Saturday, November 26, 2011

My husband says I'm obsessed. He's probably right.

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.

Comparison of Immaculate Conception prayers
Click to enlarge


Carol@simple_catholic said...

Reading your post makes me feel really lucky. Our parish had classes for several weeks beforehand, explaining why the changes were happening. We also spent a couple of weeks practicing the new forms before they became official, so the transition (although not without hiccups) has been rather smooth.

However, as you noted, I haven't seen any change in regards to reverence toward the Sacred Liturgy, either - which is a shame.

Moonshadow said...

Believe it or not, I think my pastor took the best possible approach with the congregation, not saying anything until late October.

But, going so long without hearing from him or any of his staff on this, I seriously doubted he'd implement the changes. I'm not kidding.

I've actually developed the most sympathy for him because of the changes he's had to adopt. Compared with those, the laity have nothing to grumble about.

Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

RAnn said...

I seriously doubt the revised responses will promote more reverence in the future and right now, they are just distracting. I'm sure we'll adopt, and "and with your spirit" will become as automatic as "and also with you", but those seeking reverence would have been disappointed at my parish last week--every time he said "The Lord be with you" my pastor held up a sign that said "And with your spirit". We had pew cards, and the responses were also projected, but the "The Lord be with you" sequences come so quickly and are so automatic that it's hard to change.

Moonshadow said...

He didn't! I'm appalled.

I've read so many people say they're trying to memorize the changes right away but yes, doesn't that defeat the objective of hearing things fresh? Or was that angle simply a selling point? Eh, it's very human to want a routine.

Anonymous said...

Our priest also didn't say anything until November about the new changes. I prepared on my own and I still use the card carefully. However, I do remember many of these responses from my early childhood (before they changed) and that definitely helps.

Barbara Schoeneberger said...

I believe it's too early to see changes in reverence. Participation as in "actio participatio" from the Vatican II "Sacrosanctum Concilium" document means "interior participation" with the heart and mind, not necessarily what we see outside. This is something that had concerned the 20th century Popes from St. Pius X on, hence Vatican II emphasized it.

Overall, I think it is best to be patient and meditate on the words outside of Mass. If people aren't willing to do that, well... I don't think we should get hung up on doing things perfectly. Just do the best we can.

Barbara Schoeneberger said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I answered your question on my blog.

Moonshadow said...

I'll check for your answer, Barb, thank you.

I just read the relevant paragraphs of SC and active participation means both interior and exterior:

"19. With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture."

Please let me know if I've misunderstood you or the document.

RAnn said...

Yes, he did. This week the sign was taped to a stand in front of the altar.

I think the reality is that for that particular response, given that it is a lead in, and sometimes by itself, away from other congregational prayers, you have two choices: you can ignore the wrong response, in which case it is going to take a LONG time for it to go away--it is just too automatic with us Catholics or you can do something to call everyone's mind to it. This week we "got" all but one of them--the one before the gospel had only a couple of "and with your spirits".

Moonshadow said...

RAnn, I've noticed the ministers at my parish seem overly apprehensive when they say, "The Lord be with you," because they aren't sure what they're going to get back. But overall, the responses were certainly better this morning than they've been.