Monday, January 27, 2014

'Noble Simplicity'

We  don't have an Old Rite Missa Cantata often but we have decided to have one next Sunday, its Candlemass, so rather than a 10.30 sung Novus Ordo our 6.30pmwill be our 'principle Mass' so it will be Asperges, blessing of candles, procession and Mass. Our MC is reading and re-reading his Fortescue and Reid, and I am trying to remember those prayers I don't normally say.

I have been thinking about the concept of 'noble simplicity' lately, mainly because some pictures of rather overblown Christmas decorations in churches I have seen. I mean trees that dominate the sanctuary, or the worst examples, cribs that obscure the altar. Those are neither noble nor simple. Accounts of Christmas liturgies where the Liturgy of the Word is replaced by some sort of Nativity Play complete with braying donkey are a contradiction of 'noble simplicity', they show a deep discomfort with Mgr Bugnini's liturgy. One of the problems with the Novus Ordo is that there is a temptation to add complexity onto complexity, idea onto idea, theme upon theme, to the point where focus is lost.

Despite the apparent complexity of the Old Rite, even on special days like Candlemas, for a non-Latin speaking member of the congregation there is something quite remarkable about returning to the same basic ideas, which are hammered deep into the soul with every Mass attended: we pray, bread and wine is offered and God comes to us, or even more simply put:  God comes to us: we worship. This is a simple kerygmatic proclamation, the Gospel and the mystery of the Church at its absolute simplest and most basic. For those with Latin or who bother with a Missal various subordinate ideas are there, right down to the details of the Gospel and Epistle and the intricacies of the prayers and chants but essentially, the dominating message is one of worship in which the relationship between man and God is clearly seen.
I have often wondered why I feel compelled to preach -at least explain the scriptures- at the Novus Ordo but at the Old Rite I feel no such compunction, as a priest I simply want to worship along with my people I want to immerse myself in the Mysteries I am celebrating.
The principle of 'noble simplicity' is important in catechesis too. For converts who generally already always believe in God, we can get terribly complicated and present the faith as a series of propositions, it is that which leads complexity. The noble and simple message is contained in the simple statement the present Rite of Reception of an Adult demands, apart from the recitation of the Creed the conversi are expected to be able to say, "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God." Explaining why this is required and its meaning, is presumably the purpose and end of convert instruction, the RCIA process, Catholic education etc.

Presumably if one fails to believe and also profess it, it is time to stop conning oneself and leave the Church.


Anonymous said...

On the subject of Christmas - in the Archdiocese of Liverpool we are very lucky to have a forward-thinking parish - a Benedictine parish (i.e. of the OSB variety, rather than one following the liturgical altar arrangement favoured by our Pope Emeritus) who encouraged its audience….oh sorry, congregation, to wave fluorescent glow sticks above their heads during the carol Adeste Fidelis (sung in English of course)!

The same parish lowers the corona of lights around the round sanctuary and bedecks it with tinsel and baubles… festive. Also said Parish hosted the first ACTA meeting for Liverpool and Salford and one of the priests is very prominent in the ACTA hierarchy.

Oh the joys of being liberated from the tyranny of rubrics!

Physiocrat said...

It is very much easier to maintain attention at an EF Mass with the priest celebrating quietly in Latin whilst one has the possibility of reading the text in one's book in any language one wants. The congregation is also spared the trouble to trying to decipher readers with bad diction, and badly installed and adjusted sound systems.

Where parishes and congregations include members with many different mother tongues, it makes no sense to use the Novus Ordo; in the latter situation, the readings also are best in Latin, with translations made available on printed sheets.

M. Prodigal said...

You might like this article and accompanying video on how a dying parish was restored in Milwaukee by inviting in the Extraordinary form of the holy Mass:

Anonymous said...

Noble simplicity. That is beautiful Father. Thank you for sharing.

Savonarola said...

A few different points: If the MC has to keep checking his manual it sounds as if the ritual cannot be that simple - and all that baroque kitsch is certainly not very noble.

The endless predictable OF-bashing by devotees of the EF is so tiresome. Where there are people of many different languages it makes a great deal of sense to use the OF seeing that English is rapidly becoming a universal lingua franca - as Latin once was. Poles, Afghans, Nigerians, Chinese are all more likely to be able to follow English than they ever could Latin - or at least they would if the current version of the mass were in English rather than mock Latenglish.

As people seek to live their faith (rather than just believing or professing it) and in doing so come to have honest doubts about what the authorities of the Church claim to have been revealed by God (this is what so-called dissent or heresy means), must they be driven out? Is the Church not big enough to embrace them and help them further on?

Principle meaning main or major should be 'principal.' Vivat lingua regum Anglorum.

Fr Ray Blake said...

If someone cannot profess the Catholic faith can they, with integrity, stay?

Nicolas Bellord said...

Savonorola: "Poles, Afghans, Nigerians, Chinese are all more likely to be able to follow English than they ever could Latin "

My experience of Days with Mary where the congregation is largely immigrant rather contradicts this. They are often better catechised and more familiar with Latin than your indigenous English.

Genty said...

Having attended Masses at Westminster Cathedral where Latin is used, I concur with what Nicholas Bellord writes.
I might add that Savonarola seems to be teetering on the edge of relativism. Incidentally, the Church does not drive people out. They do it all by themselves.
And resorting to "baroque kitsch" and "fancy lace" terminology is a pretty fair indication that the substantive point does not stand.

Fr Ray Blake said...

This getting tedious

Proph said...

"Baroque kitsch"?

So you are of the opinion that, e.g., Palestrina's "Sicut Cervus" is of lower quality than, say, "On Eagle's Wings"?

That the former is mass-produced, sentimental pop-culture baby food compared to the hearty steak-and-asparagus provided by our modern OCP hymnals?

Anita Moore said...

I never realized what a structural nightmare the Novus Ordo is until the new translation of the Roman Missal came out, and I bought one of those one-year St. Joseph's Sunday Missals to help me follow it.

That's when I found out that the Novus Ordo is almost impossible to follow in a missal. Every part of the Ordinary of the Mass has a plethora of options. Why does there have to be five different versions of the penitential rite? How many Eucharistic prayers do we need? You don't know which one the priest is using until he's halfway through it. With all these options, the Mass no longer looks like the work of God, but the work of man, who has scope to stamp it with his own tastes and personality. No wonder it becomes a plaything in the hands of egoists, and no wonder so many priests feel free to just make it up as they go.

As for the advantages of having the Mass in the vernacular and not in Latin, so that people can understand it, I submit that since we got the vernacular Mass, we understand the Mass less now than we ever did.

Cormac said...

When Sav. refers to 'Baroque kitsch'I don't think he was meaning the music, but rather the 'lacey' vestments, which let's face, cannot really be described as 'noble simplicity'.

Where I come from in Ireland there's no EF Mass available, nor are dignified, properly celebrated OF Masses that common. We are unfortunately subjected to much of the 'Eagle's Wings' repertoire. In Ireland we should be working to reform the OF first and foremost.

Sometimes I tire of the EF versus OF argument. People on forums can sometimes be so bitter it's frightening. While some cherish the EF form, and others are for the ultra-'modern', I think much could be done, as you are doing in your parish Father, to promote noble simplicity of the OF form, be it in the vernacular or Latin.

Pétrus said...

@Anita Moore

"How many Eucharistic prayers do we need?"

Would I be wrong in thinking the obvious answer to this is one?

Unknown said...

Savonarola-Poles unlikely to follow Latin!! Is this what you English would refer to as "a wind up?" One of Europe's oldest CATHOLIC nations-go visit and learn and recall Wojtyła was exceptionally proficient as are many of his countrymen and women

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