Yesterday afternoon, our friends over at the New Liturgical Movement posted a rather nice set of photographs from the “Papal Vespers on the Feast of the Presentation.” I am grateful as ever to Shawn Tribe for doing the legwork of finding and posting the photographs, together with appropriate notes.
Without having seen the broadcast of the Evening Prayer service, I can really can’t comment on more than the details I notice in the NLM photos. (Please note that I’m commenting here as a student of matters liturgical, with an appreciation for the catholic/universal dimensions of liturgical worship — not offering denominationally-driven commentary on what Anglicans once rather unfortunately called “papal enormities.”) In particular, I wish to remark about the use of lace in the surplices of the masters of ceremony.
I have an allergy to the use of lace in albs and surplices.
I have an even bigger allergy to the claim that the use of lace in vestments is somehow expressive of a “hermeneutic of continuity”. In my opinion the use of lace is expressive of a certain “baroque” sensibility, a particular aesthetic that seems to be once again in vogue. I do not share that aesthetic, and admit I’m rather fond of the more simple surplices that had been used prior to the appointment of the Rev. Msgr. Guido Marini as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. While I’m sufficiently liberal to say “to each their own” concerning lace, I do not take kindly to the suggestion that it’s somehow expressive of “the Tradition,” with a capital “T.”
So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the use of lace in the surplices of the masters of ceremony was more restrained than it has been in the recent past — sufficiently restrained, in fact, that I did not see it immediately, that it was not the first thing that distracted me from the action of the liturgy as represented in the photos.
But I have a hunch that this restraint reflects the fact that, in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, this Sunday past was Septuagesima, the beginning of the pre-Lent season. The paring away toward Lent has begun (as if the Church needs a season to prepare for a season of preparation!), and if I’m right, the lace will be diminshed over the next few weeks before it disappears all together on Ash Wednesday.
And yes, I see a cause for concern here. One might hope that, apart from celebrations in the Extraordinary Form, the norms of the Ordinary Form and its calendar — rather than a subtle devaluation of it, whether born of personal piety or something more nefarious (say, the dismantling of the legitimate work of an Ecumenical Council?) — would be embraced for papal celebrations. . .
. . . even if, in theory, that means more lace!