Thursday, 4 December 2014
Clergy, the Youth and The Traditional Mass
Ever since coming to this parish I have instructed First Holy Communion children on the how and the why of to receiving kneeling and on the tongue. They happily follow this for a while then suddenly begin to stop to receive standing and on the hand. I don’t think this is because they think it is the adult method, because a number of adults receive kneeling and on the tongue. Rather, I suspect it is instruction from parents and grandparents who do not like to receive on the tongue ‘de-instructing’ the children. That they cannot humble themselves to ‘stick their tongue out’ as they describe it, nor bend the knee, is an attitude they should not be forming their children in. But there is much prejudice about all the Traditional liturgical forms.
It is possible to invite clergy to attend the Extraordinary Form in choir and to receive a polite ‘no thank you’ simply because they have had a prejudiced view of the Extraordinary Form given by the seminary. In our time we (late eighties, early nineties) were told ‘the Old Mass was priest-centred; a nonsense in that the priest was saying something quietly while the choir was singing; bad to have one’s back to the people and use a language they didn’t understand’. These prejudices were then handed on to the people, and still thrive.
Why was the Traditional Form the subject of such negative, disparaging talk? The answer is simple: when you have had something you have extolled for nigh on two thousand years it has to be criticised in the sharpest of terms in order to justify putting it in the bin. Now if the New Rite is so superior to the Old it would have naturally displaced the Old; I believe that the New Form was imposed because they knew it would not be chosen freely at the time. It is also true that the Church could not forbid what she had declared sacred for century upon century without saying she cannot be trusted liturgically, for by saying this she automatically undercuts promotion of her new liturgical form too.
The criticisms levelled against the Old Form are in fact completely wrong: the new form is much more priest-centred in that he faces the people, engages with them as an entertainer -even his chair replaces the tabernacle at the apex of the sacred space. As for saying something quietly while the choir was singing, this provides for the Mass to be a symphony of voices, while ‘having one’s back to the people’ is actually leading from the front, like a Drum major uniting the band behind him. As for using a language the folk did not understand, most Catholics did know Latin: they learned it at school, and in any case, use of a sacred language for worship is a mark of the great religions: Judaism using Hebrew; Islam using Arabic, Christianity using Latin.
Simply put, the negative ‘Frame of Reference’ used by those who disparage the Old Form of Mass needs to be challenged and corrected.