Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Moses Generation

I've written several things about Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio allowing an even more generous use of the Traditional Latin Mass. As you know, while I admire the beauty of the older form of the Mass I tend to prefer the new, provided it is said with the dignity and reverence which should be proper to every Mass.

Despite my personal preferences, though, I was excited by the motu proprio, for two reasons: one, because I have known many people for whom the Novus Ordo is almost painful, whether because they experienced and remember the Tridentine Mass or because, having discovered it in the relatively recent past, it is now too jarring for them to attend a Novus Ordo Mass where they live due to abuses or misuses of the liturgy by those entrusted with its care; and two, because I believed (and still believe) that Pope Benedict's desire is for the beauty and reverence which is inherent to the TLM to raise up the level of the celebrations of the Novus Ordo, so that both Masses will exhibit the sort of character proper to our highest form of worship.

That's the reason I was disappointed when our pastor wrote recently that Bishop Vann's current mind is that the single celebration of the TLM which currently exists in the diocese is enough. I would neither expect nor demand that every parish, or even most parishes, ought to have a TLM on a weekly basis, but it's hard to see how this single offering of the Mass in our diocese, unchanged since the Ecclesia Dei days, will help to encourage people to rediscover the wonderful patrimony of the Church's rich and magnificent liturgy.

Since then, I've noticed positive things, and negative ones. The "two steps forward, one step back" style of the "reform of the reform" continues at its often frustratingly slow pace. It can be tempting to contrast the slowness with which real reform is made with the earlier dizzying speed of such innovations as altar girls and communion-in-the-hand; but down that road lies madness. We may never know, in our earthly lives, just why God allowed so much that was suspect or even bad to infect the liturgy in order to bring about the good that was desired--but we can certainly become bitter, glum, angry people by letting ourselves fixate on matters like these.

I think what's been causing me the biggest spiritual struggle is my desire for the reform of the reform to be implemented, right now. In a dream world I'd like to walk into my parish church next Sunday to find that the rather druidic-looking "church in the round" interior now resembled, if not a Gothic cathedral, at least a First Romanesque one. There would be a gleaming altar rail, beautiful statues, bright, jewel-like stained glass. There would be an actual choir loft, complete with pipe organ. All of the music would be good, which means that little of it would be modern. The Mass would be reverent, solemn, directing the mind and heart toward the worship of Almighty God. The word "special" would never appear in the homily, but only at the second collection. People would enter the church silently and leave just as silently--but outside over coffee and donuts Catholics would engage in spontaneous fellowship, vigorous debate, and happy chatter (though it would be necessary to keep the Plain Chant people away from the Polyphony people on occasion, when their discussions got too heated). There would be tons of children.

I was expressing some of this to a dear and wise friend the other day, and she laughed. "We're going to be like Moses," she said.

"Moses?" I asked.

"You know. He got to lead the people to the Promised Land, he even got a glimpse of it, but he died before he could get there."


"Meaning that we're going to see the Liturgical 'Promised Land,' and lead our children there, but we're never going to get to enjoy it ourselves--though we're probably going to have really nice Funeral Masses."

I have a feeling she's right.


Opal said...

I am thinking you are both right.
On the side and speaking of funerals, have you noticed the trend to cannonize folks lately? Not talking about the Vatican declaring someone a saint, but at the funeral? I think I am adding to my will that in case this notion has crept into my family, they were to ASSUME I am the lower part of purgatory and please PRAY for me and have masses said on my poor souls behalf.

CW said...

My grandparents had money set aside from their estate to pay for a certain number of masses to be said on their behalf. The family decided to spread it around so that we could all have a few masses said for them at a parish that we could attend. I had no idea that people did that, could do that, or even should do that until I heard about their request. The "reform" failed to mention it but this "reformed product of the reform" knows better thanks to the example of generations past.

Fabiola & Patrick said...
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