I'm back from the First Sunday of Advent, experiencing the revised Roman Catholic liturgy for the first time. My main reaction is frustration that maybe about half the congregation appears even aware of some sort of change. About half are referencing the sheets, holding them in their hands. A few others are, like myself, holding a newsprint missal because no reasonably-priced Catholic publisher has released their offering yet. The rest don't seem to notice that they are no longer saying the right words.
The cantor did not pronounce "eleison" correctly. How could she, when she's so young, she's never heard it sung before1. Again, more frustration because I love a well-done Kyrie. I panicked when we appeared to skip the Gloria, suspecting that the priest thought the changes too much for us! But then I realized omitting it is prescribed during Advent.
Myself, I messed up the Creed, despite holding the missal inches from my face. I was following along, but a rubric appears between a couple of lines in the middle of the text and, as I read that direction silently to myself, I missed following the next line. Instead, I began on auto-pilot, "by the power of the Holy Spirit," before my eyes caught up again with the text.
The changes in the eucharistic prayer appeared even more drastic than they are because my pastor habitually uses one of the two "Reconciliation" prayers during Advent, which aren't very familiar anyway. The priest has always self-edited on the fly, with varying degrees of success, exchanging masculine pronouns for inclusive language wherever necessary. So it's fun to see how he modifies the revised prayer. I've never heard him refer to Mary as "Mother of God," much less now "glorious."2
The so-called "clunky" phraseology characteristic of Latin syntax, in which a prayer's main thought is interrupted almost from the get-go by a subordinate clause, reminds me of the prattle of an excited, tongue-tied child. I'm not sure this is the intended effect.
The disposable, annual missal includes the present pope's name, "Benedict," instead of the customary, generic "N." A first, no doubt.
As I approached for communion, I noticed that my fingertips were dirty from using the inexpensive, newsprint missal. The fresh print had rubbed off. How diligently I had tried to obtain a better quality book for myself before Sunday! I hesitated, then, to receive communion in my hand and so, was struck by the irony of it. "Hadn't traditionalists predicted the new liturgy would move us to a deeper reverence for the eucharist. But for such a reason as this?" I told myself it couldn't be helped.
I'm in the habit of tidying up the choir loft where we sit after everyone leaves. What used to be a quick, simple task has sprawled into something almost out of control, as I separate liturgical cheat sheets from church bulletins mindlessly mixed into the stack. And the presence of loose papers isn't ending anytime soon.
My prediction is the new liturgical words will not promote greater participation, no matter how reverent those words are perceived to be. In fact, reverence is considered pretentious, and Catholic laypeople shun pretense. Instead, as more people realize the old responses won't wash anymore, they'll simply stop responding. They'll close their mouths altogether and not bother learning the new words. So those altar servers better start speaking up!
UPDATED 12/9/2011: I've attended now five of these new liturgies, three Sundays, one weekday and the Immaculate Conception holy day. We've managed to say the Creed only once, on that first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday, a prolonged homily addressed to the confirmandi caused the Creed to be omitted. It was skipped at the weekday service, of course and, inexplicably, at the solemnity. I expect the Creed will not be routinely omitted, as it was, I recall, at St. Anselm's in Wayside under Fr. Bob.
At Bible study last night, a friend asked me what "prevenient" means. I told him. He said the word appeared in the offertory prayers for the Immaculate Conception liturgy and even the priest stumbled over the word. I don't actually remember hearing the word myself. My friend had gone home and looked up the word in the dictionary, having never heard it before and was surprised I knew the word. I told him "pre" means "before" and "venient" means "coming," like "vent" in "Advent." I know the word simply from having studied Wesleyanism ("prevenient grace" - Wiki).
1 I've been again since and she's been corrected by someone, singing it properly now.
2 However, at the Immaculate Conception liturgy - he struggles the most on the Marian holy days - he acknowledged Mary's intercession on our behalf.
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