy in all these different ways. I walk in a wider, and more diverse church then perhaps my brethren from the 40s and 50s would ever have imagined. But I wonder too how many of them would have heard a full Gregorian Schola singing from an unabridged Liber Usualis, and a full setting Renaissance Polyphonic Mass by Lassus by a 30-voice choir, back in 1946, as I did today.
Yes, I have the best of the old and the best of the new. I am a man most blessed. The people I love, all from very different traditions, love the liturgy, they love the Lord, and they encounter him in every Mass in ways quite rich and wonderful.
Maybe this is the golden age of the liturgy. Before you shake your head and wonder, Is he insane!? I ask you to consider if per chance you might know of an era of greater engagement and diversity. Perhaps you do not care for “diversity,” and would like the Mass to be in only one form. But be careful! For the form that might prevail might not be the exact form you prefer. Maybe diversity is okay, maybe it is what God knows is best for his Church now.
Maybe this is a golden age. Think about it
The follow video I put together a couple of years ago wherein I pondered that maybe the TLM and more modern “charismatic” forms of the liturgy are not so far apart after all.
This is profoundly true! Today, more than at any other time in history, catholics have a broader choice in how they worship God. With 22 Catholic Churches celebrating liturgy through 8 Rites, there is no longer any excuse for turning away from Sunday worship.
I’d like to see us go to the 1965 Missal and start over again. For those who don’t know or weren’t there, 1965 was basically just a good translation of the 1962 missal into the vernacular, with a few changes made (elimination of some duplications or parts that had sort of accidently worked their way into the regular liturgy, mostly through monastic practice). It was not mandatory to turn the priest or the altar to face the people (in fact, it is not even mandatory today in the Novus Ordo).
I find even a well-done Novus Ordo to be somewhat flat and lacking, but certainly if it’s well done, it’s not unbearable. However, the biggest problem with the 1970 Missal (the so-called Novus Ordo, or New Rite) was that in a sense, there really wasn’t a “Standard Novus Ordo.” It permitted way too many options and gave way too much leeway to bishops and priests to add their own “touches” to the Mass, including new canons (some of them have since been suppressed, because they were heretical) and practices never dreamed of even by the creators of the Novus Ordo. It has been very hard to put that back in the box, no matter how hard Rome tries.
Not that the Pope has asked my opinion, but I think the only solution is to proclaim an entirely new rite, which would essentially be the 1965 Missal (although with the some of the ordinary back in Latin and not in the vernacular - the Agnus Dei, the Kyrie, etc. - to provide more of a sense of continuity with the pre-1965 Tridentine Latin rite).
Also, I’d like to see the old calendar come back, complete with Rogation Days and other traditional liturgies and feasts. Just add the new saints to it and we’d be good to go!
Having spent my childhood in the pre VCII RC Church, I can appreciate your interest and desire to see that liturgy restored in its fullest. Moreover, it fit that era when Sundays were considered days of worship. Across the US, supermarkets and stores were closed; even baseball games were scheduled for later in the day, if at all. Sunday was when we gathered as a family to worship God and return home to eat as a family. Marriage was sacrosanct and families lived within proximity to each other. Women stayed home to raise their children. Television programs run on a limited number of local stations.
Flash forward to contemporary society. Sunday worship has been replaced by shopping and sports. Women have careers and panic at the thought of losing a caregiver. Many families have dispersed to various parts of the US. Electronic devices and instant messaging are rapidly replacing postal mail and newspapers. Television is now universal and runs on hundreds of stations.
I began this thread by agreeing with the notion that this truly is the Golden Age of Worship. For those of us who prefer to worship God with no time constraints, we have the TLM and the awesomely beautiful Eastern Catholic liturgies. For those who view Sunday as a small blip on their personal radar screen, the NO provides them the opportunity to do so in a more abbreviated format.
We are witnessing in our lifetimes, a dramatic shift away from any form of worship. More and more people now identify as non practicing. The Catholic Church provides a panoply of opportunities for all of us to worship our Lord. For that we should all be most grateful, do you agree?
Considering for me, I was way too young to remmeber, and all I knew was the newer mass.
This is most certainly not the golden age of liturgy. Yes, many masses in the past seemed perfunctory, but they have been replaced by the egocentric and the banal. That being said, I believe things are moving in the right direction, so perhaps that age is yet to come.
I hope to see it within my lifetime.