Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Influence of the New on the Old

Photograph Fr Tim's Jubilee h/t Fr Z

There have been a couple of articles on the prestigious New Liturgical Movements site here and here on what I said here.
My concern was that the Pope's understanding of mutual enrichment of both usages of the Roman Rite expressed in Summorum Pontificum should take place.
It is pretty obvious the effects that the usus antiquior should have on the usus recentior, it has been widely discussed elsewhere, most especially on NLM.
But what effects should the Paul VI on that of John XXIII?
I read on someone's blog the comment by an elderly French priest, the statement about traditionalist clergy, "What they are now, we never were". I do not remember pre-concilliar liturgy but I was struck by a priest who, speaking of his first Mass 50 years ago, in my Church said, "I didn't understand a word of what I was saying or what I was doing", or again another priest in the 70's saying, "I would hate to go back to it, we were only allowed half an hour from amice to amice, it meant we had to leave a lot out". Again in this parish the old Polish chaplain could say a Requiem including the obsequies in less than 20 minutes, low Mass for him was 15 minutes. The prayers at the foot of the altar rather than a dialogue, were said simultaneously with the server each saying their own part. The first words of a liturgical action were said whilst the rest was simply garbled from memory with as much speed as possible. Whether there were three or three hundred people in the congregation the style of celebration seems to have been the same. It seems there was little attempt to even announce the lections in a manner in which they might be heard, even by those who had sufficient Latin to understand. I remember an old priest saying, "Liturgy in my day was taught under two headings, Canon Law and Moral Theology".
The overriding emphasis of the celebration of the past seems to have been "doing the action" an emphasis on the minimum required for validity and the minimum required for staying within the bounds of what was licit.
Obviously there were exceptions produced by the liturgical movement, but what was happening in the great monasteries seems not to have touched most parishes or one suspects most seminaries. The moves by Blessed John XXIII to restore Latin in seminaries seems more to have been an act of desperation rather than a celebration of what was happening in practice.
The experience of the Traditional Liturgy nowadays seems far from what our pre-concilliar grandparents experienced. I know nothing of the SSPX, but my experience of the FSSP and of ordinary parish clergy celebrating the older form is that they actually love the liturgy they are celebrating, they want to do it as beautifully as possible, they understand its history, they are enthused by it and want their people to understand the richness of it. It is at the centre of their spiritual lives. Although there might be mixed feelings about the "dialogue Mass", there is a real feeling that the people should participate as deeply and fervently as possible.
It is important to remember that Sacrosanctum Concillium is directed to the Mass of the Council formerly called the Tridentine Mass, rather than the post concilliar Mass of Paul VI.
There are superficial effects that the new could have on the old such as inclusion of propers for new feasts, thoughts about revising the Lectionary, possibly a blurring of the distinction between Low Mass and the Missa Cantata but the real influence has already occurred, it is the influence of attitudes.


Richard Collins said...

As a pre conciliar Grandfather (albeit a young at heart one) I do not recognise the Latin Masses you are describing Father. I served on the altar for many years in a parish on the edge of London that hosted a constant stream of foreign priests as well as British ones (it was close to Heathrow Airport). All of the Masses were said reverently, some, admittedly, faster than others but there was no blurring of words or lack of comprehension on behalf of parishioners.
Compared with today's Ordinary Form Mass it was and still is a world apart. I do not wish to be divisive but every OF Mass I attend (not many now), is different. Some have young nymphets who prance about in mini cassocks (I do not exaggerate)and some have Extraordinary Ministers who look as though they are doing the washing up at home.
It is a pale relative to the Latin Mass that is constant, reverent and uplifting.
However, since the Summorum Pontificum, I have witnessed how the two Masses may live side by side as per the FSSP parishes in Australia and other places. This must be the way ahead if only the Bishops get moving and embrace the traditional orders.

Crux Fidelis said...

I'm fifty five now but I can remember the pre-Conciliar liturgy as I became an altar server just after my first Holy Communion in 1962. As far as I recall Mass said at the high altar was said as a dialogue between the priest and servers (who recited by rote). Most of us would have had a missal of some description with a translation of the Ordinary of the Mass and the Sunday Gospel so we knew approximately what we were saying. However the Gradual, Epistle, Collect etc were a total mystery. Masses said at side altars were generally garbled affairs and were said, I think, mainly to fulfil the obligation. Remember, in those days most churches would have had more curates than daily public Masses.

The golden jubilarian you refer to, Father, must have been a bit of a duffer at Latin. I would imagine that the majority of priests of that generation would have been at least conversant with the language if not fluent.

Paul Knight said...

Hmmm! I always feel uncomfortable about talk of the newer form 'enriching' the older form. Of course, the traditional form can be celebrated just as sloppily as the new, but celebrating the old well can't really be considered an enrichment that comes from the new, because surely it's assumed that the traditional should be celebrated in such a way anyway. Actually, the readings in the traditional mass is something I would least like to be changed.

I know this is something you have mentioned before, Father, but 1962 seems an odd choice, as the traditional liturgy had arguably already undergone a series of deformations by then. I would be looking the other way.

By-the-way, congratulations on your jubilee, Father.

me said...

I don't know how some of the critics(whatever their preferred form) can actually take part spiritually at Mass,when they are so busy scrutinizing every move of the Priest and other participants.They are like the Mass Gestapo.Do they pray outside of Mass,and just take critical mental notes during it?
I like to shut my eyes and meet with God the Father,I hope I am getting it right?
I sure am glad forgiveness is available through the Sacrifice of God's Son.Personally,being the kind of sinner I am inclined to be,I think I need to focus on that.

Pastor in Monte said...

Wise words, mon Pére.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful piece, many thanks Fr.Blake, fully agreed and really a crucial argument.

I did not know anything of the old mass, and the way it is celebrated in FSSP chapels, until 2 years ago. Since then I attend mass in the Extraordinary form regularly.

I keep reflecting on how much damage has been done to innumerable souls by the modernist attitude so vastly widespread in the Church. The ultimate damage is the loss of Faith.

The main difference that I think exist between the post VII parishes (that I frequented for >30 years, and still now seldomly) and FSSP-like chapels is that Faith has been vastly weakened in the 'new' Church, and sometimes alltogether lost, transformed in something else.


Terry said...


I have often wondered why the Almighty allowed what happened to the liturgy after Vatican II to happen. Could it be that one intention was to reground us in a love for the liturgy?

Sometimes one must go through the desert to realize how good a glass of cool water really tastes.

God bless you Father in your jubilee.

Terry Barber said...

I'm also a pre-conciliar Grandfather and like "Shepherd", I don't recognise the Masses you are describing either. During the 50's,
I was serving Mass and Benediction, several times each week in the Woking, Knaphill and Bagshot area. I must have been at the Traditional Mass thousands of times as I was growing up, and I cannot recall ever being at Mass, said or sung, that was not celebrated reverently. All our Priests were good men, hardworking and holy. As far as I am aware, they all had complete command of the Latin language. They were an inspiration to me. Most of them had been trained at Wonersh, and in those days Wonersh was a very good seminary. I cannot imagine Arch-Bishop Amigo or Bishop Cowderoy ordaining anyone who wasn't fit for Priesthood.
Weekday Masses were over in 25 minutes or just under. This was because a lot of the congregation were people on their way to work, or children on their way to school. If only it were so today. We have some very good Priests today, but the Traditional Priests we have now are different to the old ones, especially the ones from the Traditional Orders. I think this is mainly because they are not trained for, or used to celebrating Mass in a normal parish setting.
I thank God for having known pre-conciliar Priests and pre-conciliar
parish life. It makes me very sad when the wrong impression is given of them.

Simon Platt said...

The liturgical changes of the 60s and 70s were before my time but, surely, it is reasonable to suppose that the priests who celebrated irreverently in, say, 1960 were still doing so in, say, 1970.

Certainly, I have been present at irreverent celebrations of holy mass - far worse than described here - in the 80's, 90's and more recently.

Norah said...

I remember the Mass before Vatican II and I can't recognise the Masses you described. I used my Missal to follow that parts of the Mass and found that the priest and I never got ahead of one another and I didn't gabble. Weekday Masses were shorter of course.

There was something about the Mass which I didn'treally realise until it was gone. It flowed like a beautiful piece of music; I was able to lose myself in it. Recently though when I went to a Latin Mass I felt like a spectator; perhaps I have to get used to it all over again.

I left the practise of my Faith for a great many years because I couldn't come to terms with what the Mass became with everyone milling around and the commentary and the noise etc and priests contradicting other priests about the truths of the Faith. I have returned to the Church but long for a reverently celebrated Mass to be the norm and not a happy surprise and the whiteanting of the Church to cease.

Maureen said...

Hindsight is often quite rosey.

My brother was a priest, ordained in 1948. The examples you gave Father seem pretty familiar amongst priests who were his contempories.

What is interesting here is the gulf between the altar and the nave.
In the nave the swan glided effortlessly but at the altar its feet were paddling like mad.
My brother welcomed most of the changes, most especially the vernacular breviary, but also the reductions in the missal.
I remember him saying he mostly celebrated Requiems simply because they were quicker.

David Joyce said...

My experience of SSPX priests is that the Mass of All Time (as the Abp used to call it) is part of the very fabric of their lives. Although some may say the Mass quicker than I would like, I have never seen the kind of mumbling or overlapping nonsense that you mention. This seems to be quite common in old Ireland, where my mother told me the Mass was said far too quickly. The Irish (I'm one myself) were seemingly more interested in devotional exercises than liturgy, which often explains where the interest in the TLM lies - particularly in France. The Jesuits and other missionary priests have often been accused of celebrating the Mass too quickly.

I too am not interested in the new influencing the old - what needs to happen with the old is for it to be made available by devoted priests who really cherish it, and for it to be celebrated properly. For it to be part of a continual influence from one side or another is to adopt the reforming spirit of the 1960's that produce the Novus Ordo.

Astor said...

I know this is something you have mentioned before, Father, but 1962 seems an odd choice, as the traditional liturgy had arguably already undergone a series of deformations by then. I would be looking the other way.

That was more or less down to Archbishop Lefebrve's decision to come to a cut off point. It was used primarily to weed out the closet sedevacantists in the SSPX seminaries and indeed at least 9 prominent members left the SSPX in 1983.

It is funny how some of the most anti-Lefebrve clergy insist on sticking to the 1962 Missal (a Lefebrve decision) and look on those who use the pre-62 rubrics as "disobedient".

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