Monday, November 28, 2011

Mystagogy Monday: Week One

Welcome to the first of probably many "Mystagogy Mondays," days for us to reflect on our experience of the new translation of The Roman Missal, Third Edition.

Yesterday at Mass, I was ready, with worship aid in hand.
The parish music director set the sign of the cross and greeting to an orginal setting that picked up the motifs of the music of the beautiful Advent Gathering Rite musical setting he had chosen for us. He did this so that we wouldn't be singing the sign of the cross and greeting using the simple musical setting we have sung for a few years. I thought this was a very smart move: new words, new music. Unfortunately, the celebrant got musically confused and didn't sing what was written in our worship aids for the sign of the cross and greeting. His autopilot kicked in and he reverted to the older setting, so it just fell apart. Something similar occurred later. The preface dialogue chant from the Roman Missal was printed in our worship aids. I looked forward to singing the official chant. But the celebrant didn't sing the chant as written. Instead, he sang the melody he has been singing for years for the preface dialogue. That fell apart as well. I really felt badly for the guy. Perhaps way too much to handle on the first Sunday of implementation.

Most people in the church were fine with these stumblings and perhaps I should have been as well. And perhaps my expectations are too high, given the fact that this new translation has been such a part of my life for so long. There was a lot for the celebrant to prepare, for sure. He prayed the orations slowly, deliberately, and with care. The prayer after communion for the First Sunday of Advent still makes no sense to me. I am looking forward to the next few weeks as these bumps get ironed out.

On the more positive side, the celebrant's subject for the homily was the text of the newly translated collect. It was a brilliant homily.

The only inspiring moment for me with the new texts was the latter portion of Eucharistic Prayer III. Just lovely.

"For many." I understand the theology, but it saddened me.

"Consubstantial." Didn't seem like such a big deal.

"Chalice." Three times during the institution narrative is too much.

These are my initial observations.


Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Geoff said...

I had two different experiences yesterday. At the parish I attend in the morning, things went very smoothly. Most everyone used the worship aids and the only "and also with you" that I heard was the final one at the end of Mass. By that time everyone had put their aids down and went into "auto pilot". The presider smiled and just said, "and with your spirit is what you now say." This particular priest always celebrates the liturgy with great care and prayerfulness and yesterday was no exception. He was well prepared and didn't stumble over anything. We chanted the preface dialogue without a hitch. He also chanted all the presidential prayers which I think helped them "come alive." I walked away from Mass more annoyed with the music selections than I did with the new prayers and responses ("The King of Glory," "Turn to Me", and something completely non-Advent for communion).

I direct a choir in the evening at another parish and that experience was a little different. At this Mass, they don't use the prayers in the sacramentary for the Opening Prayer or the Prayer after Communion. Both prayers that were written for the liturgy were beautiful and captured the scriptural texts nicely. I have to admit I preferred them to the "official" ones! When it came time for the Creed, the priest joked that many of the phrases in the Nicene Creed had been changed and, despite the fact that we now will say "consubstantial" he didn't think anyone still knows what that means so we used the Apostle's Creed. the morning we also used the Apostle's Creed. I am wondering if this will become the standard practice now that this is an option.

In both places, the priest added "and for all your holy people" after the prayers for the pope, the bishops, and the clergy. I have a feeling that many priests will retain this practice.

My general impressions: I don't think it is going to be as disastrous as we (I) had predicted. I already miss the old Eucharistic Prayers; the new ones just seem wordy and convoluted. "Like the dew fall" is a beautiful addition. "Chalice" is just too elevated a word for what Jesus actually did at the last supper. "For many" wasn't as offensive as I had thought it would be. Chanting really helps lift the prayers from the page.

After months of being upset about all of this, I walked away last night with a "whatever" kind of reaction. Perhaps said; but true.

Paul said...

Things went OK. We had an excellent Worship Aid prepared which contained all the responses and music in one place. However, the new prayers are clunky and hard to understand. They just don't make sense. The people's parts went well, but the Presider really struggled.

Jeffrey Herbert said...

Geoff's reaction above seems to be the typical one for those who may have been expecting worse. Even Fr. Ruff came to the conclusion that the anxiety was perhaps blown out of proportion and decided that the new texts, with some exceptions of course, were in general quite nice. This certainly didn't surprise me.

As you surely know, my thoughts and comments for the past two years were much in line with what now seems to be the reality. It was far less of a "big deal" for the vast majority of the PiP's, and once put into practice, the new texts are, well, quite a lot like the old texts, just new. The new settings will be learned and sung as the old one were (I still have my doubts about revised settings, particularly of the Gloria, but that's a different post!)and eventually everyone will learn the new texts, the pew cards will go into a storage box or the trash bin, and we will all move on, soon forgetting how the old texts even went.

There was a very interesting moment at dinner on Sunday evening at our home. I was explaining to our children (K, 6th grade, 8th grade and 9th grade) why they were going to hear new texts at Mass tonight as we attend a Sunday evening Mass as a family at our home parish rather than at the parish where I am Director. Anyway, I noted that the actual Mass texts are in Latin, and it is the translation that is changing, not the Mass texts themselves. My 6th grade daughter came up with this: "If there were problems with the old translation, and there's problems with the new translation, why not just say it in Latin? That would be cool."

My, oh my, how things are changing!

Paul said...

It would actually be better to have a true english edition. There is no reason to translate anything from Latin, it's a dead language. We worship God, not Rome.

Geoff said...

Paul has expressed my sentiments exactly! Which is why the Opening Prayer I heard on Sunday evening was so was not translated from anything. After reflecting on the scripture texts for the day, someone (who knows who) had composed a prayer entirely in English. And it made all the difference in the world. The sad thing is that I listened intently to that prayer because it drew me into the liturgy. I listened intently to the official prayer in the morning because I was trying to figure out where it was going. said...

What an assault on God's holy people to deprive them of the richness of the tradition and our right to have a liturgy as given to us by God through Holy Mother Church. We should be praying for conversion of the parish that mutilated the liturgy with such self-composed texts, rather than celebrating its disobedience and sinful pride.

Paul said...

peregranus: It's not an assault to "deprive them" of anything, if they can't understand it.

Geoff said...

Peregrinus, I do not think that the parish I spoke of was being "willingly disobedient" nor do I believe that the liturgy has been "given to us by God." What history clearly shows us is that the liturgy has been amended, modified, expanded, translated, etc throughout the history of our church. While the liturgy we pray today is reminiscent of the ancient liturgies, it is not exactly the same. Nor would I want it to be. There was a time in the history of the Catholic church when liturgies were organic to the places they were celebrated. There was unity, but not necessarily conformity. This is what I experienced Sunday evening: the people of God attempting to express their prayer in language that illuminated the scriptural texts in language that fit with that community. For several years, I was a liturgy director at a large parish where we used the ICEL Opening Prayers almost every Sunday. We were a parish that took the liturgy seriously and had wonderful Spirit-filled worship. I know many will disagree with me, but I just believe that sometimes we have to make pastoral decisions that reflect the spirit of the church's documents, if not necessarily the letter of them. I have tried very hard not to vilify the "other side". If someone wants to celebrate the Mass in may not be how I wish to pray, but it obviously helps them come closer to God. How can I fault that? "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

Liam said...

Chalice is a clunker in the Institution Narrative, pure and simple. It's prissy. Cup is rich and resonant.

Consubstantial is meh. Of one substance is better than it or one in being.