Magazine article New Oxford Review

A Dialogue of Forms

Magazine article New Oxford Review

A Dialogue of Forms

Article excerpt

This July marks the eighth anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVPs promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, his motu proprio permitting any Latin-rite priest to celebrate Mass, the Divine Office, and the sacraments according to the 1962 missal and similar liturgical books. The Holy Father established the Mass of Paul VI as the "ordinary" form of the Eucharist, and the Mass according to the 1962Missal as the "extraordinary" form. In an accompanying letter to bishops, he wrote that "the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching, " and he suggested new saints and Prefaces be inserted into the 1962Missal, as an example of such enrichment. Recently, the Extraordinary Form (EF) and Ordinary Form (OF) sat down to discuss the first eight years of their formal co-existence, and invited me (ME) to record and moderate the conversation.

ME: Thank you both for agreeing to discuss the first eight years of your formal co-existence as two complementary forms of the Mass. I'd like to suggest some simple ground rules for our conversation.

EF: Quid lex?

ME: First, we need to express ourselves in English, so that our readers can easily understand us.

OF: Agreed.

EF: Placet. Agreed.

ME: Second, we need to stay aware of Pope Benedict's concern that the dialogue strengthen the unity of the Church and increase the respect that is due to both forms.

EF: But I have suffered so much disrespect over the past fifty years. I was considered obsolete while "hootenanny" Masses, "polka" Masses, and those infernal amplifiers and drum sets proliferated. How are those in any way "ordinary"?

OF: Hey now, many of those Masses were experimental, and the experimental period ended in the 1980s. I admit that abuses of my form have happened and continue to happen, but what about the fifteen- and twenty-minute Sunday Masses of the preconciliar period? What about the priests whose last blessing ended with their only English admonition, "Let's clear the parking lot"?

ME: Okay, okay. Settle down, you two. Can you both get over the past for a bit and talk about how both forms are best celebrated?

After a few minutes of reconciling talk and laughter about the stupid things humans do because of original sin, they agree to do so.

OF: I observed the best celebrations of your form at the 2014 annual Colloquium of the Church Music Association of America. And I must admit that, although I had trouble with all the Latin, the experience was moving. There was such beauty, almost dance-like, in the procession of the many clergy and acolytes - most of them young seminarians from all over North America!

EF: I was at that conference, and I much admired the celebrations of your form. There were more of yours than of mine - but I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Two were in English and two were in Latin. The use of the new chant settings for the proper of the Mass gave a shot of Scripture in the places where you usually suffer the shopworn hymns from Marty Haugen and his contemporaries. And I have never heard the English Missal settings of the Gloria and Sanctus so vigorously sung by a congregation and artistically accompanied on the pipe organ.

OF: I was so proud of those celebrations. Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin was the principal celebrant of the concluding Sunday Mass. The old church of St. John the Evangelist in Indianapolis really rang with praise. And where did they get that invigorating English version of the profession of faith?

EF: Ah, and don't forget the whole gathering of participants singing Mozart's Ave Verum and Bruckner's Ave Maria at the first and last Masses. The resonant acoustics of that church and the reverent treatment of the prayers brought tears to many eyes.

ME: So, what did you learn during the colloquium about the ways you can enrich each other?

EF: Well, there was only one "singing deacon" and he was on the faculty conducting a schola, so most of the time the ministry of subdeacon, which any deacon can perform, was assigned to a priest. …

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