I do confess that it is sometimes disconcerting while saying Mass in the Extraordinary Form, to turn around, say “Dominus vobiscum” and not even hear crickets in return and barely a chirp from the server(s). I have gotten used to this, over the years, of course, but it is still strange.
Of course we keep in mind that, when talking about the Extraordinary Form, the classic view is that the sacred texts of Holy Mass are ideally pronounced only by clerics. By extension they are pronounced by those who substitute for clerics. Nevertheless, quite a while before the Second Vatican Council, certainly under the influence of the Liturgical Movement, Popes and the Congregation for Rites had already made provisions for different levels of responses on the part of the congregation.
The “dialogue Mass” was born.
So… how does the dialogue Mass fit with our use the provisions of Summorum Pontificum? They are certainly permitted, since they were permitted at the time the 1962 books were in force.
From a priest:
Father, thanks for all you do. I have started an extraordinary form Low Mass at my parish and I was wondering about the peoples responses in the Mass. It seems this issue becomes black and white for many, i.e. no responses at all or always a full dialogue Mass. My grandmother’s old Missal shows there were/are 4 degrees of dialogue – the highest degree is when people make all the server’s responses and the lowest degree is when the people say a few of the short responses (et cum spiritu tuo, deo gratias). I find the later, the lowest degree, to be the most suitable as it seems to keep the integrity and solemnity of the older form without denying the people some vocal responses. I find that the full dialogue seems to harm the solemnity of the Mass. For instance, I find that when the people respond to the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Mass is rather noisy and impersonal for the priest. Any thoughts or comments?
“For the priest….” Okay. Welllll… Mass isn’t all about Father. Yes, it’s “Father’s Mass”, in that he is the single indispensable person present. It is good when he focused on doing his part well and he is recollected. But if the doors are open, it is a scheduled Mass, then, by their baptism, people also participate in a genuine way. But “for the priest…”,… yes, sure. I think the priest should, for the most part, just focus on performing his role properly, saying the black and doing the red, without screwing up or imposing himself on the action.
Much of this hinges also on what we mean by “active participation”.
“Active participation” applies just as much to participation in the older form of Mass as in the newer. The problem is that the very notion of “active participation” has been distorted beyond recognition by many of the liberal liturgist stripe to mean singing every word, clapping, carrying stuff around, taking liturgical roles that properly belong to the priest, etc. On the other hand, what the Church really means by “active participation” must begin with an interior activity which at proper moments and ways leads to an outward expression.
To take this another step, only the baptized are able to participate in the sense meant by the Church. Only the baptized, through their common priesthood, are able to join their sense of sacrifice to that of the ordained priest. Only the baptized receive the graces that come from reception of the Eucharist. In fact, just before the Council in a document on sacred music, there is a description of the most perfect form of “active participation”: reception of Holy Communion in the state of grace. It really all comes together in that, no? “Active participation” is first and foremost our active receptivity to what Christ is offering through the sacred mysteries of our liturgical worship. Reception of Holy Communion requires that the baptized person in harmony with the Body of Christ the Church be properly disposed physically and spiritually to receive. They then physically, that is outwardly, get up, go forward, and in a physical action receive. At other times they engage their will to receive by listening, watching, then inwardly pondering and weighing, etc. I once gave a sermon on this issue of active participation in light of the Magnificat and Mary’s pondering of mysterious things before giving outward expression.
That said, since “active participation” should lead to outward expression, it is hard to find fault with the Catholic who, with the Church’s permission, says “Dominus vobiscum” when sitting in the pews, or even sings it with the choir! At the same time, I cannot find a reason to fault a person who wants to be quiet and even say the Rosary, just being there, as it were, and then receiving Communion… or not. We all have different ways to participate at different moments in our lives.
We also have to consider liturgical decorum. We have to weigh what is aptum et pulchrum, the signs and outward expressions which are fitting for liturgical worship. It may be that bad singing is, after all, not actually apt for liturgical worship. I have had the experience of an entire congregation singing well the whole Gregorian Chant ordinary. It was great. On the other hand, if a congregation isn’t ready to sing things, then it may be good to wait until they can and provide instruction until they can.
This is a complicated question and, frankly, I don’t think there is a single answer for all circumstances. A good deal rests on the sensibilities and abilities of the congregation. I don’t think there should be rigid uniformity in this. Each community is going to have to find their mode of doing things in this regard, always under the prudent and well-informed tutelage of the priest.
Again, remember that this “dialogue”, at different levels, was in fact permitted quite a while before the Council.
Just so that people don’t have to ask, here in a nutshell are the degrees that were permitted.
The parts that could be said or sung by the congregation were of two kinds: the parts to be sung at High Mass (Pontifical, Solemn, Sung), and the parts which are responses of the ministers or the server at Low Mass. Keep in mind that the servers and ministers responded on behalf of the congregation. The 1958 document Musica sacra, alluded to above, divides dialogue Masses down into four degrees of outward, vocal expression. In a nutshell,
- The congregation makes the shorter responses such as the Amen, Deo gratias, Et cum spiritu tuo along with the servers.
- Same as above but adding all the responses of the servers, including the prayers at the foot of the altar, Second Confiteor where used, etc..
- Same as above adding the Ordinary (e.g. Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc.) together with the priest and/or choir.
- Same as above adding even the Propers (Introit, etc.) with the priest and/or choir.
Certain texts of the Mass are reserved to the priest, and should never be said aloud by the faithful. Period.
Another problem arises from a divided congregation: some want to respond while others do not. Also, sometimes the priest wants no responses but the congregation does, etc. It would probably be a good idea for priests and people to be on the same page with this and, for visitors, make know what is done in some particular place through a note in the bulletin, hand out, etc.
Let’s have poll. Chose your best answer – I won’t be able to cover all possibilities – and leave your comment in the combox. You don’t have to be registered to vote.
Do not engage each other. Let others have their say without fear of being attacked.
Think about this, have some Mystic Monk Coffee, and vote.
I think you can pick TWO answers.