lördag 15 augusti 2009

Participation in the Mass

In the Tablet's report on Archbishop Nicholls’ speech to the Latin Mass Society’s recent training event, the comment made was that the old form of the Mass precludes participation. In what way? (Tablet, 8 and August)

Congregations can sing the Ordinary of the Mass and the responses in both new and old forms. In the old mass, whilst the priest is reciting the Canon silently and in Latin, the congregation is meant to be doing the same thing in the vernacular. So where is the lack of participation?

Because of its flexibility, the post-Vatican II liturgy can, and often does, exclude. Hymns are often unfamiliar or difficult to sing. The responsorial psalm is a challenge to anyone whose hearing and short-term memory are not 100%.

Participation is also impeded when the Mass is celebrated in a vernacular which is not one’s own language, or when the priest is celebrating in a language in which he is not fluent - which is by no means unusual in some countries.

Reciting the Canon of the Mass aloud is also no guarantee of participation. In either form of the Mass it is easy to let one’s mind wander towards thoughts about what one is going to have for lunch. The discipline of having to follow the text in a book whilst the priest is reciting silently is, if anything, an aid to concentration and engagement.

The practice of saying Mass facing the people is of dubious value if the aim it to promote participation. This configuration conveys a “them-and-us” message which is reinforced where Masses are concelebrated.

Not everyone who is critical of the post-Vatican II mass is stuck in the past. Whilst it can be celebrated in a satisfactory way, in practice, and especially in the English-speaking world, liturgy at present suffers from serious shortcomings which should not be ignored. But why some so-called liberals dislike the old for of the Mass with such vehemence is a question that calls for an answer. Are they scared of it, perhaps? And why might that be?

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