I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the changes to the Mass which will go into effect later this year (see Orthometer for the official Countdown Timer). I ordered a copy of Catholic Update Guide to The Mass (St. Anthony Messenger Press) to help me memorize the new wording and to better understand the reason for the changes.
It’s only 48 pages; I read it in an hour. The third and final chapter, by Fr. Lawrence Mick, was the really helpful and informative part. Father Mick does a fine job laying out the exact changes, what to say, when to say it, with some brief explanations.
The first two chapters, by Fr. Tom Richstatter, O.F.M., were intended to put the Mass updates in context with questions like “why do we go to Mass?” and “how has the Mass changed over time?” Father Richstatter (judging from his writing style) strikes me as a warm, generous man who is probably an excellent pastor, but I had trouble with some of his points.
First, there is a lot of effort to calm the reader, as if there was serious concern at St. Anthony Messenger Press that people are going to be deeply freaked out by the updates. It isn’t necessary; the changes aren’t THAT huge.
Second, Father Richstatter, in sincerely trying to put the reader at ease, seems too eager to justify the removal of good things which have always been important to the Church.
An example. In a section entitled “Where Did the Beauty Go?” he addresses the obvious loss of “magnificence” in our modern liturgical celebrations. He remembers “with nostalgia..the dozens of candles on the altars, the smell of the incense, the glitter of the spotlights on the gold thread in the priests’ vestments…the monstrance with its jewels…Where did the beauty go? Where is the grandeur? What has happened to my devotion?”
His response to the anguish that many of us share over the absence of beauty at Mass these days is: “I can only say that I am getting a new perspective. I see a new beauty and a new grandeur. It takes a different eye to see my God in the faces of my sisters and brothers with whom I share the broken bread…Today I judge whether a liturgy is “good” or “bad” not by the number of candles that are lit, nor by the cost of the vestments…Today a “good” liturgy is one which transforms me and my fellow parishioners…”
I agree completely with Father that if the liturgy doesn’t transform us interiorly then all the externals, no matter how costly or beautiful, are pointless. But why would the absence of beauty necessarily aid that interior transformation?
It’s fair enough to say that earthly beauty can be a distraction; keeping in mind that the intention behind its use is to give glory to God and to draw us closer to Him by virtue of its faint resemblance to His awesome beauty.
But is Father right in suggesting that the mundaneities of the modern celebration of the liturgy do a better job at that? Keep in mind the sad reality of what we’re talking about here: the lack of décor; the irreverent conversing and gum-chewing; the childish felt banners in place of statues; clanging acoustic guitars and pounding drum sets instead of well-trained choirs and finely played pipe organs; low-pile dentist office carpet and folding chairs instead of polished marble floors and strong, wooden pews; arbitrary, nonsensical digressions from the rubrics of the Mass to satisfy the egotistical whims of irresponsible priests…you get my point, I hope.
The modern liturgy is positively starving for some beauty and grandeur; it might even get some people’s minds off of themselves and thinking about the God of beauty and magnificence Whom we all worship.
I hope, if Father Tom Richstatter is reading this, I haven’t offended him; like I pointed out, he seems to be a very pastoral, big-hearted man. I disagree with his conclusions, is all. What about you?