Saturday, December 08, 2007

“Cantor” goes to a Tridentine Mass

Well, I did it. I hadn’t been to a TLM in some years, so upon the invitation of a friend, I got my lazy bones up in time to be at the local parish that regularly offers a TLM - heh, in this case, the TLM for Immaculate Conception was at 8am. (Cue the rant about the inconvenient times at which the TLM is offered.)

Full Gregorian propers and Ordinary were used (though I think it technically was still a low Mass). “Alma redemptoris mater” was sung as an offertory anthem, and I believe it was Victoria’s Ave Maria they sang as a postlude. The organ was used only to give a pitch to the priest, and I think just once.

A few observations:

1) I can see why people get swept up in the grandeur/mystery of what I witnessed; however, as many point out, none of these things is an innate difference between the OF and the EF.

2) The introit was good, and the communion was done ok. Much of the other singing (esp. the Gloria and Sanctus) was marred by one or two voices that were consistently off pitch. As I often tell my choirs, singing unison is like walking a tightrope - mistakes become very noticeable! Lots of the vowels got “splatty” - a pet peeve of mine. There was a nice delicacy in the musical lines.

3) The homily was nice and short. Good. The priest didn’t feel that it was his calling to prepare a lengthy oration, just to expound on the Mass texts.

4) Before I dismiss the practice of reading the readings at the altar ad orientem, can someone attempt to justify the practice to me (other than by tradition)? I can kinda see proclaiming the readings from different places, but why not facing the people

5) The first part of the homily was the reading of the readings in English; the congregation even made the motions and responses as if it were a regular part of the Mass. ISTM if we’re going to proclaim readings in Latin (an idea that I don’t dismiss!), we ought just to let them be as-is, hopefully also providing translations somehow.

6) The case for ad orientem would be strengthened in many parishes by the use of amplification and of using altars closer to the people than the far wall - neither of which was the case here.


At Saturday, December 08, 2007 1:01:00 PM, Anonymous Gavin said...

4) I gave this some thought, and I finally figured out a possible reason. In my Lutheran liturgy class in college, I learned that "praise is proclamation". That is to say, one praises God by telling what He did; the canticle of Moses is an obvious example. When you're doing an act of praise, it isn't necessary that everyone around you understand exactly what you mean (as Latin chant demonstrates, or I could use the example that just because there may be a non-Christian around doesn't mean we should speak in the most basic of terms). Therefore the scriptures function not only for edification (through the sermon) but also for an act of proclamation.

Now I agree 110% with you, and go farther to say that readings in vernacular ought to be all but mandated in the EF. The readings function best for teaching.

6) I'd have to see it in practice to comment. The last EF Mass I was at was celebrated at a low altar and I was in the 5th row or so. When the priest was addressing the congregation, I could hear it fine. Then again, if I were bishop the first thing I would do for all parishes, EF or OF, is institute a study to find which parishes really need amplification and which do not. My parish, for example, only needs them for the cantor (and a real pipe organ would eliminate that need). However, there's no way we could get away with ditching the microphones.

At Sunday, December 09, 2007 12:27:00 AM, Anonymous Alice said...

The case for ad orientem would be strengthened in many parishes by the use of amplification and of using altars closer to the people than the far wall - neither of which was the case here.

I'm not quite sure what your gripe is here. In the Mass, the priest acts in persona Christi as mediator between God and man. As such, it is not an absolute necessity for the faithful present to hear every word that he addresses to God. Since the rubrics for the Extraordinary Form prescribe that most of the prayers of the Offertory and Canon be silent, amplification seems more like an abuse than a necessity. When the priest needs to be heard by the people, he faces them ("Ecce Agnus Dei", "Ite Missa est", etc.)

As far as the altar being far from the nave, the idea of the altar of sacrifice being separated from the congregation is probably a carry-over from the Old Law. If nothing else, the traditional place for the choir is in the quire, between the altar and the nave.

If you are talking about the Ordinary Form, where the gathered people of God are supposed to hear and participate with every word, yes, amplification is necessary.

At Sunday, December 09, 2007 8:25:00 AM, Anonymous brandon field said...

(Cue the rant about the inconvenient times at which the TLM is offered.)

Oh, come on... 8am isn't that early, and anyway, you try fasting from midnight Saturday until 5pm Sunday for an evening mass. (Yes, I realize that the allowing of the EF doesn't require that this practice be reinstated, but still).

At Sunday, December 09, 2007 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Alice said...


It doesn't really matter one way or another, but the nerd in me must remind you that in 1962 the fast was from food only for 3 hrs. Liquids, such as broth and juice, were allowed until 1 hr. before Communion and water did not break the fast.

At Sunday, December 09, 2007 9:11:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...


First of all, if the choir sung the Propers and Ordinary, it was a High Mass. Period. At Low Mass, there is NO singing (possibly a hymn after Mass...)

As to orientem and the readings stuff...

You incorrectly assume that the Mass is "didactic" by nature. It's the wrong place to begin. It's also the reason that "vernacular" is irrelevant (as it is to the Greek Orthodox, Rumanian Orthodox Russian Orthodox, Jews...we can go on...)

Now, you could legitimately question why the priest says what the choir already sang (the Propers and the Ordinary)--which is a very good question. I mean, what's the choir? Chopped liver? A potted plant?

As to amplification (a pet peeve here...)

Amplification is required for only two reasons: either the priest is very poorly trained in public speaking (true in almost every case) OR the church is actually a carpet-lined coffin (or circus tent) making for horrible acoustics.

IF the church is a "shoebox" design with stone and wood reflecting surfaces, AND the priest is actually trained in public speaking, NO amplification should be used, period.

Good luck on that one, eh?

At Sunday, December 09, 2007 9:33:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Dear Dad29,

I have been under the impression that at a low Mass, there could be any singing by the choir and congregation that was desired because what the assembly/choir does is technically not part of the action of the Mass.

So, the full propers and Ordinary could be done at a low Mass....?

At Sunday, December 09, 2007 9:40:00 PM, Anonymous Gavin said...

Dad29 is in error. At the Low Mass there may be singing, but it is not part of the Mass, only a devotion by the congregation. However, there is a type of Low Mass called the "Missa Cantata" which is pretty much rubrically identical to the Low Mass except that the proper and ordinary are sung. This is the type of Mass my pastor would like to do next year.

At Monday, December 10, 2007 1:54:00 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

If lack of amplification was the ONLY difference between OF and EF, it would still make it worthwhile to attend the EF. Amplification completely destroys the prayerful contemplative nature of the sacrifice of the Mass.


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