My View For Awhile: Ordinary Form Edition

I am in my chilly native place at the moment.  Tomorrow, I’ll have the 10 AM Mass at my home parish, St. Agnes in St. Paul, where I have not been for a long while… too long.  The music is Haydn’s Nelsonmesse, called also the Missa in angustiis (Mass for Troubled Times) and also Gregorian chant for the Proper.  Angustiae are “narrows or straits, difficulties”.  I’d like to write “Mass in Dire Straights”, but that summons images of Mark Knopfler.  No guitar tomorrow.

It is rather dark, however.  The opening of the Kyrie sets the tone, though nothing can hold the Viennese buoyancy down for too long a stretch at a time.

The nickname “Nelson Mass” comes from its inception at the time of Admiral Nelson’s great 1798 Nile victory (which its the battle wherein fought Jack Aubrey).  All of Austria was filled with anxiety over the grinding away at Europe by Napoleon, thus, “Missa in angustiis“.  Also, Nelson may have attended a Mass with this music.

The Mass will be in the Ordinary Form, though celebrated – as usual at St. Agnes – as Romanly as can be with a strong dose of the ceremonies of Westminster Cathedral, with a dash of Brompton.   It has been years since I have sung the Roman Canon in Latin.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thank you for your dedication to the Roman Canon. It’s been sadly under-prayed for the past 40 or so years.

  2. acardnal says:

    frjim4321, something for you to aspire to at your parish.

  3. Charivari Rob says:

    It’s been years since I’ve sung that Mass. One of my favorite choral Masses.

  4. frjim4321 says:

    Well, I certainly hope this means that Our Genial Host is feeling much better?

    frjim4321, something for you to aspire to at your parish acardnal

    I’ll assign an appropriate priority rating to that.

    We are doing Handel at the Easter Vigil if I get any point for that.

  5. frjim4321 says:


  6. Geoffrey says:

    The Ordinary Form as it should be. We need more of these.

  7. Bonomo says:

    After hearing about that particular Mass for 20 or 30 years, I FINALLY got to it this past Sunday (10 January 2016). It was quite the positive experience to say the least!

  8. stephen c says:

    The Kyrie is amazing. I have flown over Minneapolis twice, both times in the winter – there is a lot of water there, mostly in the form of rivers – I used to fly a lot and flew over thousands of towns and dozens of cities and there is no more riverish city from the sky than Minneapolis. Sure there is one big river in Egypt but St Paul and Minneapolis seem to have a dozen little Niles comfortably flowing through them. I subscribed for a year or two, back in the 80s, to a small quarterly magazine devoted to sacred music that reviewed Haydn masses in Minneapolis in what, in retrospect, now seems every issue. Now I hear a well-trained small choir at least once a month, at a local church, a time zone or two away, whereas in the 80s I would hear choral music of that quality once a year at best. Something to be thankful for.

  9. Andreas says:

    It’s been a great many years since I last sang the glorious Nelson Mass; it was during Mass at St. Agnes with Monsignor Schuler conducting those of us in the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale. I very much wish I could have been there today when you celebrated Mass, Fr. Z.

  10. Fr. Z: “It has been years since I have sung the Roman Canon in Latin.”

    Would a recording be feasible?

  11. Incidentally, recommended for everyone but especially newcomers to the Mass in Latin (whether OF or EF): The 52-page booklet Commentary on the Latin Mass posted in the Articles section of the St. Agnes site. Parallel commentary on the OF and EF Masses illustrated by pairs of strikingly similar color photos of both at corresponding points in the two forms.

  12. Phil_NL says:

    We are doing Handel at the Easter Vigil if I get any points for that.

    You should get some – beautiful music that deserves a place on the Church’s highest Feast, and that will not have come to pass without some effort, maybe a lot of it.

    And that’s the general problem – it’s so hard to get the great orchestoral pieces / Masses performed at Mass. You need a building that’s big enough, has the acoustics, loads of professional musicians or volunteers who get close to that level… One reason to be jealous of the Viennese, who have ample supply of them all. (the other reason is Sachertorte, obviously).

  13. majuscule says:

    Henry Edwards–

    Thanks for the link to the beautiful Commentary!

    I’m always looking for resources that show the similarities between the two forms.

  14. PTK_70 says:

    For all its redeeming qualities, the OF of the Roman Rite in my experience is ill-suited for use with older musical Mass settings. I can recall singing Vierne’s Messe Solennelle from the choir loft while his Grace, the archbishop, (together with the congregation) was standing for 10 minutes – with apparently nothing to do – listening to us sing the Kyrie and Gloria back-to-back. (BTW, I heard of nothing but praise and gratitude for the music from His Grace.) OK, I suppose everyone could have been praying or thanking God for being able to worship Him in the midst of a stirring musical Mass setting, but my point is that I haven’t found this kind of discomfiture when a grand musical setting accompanies celebration of Mass according to the Dominican Rite or the extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. And this is one reason I am personally grateful for Summorum. But I’d like to ask, which are the older musical settings to the Mass that are more “compatible” with the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite?

  15. Joyful says:

    Enjoyed your homily today!

    [It would be interesting to have someone from the pews recount what they came away with from my sermon.]

  16. jilly4life says:

    PTK_70- At Saint Agnes, everyone sits if the “action” has stopped and the musical settings keep going. So everyone sits during the Kyrie and Gloria, and for most of the credo (except they kneel at the et incarnatus est). Now to be fair, the pews at Saint Agnes are their own kind of hair shirt, especially if you are larger than the average 1910, German immigrant.

    I know Monsignor Schuler, edited the text of Haydn’s Missa Brevis (Little Organ Solo Mass), so that it could be used. It is pretty short, with less waiting time.

    I personally prefer the OF in Latin, (even with the classical Mass settings), compared with the EF with these great mass settings. Maybe it is because I grew up in the English OF, bereft of Latin, but on the few times my parish would sing Tantum Ergo, and O Salutaris, but I love to respond to the prayers in Latin and hear the language rolling off the tongues of the congregation. Saint Agnes recently switched to a weekly low EF early in the morning, and their High Mass is the Latin OF. I do not get to attend as often as I would like.

  17. PTK_70: “I can recall singing Vierne’s Messe Solennelle from the choir loft while his Grace, the archbishop, (together with the congregation) was standing for 10 minutes – with apparently nothing to do – listening to us sing the Kyrie and Gloria back-to-back. ”

    Why should not the celebrant and congregation sit at such times?

  18. PTK_70 says:

    While I was not in the pews at St. Agnes (being somewhere further north), I appreciate Fr. Z’s homiletic notes concluding with the reflection: “The water that we give in works of mercy can be transformed by Christ into joy in others.” Thank you, Fr. Z.

    @jilly4life……thank you for the suggestion of Haydn’s Missa Brevis.

    @Henry Edwards……Sitting or standing, I submit that a “discomfiture” remains. Please know this not an attempt to inveigh against the ordinary Form. I write this from the perspective of a pew sitter who has some choral background and not as a bonafide (or even self-styled) liturgical expert.

  19. Imrahil says:

    With all due respect, reverend Father,

    the “ordinary” in the English “Ordinary time”, as well as the simple Latin expression “per annum”, actually is supposed to mean “unexceptional”.

    Not as compared with the everyday life, or (for Sundays) with ferias, of course, but yes as compared with the marked times of the Christmas or Easter season. These are the ordinary Sundays and the others are the exceptional ones (by comparison with them).

    Which is why the old counting of “after Epiphany” and “after Pentecost” had so much more flair… still, admittedly the “per annum” thing isn’t entirely untraditional, see the green color, the Missa XI on the Kyriale, and so on.

    (Only us Germans can’t do without at least a tiny bit of Romanticism, and call the thing “within the annual circle.)

  20. Fr. W says:

    Truly a beautiful piece of music. But I wonder if it was composed for the Mass or if the Mass was simply the pretext for its composition. Perhaps “pop” music used to keep people engaged or entertained at Mass is not a new phenomenon. Without question such wonderful music has, I believe, a lasting and unquestionable musical integrity and lifts the spirit. But such orchestral settings may also perhaps simply have been composed in part or primarily to appeal to human emotion and to serve as an opportunity for the composer’s self expression and technical proficiency. Would be interesting to learn if such compositions became popular as they filled a void caused by a lack of understanding on the part of some regarding the essence of the Mass and played some part in the Church’s movement for liturgical reform in the later part of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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