24 March 2007

Some Thoughts.

The rumours about the Motu Proprio are swirling yet again, and I have been thinking. Not about the release date- for that I have more faith in Curt Jester's random date generator than in any rumour I have heard- but about its impact.

One of the Masses I attend every week is the local indult Mass. The people who attend fall into two distinct categories. The first are elder people who attended the Mass years ago. The other group are younger people, in their twenties or thirties. (There is an entire generation in between the two that is almost entirely missing). Having attended for some months and speaking to people from both groups, I have some limited insight into what draws them.

The first and most obvious draw is Truth. The TLM is an uncompromising statement of the Catholic Faith, and both groups come to seek It at the Mass. Anything else I have to say is secondary to that one fact.

Mixed with this, the people are a little divided, largely by age. The elders want the Mass that they knew and loved. The younger are seeking a purity, or a transcendence, not found in the worldliness or timeliness of the NO. The motives can lead to some disagreement. I see that, for instance, in the music programs and the comments we get from the congregation. The elder crowd remembers hearing more songs in the Mass than we sing. They remember entrance hymns and recessionals, often in English. This is supported by the hymnals we have from the pre VII era- they all have large sections of hymns both in Latin and vernacular. The elders remember it well, and generally wish we would continue the old practice.

The younger crowd, on the other hand, generally want a perfection according to the rules. To them, this is the idealized Mass and they expect it to be ideal. And totally in Latin. The English hymns, some tell us, were never intended for use during the Mass, but are only for private devotion. The one time the choir did sing an English hymn (for a recessional- a double crime: there are supposed to be no recessionals in the TLM, the older people's memories notwithstanding) the parish received an angry letter stating that the choir should be removed immediately.

Music, though, is not my main point. Both sides have looked into the past to find what they want, either through memory or idealization. Here is the problem: They want the Mass as it stood in 1962. What will happen if it comes again into wider use?

The old Mass changed and evolved over time. Benedict himself recognizes this fact. If it comes into wider use again its evolution may start over. Both the young and the elders have fought and fought hard to have this Mass. Many travel long distances to come to it. They are unwilling to compromise. Several of them speak as owning the Mass either in whole or in part: Where's my Credo? My Gloria? My hymn? My Mass? If these people regard the Mass as "theirs", how can they allow the Mass to resume its evolution? How will they react to their part of the Mass being changed?

How will they react, I wonder, if other changes start to creep in? Would they accept, for instance, changes to the calendar made during the last forty years? Or changes to the readings to reflect years ABC? From what I have seen, the former is possible, the latter unlikely.

The Mass changed in the past, many times. It could still change. The question is, can the faithful?

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