Winding up the clock, not turning it back

With a tip of the biretta to the Recovering Choir Director I was guided to The Authentic Update:

My emphases and comments:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some Thoughts About "Turning Back the Clock"

I’ve done a lot of reading (mostly blog discussions) about liturgical reform lately. This is the big topic right now. I mean, it’s always been something of a hot topic, but it is now in the forefront in a way that it hasn’t been before. Beginning with Summorum Pontificum and continuing with changes to the Papal Liturgies including ad orientem celebrations, Gregorian chant, communion kneeling and on the tongue exclusively…now many Bishops following suit…and then the new translation of the Roman Missal coming to us soon, it has become apparent that the "reform of the reform" is no longer a hypothetical thing, but is now a reality.

Just last week, the Pontical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini addressed the Priests of the International Conference of Clergy in Rome. The topic was the "reform of the reform"… a well organized presentation on 5 points central to liturgical reform:

The Sacred Liturgy, God’s great gift to the Church

The orientation of liturgical prayer

Adoration and union with God

Active Participation

Sacred or liturgical music

However, the presentation was less an academic examination than an instruction, [Good observation.] laying out an interpretation of the post-conciliar liturgy that is decidedly orthodox, drawing together many of the issues that have been addressed seperately up to now and creating a coherent foundation for liturgical development going forwards.  [A coherent foundation must, I believe, involve a stronger stress of Summorum Pontificum.]

And that is what I see as the most important point: [This should annoy the progressivists…] This is a forward looking vision for the liturgy, an interpretive foundation for the Missal of Paul VI which brings it out of the morass of inculturating adaptations, innovations and experiments and seeks instead to set it within the liturgical traditions of the Church. [Here it is…] This has been the point of Pope Benedicts reforms up to this point…to set the Missal of Paul VI within the context of the Church’s liturgical tradition[Part of Pope Benedict’s plan?]

And yet, the [liberal] reactions to Msgr. Marini’s address and to Pope Benedict’s initiatives all too often appeal to the well-worn cliche: "Let’s not turn back the clock".

This is usually followed by noting that things were far from perfect "back in the day" – and the criticism is most often that Priests rushed through Mass and that the people in the pews just sat and watched, oblivious to what was going on until it was time to receive communion, after which they left. And that may have been true in many instances "back in the day".

But I know a great many Catholics who consider themselves Traditionalists, and I attend Mass in the EF on Sundays (8:30AM Low Mass) and have yet to find a single person who wants to return to that way of celebrating the EF Mass. [The intervening years have taught us a great deal, haven’t they!?] And I have yet to attend an EF Mass in which the Priest desires to rush through as quickly as possible. [One of the fruits of the intervening decades is also a greater awareness of ars celebrandi.] The Mass this past Sunday was a Low Mass and it took about 55 minutes, including an excellent homily. The faithful followed carefully in their Latin-English Missals (including the children who make up perhaps 1/4 of the assembly), very much engaged in the liturgy. This is the state of the Extraordinary Form in 2010. It has nothing to do with "turning back the clock" and everything to do with moving forwards. [YESSSSSSS!] There are new churches, new religious orders, new Priests and new faithful, young and old celebrating in the Extraordinary Form.

And so, [QUAERITUR:] if the current celebration of the EF isn’t "turning back the clock", then how could celebrating the Ordinary Form liturgy, even in the most orthodox of settings, be "turning back the clock"? I have seen Masses celebrated in the Ordinary Form where one gets the impression that the Priest is trying to "move things along", and the now ubiquitous use of an army of EMC’s at most Masses can only be explained by a desire to finish communion as quickly as possible – despite all of the rhetoric that it is the "center of our faith journey". [Good one!] There is the frequent ommission of the Gloria and Creed, homilies without substance or relevance and arbitrary limitations on the number of verses in the hymns…all in order to "get out on time". [Well… I’m okay will fewer verses of hymns.  I’m okay with no hymns at all and using the actual music the Church has assigned.] If there is anything today that is similar to "turning back the clock", it would be this.  [Excellent, point.  Ironic, no?]

This is what Msgr. Marini and certainly Pope Benedict are urging us to move away from…that is, celebrations in the Ordinary Form ought to move forward towards a more reverent and orthodox norm as has been done in the Extraordinary Form celebrations[YESSSSSSS!] This is what Pope Benedict meant by mutual enrichment – taking those things from each liturgical form that lead towards a greater reverence and sanctification of the faithful and applying them to both forms.

Such progress could be described in a variety of ways, but I fail to see how it is "turning back the clock". May I suggest that it is actually a case of "winding up a clock" that was long ago allowed to run out, hurriedly replaced by a new improved LED timpepiece whose red-against-black square numbers are beginning to look rather dated themselves.


Nice essay.   I think this person is pretty much on track.

Nice red and black reference there at the end.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Therese says:

    What you say is true and yet…in our area the TLM has been all but tarred and feathered and driven out of town on a rail. Disappointing? That and more. But I’m very concerned over the lack of foresight shown by priests who will try anything to boost attendance numbers, as long as it isn’t the Traditional Latin Mass. (Indeed, one excuse given was that the small number of Catholics attending the TLM did not justify the trouble to host it.) I used to be quite discouraged by these machinations, but lately I have begun to see how inevitable is the process. We WILL return to sanity, the priesthood WILL be restored, and eventually the TLM WILL receive the honor due it. (I admit, however, that it is a little hard to wait for these things. ;-)

  2. TJerome says:

    Even Paul VI tried to push Gregorian Chant with Musica Sacra in 1967. “Turning the clock back” was fine with liturgical progressives as long as it was the Church 100 A.D. (pardon me, I guess these folks today would use B.C.E. so as to not upset non Catholics/Christians). They’re just burned up that their little experiment was not well received and caused considerable defections. No matter. I am proud of the young priests, religious, and laity who have rejected these 60s “doubleknit dinosaurs” and are opting for the fullness of the Catholic liturgical tradition. Ineffable! Tom

  3. EXCHIEF says:

    However it remains to be seen if and how long it takes many of the U S Bishops to implement the liturgigal changes…or, will they resist, stall or ignore as they have done too often in the past. This will not be change lacking controversy. Just yesterday my wife, who is quite knowledgable concerning the “approved” changes, was questioned before Mass by a parishoner about “what these changes are all about”. The reaction of that particular “the Church is all about feeling good and making everybody feel welcome” questioner was not supportive—and there are a whole lot like her out there.

    My concern is that we know our Bishops historically have backed away from the tough ones, they generally avoid controversy, and are not as a group good teachers/leaders. So….that being the case I am yet to be convinced that implementation of liturgical changes (even though they have been agreed upon) will occur in the needed manner—with U S Bishops presenting a determined, united front. Like other issues (wayward catholic politicians, abortion, contraception) my fear is it will vary from diocese to diocese with some “opting out”.

  4. gloriainexcelsis says:

    I do remember the time when the old liturgy was rushed and a High Mass was an occasional thing. Low Mass was over in little more than 35 minutes. High Mass had Kyrie, Gloria, etc., but no schola chanting the Introit…..I guess because it “took too long.”
    When I found the EF seven years ago, I was home, but home had been re-decorated, if you will. It took a little time before I realized that the long graduals and alleluias, with all the embellishments, gave space to meditate and prepare for attention to the Word of the Lord. Priest(s), servers and congregation sit quietly and patiently wait, except for the Master of Ceremonies, standing at attention, hands properly folded, ready to signal the celebrant. The homilies are well thought out, prepared and delivered with attention and care. The Consecration of Bread and Wine, by any one of our priests, can bring tears to my eyes. They are reverent, slow, seeing nothing but the Host and Chalice before them, raising them slowly and as high as their arms will reach, lowering them slowly and gently. Not a sound is heard but the bells, except for the occasional baby, to intrude on the moment. High Mass lasts more than an hour and a half, sometimes an hour and 3/4,depending on the length of Epistle and Gospel. After the recessional, at least 1/4 of the congregation stays in the pews for thanksgiving, often for 10-15 minutes. Time with the Lord is precious. What’s the rush?

  5. moon1234 says:

    I hate to be the fly in the pudding, but I am always left wondering WHAT the OF could offer to enrich the EF? The EF is feature complete, the OF seems to be missing a lot of features or in need of refits, yet it still seems like there are things missing or that don’t quite fit.

    I can see a lof of enrichment goinf EF->OF, but not much if anything coming the other way.

  6. EXCHIEF: t remains to be seen if and how long it takes many of the U S Bishops to implement the liturgigal changes…or, will they resist, stall or ignore as they have done too often in the past

    I think we have cause to be optimistic. Very good men are being appointed as bishops in the USA. They were not formed during the silly season, and if they did experience, they suffered in those years.

  7. moon: The EF is feature complete

    No. Not quite.

  8. ipadre says:

    We’ll keep on winding and they will keep on whining!

  9. Dennis Martin says:

    For Moon,

    We can take some clues from Benedict: the OF offers the recently canonized saints who need to be integrated into the EF lest the EF become a museum piece. His point overall, if I understand him correctly, was that the EF stood in danger of fossilizing because it had (understandably) become a weapon in a larger war against the abuses and foolishneses of the post-VII era.

    What Benedict envisions, I think, is permitting the process of liturgical renewal to resume in something like the form it had under Pius XII (Mediator Dei etc.): let the congregation give the Ordinary responses (Dialogue Mass) etc., have more frequent High or Sung Masses–get away from the 35-minute Low Mass as the standard; encourage people to learn chant and sing along with the Schola or join the Schola etc.

    That IS what the Council envisioned. Had Bugnini not exceeded his mandate, the “OF” would look a lot more like the EF, the EF/OF split would not exist.

    I could be wrong, but I think Benedict is less concerned about what the OF can “give” to the EF than about restoring the EF to life, to a living, breathing, organic Leitourgia, work of the people. His very love for the EF lies behind his desire to free it from fossilization and let it live free and flourish.

    Many of my friends who attend the OF in Latin at St. John Cantius prefer it because, on the one hand, when celebrated ad orientem in Latin to the non-Latin literate it seems almost the same as the EF but with slightly more opportunity for them to make the responses etc. They are basically saying that they liked the Dialogue Mass approach that was coming in but then was submerged and destroyed in the Bugnini Tsunami.

    I don’t like, theologically, what was done to the Offertory prayers, the dropping of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar etc., but I do understand the desire for the Dialogue Mass-type reforms. It seems to me that that’s what Benedict wishes to see favored IN THE EF as it emerges from imprisonment and fossilization.

    Putting on my flame suit now.

  10. southern orders says:

    It is amazing that the “Reform of the Reform” is now becoming common place in so many places. Certainly Summorum Pontificum has added fuel to this long-simmering but unseen fire. Many were afraid to voice their hopes for a true reform of the OF Mass and a desire to have the option of the EF Mass. Pope Benedict and his predecessor Pope John Paul II have allowed these discussions to come out into the open and to be implemented.
    In my own parish in Macon, GA, we began this past Sunday to throw out some of the “lame duck” “passe” language of the OF Mass and instituted the timeless: Dominus Vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo!
    …Sursum corda. Habemus ad Dominum. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro. Dignum et justum est.
    Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo.
    The rest of the OF Mass is in English, but these parts in Latin from now until the new English translation is legal will replace the old English. Beginning in Lent, the Sanctus and Mysterium Fidei will be in Latin as well as the Agnus Dei, all of which are already known by the people of our various Masses. After Easter we will implement singing the Gloria in Latin. I’m not sure yet about the Credo, we may have to stick with the current lame duck, theologically flawed version we have since I do find it a bit difficult for the congregation to either sing or say in Latin. But the point is that I’m actually doing the above. If you asked me three years ago, would I do it, I would have told you no! I’d be labeled as crazy for doing it. Some will label me as such, but now I don’t care!

  11. catholicuspater says:

    [Well… I’m okay with fewer verses of hymns. I’m okay with no hymns at all and using the actual music the Church has assigned.]

    I’ve been encountering a similar anti-hymn mentality among other traditional Catholics lately and am puzzled by it. Chanting the propers during the High Mass is wonderful in itself, but for your average person in the pew listening to unaccompanied, extended verses of the Communio, for example, during Communion, and having no opportunity to sing hymns at Mass is hard to endure.

    The melody line of the propers, esp. when unaccompanied, is difficult for the modern ear to assimilate and recognize even after repeated hearings. It’s just a fact that listening to lengthy segments of unfamiliar music in Latin is very fatiguing for Catholics coming from the Novus Ordo Missae experience.

    It seems to me that including familiar traditional hymns and Gregorian chant melodies as found in the Liber Cantualis is a much more practical option in the parish setting. Msgr. Richard Schuler’s Masses were a good demonstration of this. The full choral music of the Mass and polyphonic hymns actually highlighted the pure simplicity of the propers.

    You know, we lay people in the pews are living in the world, not in a monastery. We need a satisfying sensory experience when we go to Sunday Mass. A bare, austere, monastic liturgical model is simply not going to appeal to modern Catholic sensibilities. Most Catholics would probably agree that we need to hear the gems of sacred hymnody gathered through the ages to replace the cacophony that surrounds us on a daily basis and, most of all, we need to SING the parts of the Mass and the hymns as a community, as our vocal, heartfelt response to the prayers of the priest. The act of singing together on a regular basis creates a strong affective bond among people which should be fostered.

    It has been my experience in many different congregations that people love to sing simple, dignified hymns, such as can be found in the Adoremus hymnal. It brings joy and a deep contentment to the people which should not be denied them.

    Sorry to disagree with you, Father, on this small point, but in my humble opinion, from a populist viewpoint, I have to insist that the ideal liturgical solution is to include the chanting of the propers by the schola AND traditional congregational hymns at the EF Sunday Mass.

  12. Cathomommy says:

    I have to agree with Catholicuspater. While I love the Gregorian chant, the chanting of the Mass parts etc, and recognize that they truly belong in the liturgy, I also think that the old polyphonic hymns (Faith of Our Fathers, Immaculate Mary, Soul of my Saviour, etc.) have value, as an processional and a recessional to the EF Mass. They are not only beautiful and dignified, but are also useful as a catechetical tool to both children and adults. We are currently teaching our children a different traditional hymn each week and sing it together before dinner, after the table blessing. Let me tell you, teaching young boys what the words of “Faith of Our Fathers” means leads to a very deep discussion! Singing such hymns congregationally at the beginning and end of Mass also builds up a sort of Catholic “esprit de corps,” the old sensus Catholicus that we really need in the face of modern society, and it does not interfere with the integrity of the EF.

  13. Catholicmommy: I also think that the old polyphonic hymns (Faith of Our Fathers, Immaculate Mary, Soul of my Saviour, etc.) have value, as an processional and a recessional to the EF Mass.

    A few comments.

    First, I recall as a Lutheran the congregation singing in harmony, but never in any serious way in a Catholic congregation.

    Also, the questions of the 4 hymn sandwich does not pertain only to the TLM but also the Novus Ordo… which is the Ordinary Form and far more widespread.

    Moreover, you make a good point about the processional and recessional. However, the Church does already have a processional… the Introit. It is certainly possible to do the one and then the other.

  14. Nathan says:

    Catholicuspater and Cathomommy: This is a tough one. I would be careful not to characterize the “liturgical traditionalst” position as an anti-hymn mentality (especially as carefully argued on blogs such as NLM). I would state the argument as:

    –in the OF, the most preferred processional is to be the Introit (entrance antiphon). A hymn is allowed, but is the least preferred of all the options.
    –if one substitues a hymn (however worthy) for the Introit, one engages in putting one’s own preferences and words into the official text of Holy Mass.
    –the constant subsitution of the texts from the Graduale–especially the Introit–have had a negative impact, in the whole, on the expression of the richness and fullness of the Church’s liturgy.

    Father Z is right–I’ve seen both a hymn and the Introit used for the procession in the OF, often very well. However, I think a some of us liturgical traditionalists tend to underestimate the “staying power” of strophed hymns and just how much they play a role in the spiritual lives of a lot of Catholics, those who go to either the TLM or Novus Ordo. I have family members whose primary memory of Mass during childhood was the hymn selections, and I think that my backwoods Methodist upbringing singing hymns in four-part harmony was a very positive part of my intitial formation.

    The solution in the TLM is fairly easy–even at High Mass, you can process with a hymn if the Aspereges is being done, with the Introit sung during vesting and the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. I would recommend an emphasis on congregations learning the chants from the Kyriale first, though.

    In the OF, I think a restoration of balance to regularly use the official texts, along with hymns where appropriate, would be spiritually helpful. The struggle there wouldn’t be with those who are anti-hymn, but with those who are fighting the banalization of much of what passes today as hymns (and is pushed hard by the establishment Catholic music publishers).

    In Christ,

  15. Central Valley says:

    “…now many Bishops following suit…” Nothing changing in the diocese of Fresno Ca. under the current bishop. Fresno is still in the 70’s with hand holding, extraordinary ministers distributing communion while the ordinaries sit down, junior priestesses (altargirls) recruited over male servers.

  16. Tom in NY says:

    The Lourdes Hymn (Immaculate Mary in English) has roots in a French folk tune; but the apparitions were “only” in the mid-19th century. Faber wrote “Faith of Our Fathers” in England about 20 years later. “Soul of My Savior” has older roots in a Latin hymn of the 15th cent. Palestrina and polyphony date to the 16th century, though d’Arezzo set up the Gregorian Chant notation near the first millenium.
    Choir members will need new sheet music to chant introits; the popular OCP and GIA offerings for OF don’t include introits.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  17. diezba says:

    On the hymn v. propers debate:—

    As I have mentioned in comments on this blog before, I’m involved in a Catholic Chaplaincy at a Top 20 university in a Southern U.S. state capital city. When our current chaplain first came to our campus, the Catholic community was in a shambles, thanks largely to our former chaplain. Under the leadership of the current priest, we have reignited the ministry with daily Mass, twice-weekly Adoration, and 6-days-per-week confessions (Father’s gotta have one day of rest, and even then, students can go to the 3-hour confession time at our diocese’s Cathedral Church, which is located adjacent to campus).

    The music at our Masses was in a similar shambles of OCP-style horror. Over the past year and a half, we have begun to embrace many of the ideas proposed on this website, including Benedictine altar arrangement and more Latin (and Greek—in the Kyrie, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei). Our daily masses also see the Gloria in Latin for feasts and solemnities (though we still use Vernacular translations for Sundays).

    Our most recent effort to align with the Hermeneutic of Continuity was to add the Entrance Antiphon from the Missal, the Offertory Antiphon from the Gregorian Missal (a vernacular translation), and the Communion Antiphon. For the entrance, we treat the processional hymn as a part of Pre-Mass devotions, with the Antiphon and Gloria Patri chanted to Mode V from the Gregorian tones by a cantor and then the congregation. For the Offertory, we chant the antiphon, then sing an offertory hymn. For communion, we chant the antiphon and then sing two hymns (the second of which is always ‘Tantum ergo sacramentum’ chanted to the traditional Gregorian melody). We have also begun to chant the Creed on a monotone. This joined our chanted collect, responsorial psalm, alleluia and verse, super oblata, preface dialogue, preface, mysterium fidei, final offering, the Lord’s Prayer, and the post communionem for a whopping 16 pieces of Gregorian chant.

    We were very, very nervous about introducing these changes: these, after all, are college students, who were born into a world the Catholic America that had known the very worst of the OF masses for 20 years. The reaction to the changes has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic, and we’re excited about where to go next.

    Our next “brick-by-brick” adaptation will be our priest learning the Gospel tone for chanting the entire Gospel during our Sunday masses. We’re also considering making the prayer of the faithful at least partially chanted.

    Please keep praying for us! We have firmly come to believe Fr. Z’s saying: “Save the liturgy, save the world!”

  18. chironomo says:

    Central Valley said:

    “…now many Bishops following suit…” Nothing changing in the diocese of Fresno Ca. under the current bishop. Fresno is still in the 70’s with hand holding, extraordinary ministers distributing communion while the ordinaries sit down, junior priestesses (altargirls) recruited over male servers.

    I know that the good fortune that has befallen on our Diocese of Venince (FL) has not yet come to rest everywhere. But there are more and more Bishops that are coming around. In many places that just might mean a Bishop that isn’t outright hostile to tradition. It sounds like that’s where you are right now!

    As the one who wrote the article being discussed here, I am gald to be able to relate an all-too-often lacking story of how the EF is alive and growing, even here in South Florida. In the Diocese, we had 1 Mass a week only two years ago…. now it is 18-20 (if you count daily Masses at Christ The King and Ave Maria). Quite a revoltion in my opinion….and mostly thanks to our Bishop Frank Dewane.

  19. Mitchell NY says:

    How I wish someone with lots of charitable money would take ads in papers across the US and would print this every 3 months for a year…I think this is much better that leaving it in a trust fund..It is doing something now and here to help people to understand what they may not even know about..If I had it I would do it..What a great article !

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