Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pics of the Easter Vigil with Fr. Z.

My first ever '62 Missale Romanum... and at the Easter Vigil.

I arrived at St. Augustine's at 11pm; I returned home at 2:30 AM!!!

I was a little reluctant to take pictures, but it was too tempting. I will probably never go to another mass like this (& this late) for a long time as my wife and I have a baby on the way. I kept the flash off in order to avoid being obnoxious (or at least less obnoxious); hence the blurriness.

Pic 1: at the Communion rail
Pic 2: raising the chalice
Pic 3: blessing the Baptismal waters
Pic 4: die-hards for good liturgy!
Pic 5: I'm figuring it out (I should have looked at the missale
prior to mass!)
Pic 6: Fr. Zulsdorf's sermon
Pic 7: all the lights were out yet; I'm holding my candle, and
I believe the Genesis text was being chanted if I recall

In the end, I desire a Novus Ordo done well. Hermeneutic of continuity. Let's put the best of the usus antiquior into the ordinary form.

It was a challenge for me as this was the longest liturgy of the year, and I had never really even looked at my Baronius Press 1962 Missale Romanum prior to arriving at 11pm! Overall, I thought it was beautiful and every moment was full of the rich symbolism of our Catholic faith.

It struck me how challenging it was for everyone else in the sanctuary (with the exception of Fr. Z.) to follow along smoothly. From the assisting priests (acolytes?) to the altar boys to the schola cantorum- all were very focused and intense. Don’t get me wrong, it was a flawless liturgy as far as I could tell, but I bring it up simply to point out the fact that what I witnessed on Saturday night was once the norm. Liturgy was taken seriously by the men and young men/boys executing it. It was not something to watch, but something to join in and contemplate. The hard work, thought, and effort was once not so hard and not so uncommon. I myself was challenged by what was before me; I worked hard to follow along and to think about the rich meaning rather than it being spoon fed to me in the form of fluff. I really was participating. My wife asked if I fell asleep at all or if I was bored (as it was very late), but honestly this did not occur at all as I was too focused on everything happening; not a moment during the mass was wasted. These days it seems to take a lot of effort to do something beautifully; this made me a little bit sad, as I reflected upon how little effort we put into most of our liturgy today. That’s really too bad. What I saw at the Vigil on Saturday was hard work, and it was more beautiful and more meaningful because of it.

Another thing that struck me was how wonderfully rich the Latin text really is. I teach Latin, and as I translated the text on my own and also consulted the English, I was amazed (but I guess not that surprised as I regularly follow the Catholic blogosphere) at how much richer the mass was than a typical ‘dumbed-down’ Novus Ordo mass really is. I suspect a lot of this is because of poor translation, but the actions of the priest and those assisting were much more symbolic- ironically more in sync with the Scriptures than the ‘typical’ mass of today. Also helpful were the beautiful vestments, sacred vessels, ad orientem altar, artwork, iconography, and communion rail. St. Augustine’s is quite nice.

Having 3 readings as opposed to 2 in the old Missal (for a solemnity or feast day) does not seem to compensate for all that is lost in the rich translation found in the Missal. The extra reading also does not replace ad orientem worship and the symbolism found in so many other ways abandoned after the ‘reform’. Hence, the old mantra that “Catholics don’t read the Bible” is rather silly or even “we need more Scripture”; Catholics aren’t smarter or more faithful for having more readings on Sunday, and often it makes us dumber as ‘Fr. So&So’ will refuse to comment on that excerpt from Hosea or Tobit anyway!

I really do appreciate receiving the Eucharist at the rail, as it gives a little time to contemplate before receiving while kneeling and viewing the altar, as opposed to filing up and grabbing the Eucharist.

So, in general I had a good first experience, but it was rather challenging, even for someone who knows Latin fairly well. It honestly seemed laborious to have the readings in Latin; I kept going back and forth between wanting to check out the Latin and translate it myself, and actually following the story of the reading. I was also simultaneously holding a candle and trying to watch what was happening in the sanctuary. This was too much brain overload at 1 am for me!

On another note, I have been present at some lovely Novus Ordo masses celebrated ad orientem and entirely in Latin at St. Agnes, and they are wonderful.

To conclude, as I put the different (positive) liturgies I have been to all into one vision (including some study on the subject as I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas), I would desire that mass be ‘celebrated’ this way:
I’d prefer all the smells, bells, statues, stained-glass, architecture,
vestments, manliness, rich meaning, and vestments of the usus antiquior combined
with the ‘format’ of the Novus Ordo. I really prefer the Scripture and the proper in English with the standard parts of the ordinary in Latin (Pater Noster, Gloria, Credo, Agnus Dei, Sanctus, “Hoc est Meum Corpus” etc.). I say the standard parts of the ordianry, because it is my impression that things are added on feast days etc. Again, I am no expert, this is simply one man’s opinion.

At the common parish, it would probably be a stretch to demand more than a good English translation of the Novus Ordo, ad orientem (or at least a cross on the altar facing the east/liturgical east), Agnus Dei, Sanctus, and licit/lovely vestments at this point.
Oh, and a priest who follows the rubrics as well as the ‘liturginator’ at St. Augustine’s; aka no outstretched arms as if Father ‘Bob’ is trying to hug the congregation with his emasculated love.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

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