I had heard about the following article which appeared in the Diocese of Spokane’s Inland Register previously when part of it was read on EWTN’s Open Line. I had searched for it before, but it wasn’t yet available. Via Free Republic I see it is now available.
I was recently watching a part of the daily televised liturgy on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). The liturgy there is an odd mix of English and Latin, while following the texts of the current Roman Missal. The priest and ministers of the liturgy look way too somber and serious. The ritual is performed with all the exaggerated exactness of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy. The Mass is overly formal and mechanical. Needless to say, there are no women allowed in the sanctuary area, there is no procession with the gifts, no Sign of Peace, and, of course, no Communion from the cup for the lay people who are present. The liturgy, in effect, is unlike anything that Catholics experience in the vast majority of Catholic parish churches.
Exactly true that the Mass on EWTN is unlike what most Catholics experience. A Mass with no liturgical abuses is rare indeed. A Mass that actually follows that intent and documents of Vatican II and have not banished Latin to the outer darkness. A Mass that is reverent and includes on experimentation is certainly unlike what most Catholic experience. Though my parish has both the Tridentine indult and on the first Sunday of the month has the new Mass like on EWTN.
I am certain that the planners of these liturgies would explain their differences from parish liturgies with the familiar refrain that the post Vatican II liturgical reforms have taken too much of the mystery away from the Holy Mass. Certainly, they say, allowing the congregation full, active and conscious participation in the ritual is what empties the rites of their mystery, so the further we keep the secular congregation away from the clerical activity and space, the better to preserve the liturgy’s mystery. Thus the need to eliminate any personal touch with the lay folks, and, by all means, do not allow them to communicate with each other, even to wish one’s neighbor the peace of the risen Christ. (One wonders what these people think of the pope as he hugs and kisses the children who present him with the gifts to be offered, giving each of them a small gift as a remembrance of the liturgy. Perhaps it is all right for the pope to be warm and personable during the liturgy, but inappropriate for lesser souls.)
"Certainly, they say, allowing the congregation full, active and conscious participation in the ritual is what empties the rites of their mystery." This is just total nonsense. Nobody make this claim. What is argued that active participation means active prayerful participation and not just things for the people in pew to do during Mass. It is also ridiculous to assert that EWTN sees the need to eliminate the personal touch with lay folk. Exactly who does he think is watching and contributing to the network? The homilies given are usually warm and personable and not some cold edict delivered from the pulpit.
I think the folks responsible for these stuffy liturgies are confusing mystery with mystification. Rites that express mystery will invite people into the unknown, into what lies beyond the action of the ritual. Liturgy done well this way will cause people to ask, “How does this ritual which I can see, and in which I am participating, lead me more deeply into the beyond, into life of the God of mystery whom I cannot see?” Mystification, on the other hand, leads one to ask, “What on earth does that mean, and why in God’s name is he doing that?”
So liturgy celebrated within the liturgical guidelines is now stuffy? Though he might be right about mystification. Some Masses I attend I am mystified and ask myself “What on earth does that mean, and why in God’s name is he doing that?” Though I don’t think my reaction to liturgical oddities is what he was driving at.
“We know that birettas and fiddle-back chasubles, mumbled (and often mangled) Latin, and truly execrable renditions of Gregorian chant were no more aesthetically than theologically impressive. Having lived through ‘speed-typing’ Masses guaranteed to last no more than twenty minutes, we can point to the greater seriousness, even greater solemnity, of parish worship today. Those who call contemporary worship insufficiently sacred literally do not know what they are talking about.
No doubt there was reform needed in the Church and that Masses said like somebody hit the fast-forward button did not lead to worship. The answer to poorly sung Gregorian Chant is not banishment of chant but better training. Though I would rather hear badly sung chant then the majority of modern hymns sung well.
“As for the growing similarity among the Eucharistic celebrations of Catholics and Protestants, we should rejoice that Catholics now feel at home at Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian worship, and that our Protestant neighbors have gained much through our process of renewal and reform. The Catholic form of worship remains a strong motivation for conversion among adults. As we have known all along, God works powerfully through the words and gestures of the liturgy; the hard work of renewal has served to make God’s work plain and public each Sunday when we gather as ‘church.’”
Isn’t this paragraph a contradiction. First he says we should rejoice about the similarity of the Mass and Protestant worship and then says it remains a strong motivation for conversion among adults. Making God’s work plain doesn’t mean to make the Mass itself plain. I bet their are a lot of Masses in his own diocese that need critiquing compared to EWTN’s Mass.
Of course you won’t be surprised to read that Fr. Larson is liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle.