Monday, December 01, 2008

Missa Bizarra

I blame Paul VI. It’s all his fault.

The words echo in my head still; should’ve gone to Harrington Street... should’ve gone to Harrington Street... ah, hindsight is such a wonderful thing!

But Melancholicus was still lying abed when the holy sacrifice was offered today at 8am in Harrington Street, so if he desired to hear Mass today, it would by force of necessity have to be according to the rich and lovely rite of Pope Paul VI.

It now being a new ecclesiastical year, and inspired by Pius Parsch’s recommendation of sanctifying this season of Advent with earlier rising and daily Mass, Melancholicus decided that even if the earlier rising were not much in evidence today, he would at least hear Mass in the university chapel before taking his lunch.

The “daily Mass” extolled by Pius Parsch was of course the traditional Latin Mass, the clown-ridden, de-sacralized monkey-fest of the novus ordo being unknown in his day. Melancholicus ought to have remembered that.

But, like a battered wife who keeps returning to the relentless beatings meted out by a violent husband in the deluded expectation that he must eventually change, or that the fault lies not with the abuser but with herself, Melancholicus persists in going to the novus ordo in the naive belief that “it will surely be different next time!”, and that his judgements on contemporary liturgical craziness are too harsh and hence he must reform himself.

Am I a masochist, or am I only stupid?

UCD Belfield campus churchA number of chaplains serve this church at the university. Most are priests of the Dublin diocese, but at least two are Jesuits. One of these Jesuits devoutly says a clean Mass, without any egregious abuses, and he refrains from polluting his celebration of the holy sacrifice with extraneous matter that doesn’t belong there in the first place. Melancholicus is quite impressed with him, even to the extent of sometimes going to this priest for confession.

But the other Jesuit is not cut from anything like the same cloth. This one has drained to the very dregs the chalice of liturgical anarchy poured for the Church by the spirit of Vatican II. Melancholicus has on a few occasions had the misfortune to be present when this fellow has celebrated Mass in the university chapel, and the effect is always such as to reduce him to horrified stupefaction. Melancholicus is not aware of any occasion on which the fellow has publicly taught formal heresy, but as far as his celebration of the liturgy is concerned he proves in his person the verity of the old Dominican maxim Si cum Jesuitis itis, non cum Jesu itis—which, being interpreted, means that if one goes with the Jesuits one does not go with Jesus.

As ill-luck would have it, the celebrant appointed for today’s Mass was that very priest Melancholicus most hoped he would not see. As soon as the fellow entered the church, Melancholicus ought to have departed forthwith but, in much the same fashion as one finds one’s eyes irresistibly drawn to the carnage of a train wreck or a traffic accident, he remained in his seat for the circus-freakery he knew must surely come.

Mercifully there are no musicians at Father Jesuit’s disposal, for I shudder to think of what sort of happy-clappery he would inflict on us if he were able to call upon the services of a coterie of hip-swaying, gospel-crooning, tambourine-thumping, taizé-loving youth-two-thousanders. This was the novus ordo equivalent of a Low Mass, celebrated without frills and trimmings, yet packed with abuses from beginning to end; Father Jesuit has turned gratuitous departures from both text and rubrics into such a fine art that if only something as serious as the integrity of the sacred liturgy were not at stake, one could only marvel in appreciation at his skill.

It was at least a valid Mass, insofar as the proper matter and form were used, and Melancholicus has no reason to doubt either the fellow’s intention, or his orders. There may not have been any liturgical felonies, but I lost count of the number of misdemeanours. These are in turn rehearsed below.

Today is a feria of Advent. Melancholicus surely does not have to inform his readers of the liturgical colour proper to this day. Surely even a Jesuit must know that vestments of a violet or purple hue ought to have been used? Yet, without explanation, the fellow wore white (or rather off-white; they just can’t make white chasubles like they used to, can they?). Why? At first Melancholicus thought it must have been the feast of a saint today—perhaps St. Andrew, having been eclipsed this year by Advent Sunday, was being transferred, after the manner of the Anglicans, to the nearest available feria—but after Mass was over, he consulted calendars for both the traditional and modern rites and could discover therein no rationale why white vestments ought to have been used at all. If a saint’s Mass or a votive Mass were being celebrated, one would expect to hear mention of such in the collect and perhaps the postcommunion also. But there was no mention of the apostle Andrew or of any other saint in the orisons recited at this Mass—and in any case if Andrew’s Mass were celebrated, Father Jesuit ought to have been wearing not white, but red.

The readings, incidentally, were those of the feria.

As Melancholicus knows from unhappy experience, this Jesuit has a peculiar attachment to making up his own collects. He does not even take the trouble to compose these prayers in advance, but extemporises them on the spot according, as I guess, to how he feels himself moved by “the spirit”. This abuse, having been allowed to persist unchecked for several years, has now spread itself to other parts of the Mass. Today not only the collect, but also the postcommunion and (perhaps) the prayer over the gifts were unique compositions that no-one else at Mass in any other church on earth will have heard today. I guess on that account I should feel privileged.

But I don’t.

Now while Melancholicus deplores the vacuous piffle that passes for the collect in the current edition of the ICEL missal, the state of the liturgy is not improved by the antics of such as Father Jesuit, whose extempore ramblings do not rise to anything like the elevated standard of mediocrity already achieved by ICEL.

Father Jesuit’s reading of the Gospel was unremarkable until he reached the very end, whereat he took it upon himself to censor the words of the evangelist with a clanger that was so obvious it made Melancholicus cringe. Today’s Gospel was the story (from St. Matthew, 8:5-11) of the centurion with the sick servant, whose faith so impressed the Lord Jesus that He said to His disciples, “I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this”. Father Jesuit mutilated the Lord’s words into something along the lines of “Truly, I have found great faith here”, in which the comparison with Israel was glaringly omitted. Why? Melancholicus can think of no reason apart from a fear that the words of the Gospel might be construed as anti-semitic, or otherwise politically incorrect.

Then Melancholicus sat with a sigh, waiting to hear what words of wisdom would be preached in the fellow’s homily, for he always gives one, even on weekdays. Father Jesuit invariably descends into the midst of the congregation to preach—wonder where he picked up that habit?—and today’s behaviour was no different. Aside from being delivered among the pews in the midst of handful of people attending, the homily and the inevitable bidding prayers were tedious but otherwise unremarkable, whereafter Father Jesuit returned to the table altar for the liturgy of the eucharist.

From this point, Melancholicus could see very little owing to the winter sun, low in the sky, shining through a window directly into his eyes, but as Father Jesuit made sure throughout to speak into the sacred microphone, Melancholicus could at least hear everything loud and clear. Father recited the prayers of the offertory, which were recognizable even if their phrasing was irritatingly modified for no discernible reason. But at the lavabo, things started to take a different turn. Here he did something so subtle that I am sure it escaped the notice of most persons present, but it nonetheless carried some quite serious doctrinal implications. Father Jesuit modified the prayer recited at the lavabo such that it became “Lord, wash away our iniquities, and cleanse us from our sins”.

This was his first fudge of what little distinction is left in the novus ordo between the priest and the laity, and he persevered in this fudge throughout the remainder of the Mass, right to the very end. In his liturgical language he never once let slip the possibility that he was playing a unique and inimitable role different from that of the members of the congregation. At the orate fratres, the priest is not supposed to recite the response, but the fellow nonetheless did so in the words “may the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands...” etc., as though the sacrifice of the priest and the people were one and the same, as though the congregation offered the sacrifice on an equal footing along with the priest.

Then came the preface dialogue, whereat a most curious incident occurred. Once the final congregational response “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” had been delivered we expected him to begin the preface, but instead he startled the congregation by suddenly announcing “I think we need a bit more wine,” and just as suddenly hurrying back into the sacristy with the chalice. WTF?? This was most irregular, whereat he added to the contents of the chalice after the chalice had already been offered on the altar of God. This would not affect the validity of the consecration, but was nevertheless a profoundly iffy act, contrary to the spirit of the sacred liturgy. After he returned from the sacristy he recited the standard preface to—you’ve guessed it—prex II, which left us in no doubt as to which eucharistic prayer he intended to use.

Why is it always prex II? Melancholicus cannot remember the last time he heard one of the others. Come rain, hail, snow or shine, winter, summer, spring or autumn, feasts of our Lord, our Lady, the saints, or of the season—it’s always prex II. The shortest eucharistic prayer. The least identifiably Catholic eucharistic prayer. Nor was it even prex II as printed in the missal, for Father Jesuit’s recitation was replete with random slight adjustments to the text for which there was no good reason, and sometimes adjustments that were somewhat more than slight—most notably in the form of consecration of the chalice, in which he said “... it will be shed for you and for all men and women, showing that he did not scruple to pollute with a political agenda even what is holiest in the rite of Mass, namely the words of consecration.

Then there was the wretched peace. To Melancholicus’ immense relief the fellow simply suggested we pray for peace in one another’s lives, so, contrary to expectation he didn’t descend from the sanctuary to start pumping hands all over the nave like a jack-in-the-box, leaving our Lord’s sacred body and precious blood unattended on the altar. For this much at least, Melancholicus was thankful.

It was not until holy communion that Melancholicus finally realized why the fellow had been so anxious to top up the chalice before beginning the eucharistic prayer, for the chalice was then offered to the laity so they could communicate under both species. This is a novelty in the Dublin diocese generally, but is practiced with depressing regularity by the chaplains of the university. Do they think it’s trendy, or something? Do they imagine that communion under both kinds will make the unchurched, secularized, anti-catholic, left-wing radicals among the student body pause and think “wow, man, that’s so groovy!” and so start attending church?

Communion under both kinds is (unfortunately) licit, but as Father Jesuit lacked the assistance of one of those eucharistic dinner ladies, he left the chalice—brimming with our Lord’s precious blood—perched rather precariously on the edge of the Cranmer table altar and invited those members of the congregation who so desired to help themselves—in effect self-communicating, an abuse condemned in no uncertain terms in the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (§94) as well as in the Institutio Generalis (§118) of the Roman Missal.

After the distribution of holy communion had ended, Father Jesuit launched immediately into the concluding rites of the Mass. Melancholicus was alarmed to notice that the chalice remained perched on the edge of the Lord’s board, unpurified and ignored. An extempore postcommunion prayer was recited, and the final blessing was given in the words “May almighty God bless us...” another fudge in the distinction between priest and laity, and words any protestant could in good conscience utter. The priest, in persona Christi, is at this point supposed to impart God’s blessing to the congregation with the words “May almighty God bless you...” Then Father Jesuit left the altar with indecent haste and returned to the sacristy, with the vessels remaining on the altar table and the chalice still threatening to fall to the floor whence it was precariously balanced.

To be fair, he did return to the altar after de-vesting, at which point he purified the chalice, thank God. But why was this not done after communion, when it ought to have been?

Melancholicus was left with the distinct impression that he ought not to have attended that Mass. Let us hope the foolish boy has learned his lesson, and will not see fit to expose himself to such travesties in future. So much for Pius Parsch’s “daily Mass”, unless he makes the sacrifice of rising early enough to get to Harrington Street in time for 8am, which, it being Advent, he ought to make with good grace. Dr. Parsch also said something about “early rising”.

So let us do so!

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