“Authentic Liturgy, Authentic Chant”?

Father Anthony, Gordon Truitt, and I were asked to write about the missal of Pope Benedict XVI for the GIA Quarterly. My contribution is intended to be a contribution to the conversation about the relationship between the ordinary and the extraordinary forms of the liturgy, particularly the Mass.

I’ve received enough praise of it that I post a link here, to continue the conversation.

UPDATE: The conversation also continues over at The Chant Café, one of my favorite places on the net.

SECOND UPDATE: Fr. Christopher Smith has just provided a very thoughtful rejoinder to my GIA article. I had wanted to address his and Dr. Edward Schaefer’s articles in Winter 2010 issue of Sacred Music, but I ran out of time and space.


  1. It seems to me you are confirming what some critics of Vatican II have said, that its new Mass is antropocentric, that is, it centers on man rather than on God. The questions you address are all centered on what the people want, what pleases them, what they should do at Mass, and what they are supposed to get out of the Mass. But what about what pleases and charms God? What sacrifices are the people to offer God through music? Is not the cart being put before the horse here? Should not the Mass be about what the faithful in the Church can do for God, for instance by offering the best sacred music that can be afforded by them?

    1. Well, I’m a Thomist, of a sort, so I would say that nothing “pleases and charms God” except his own goodness. The liturgy give praise and honor to God, but it is for the benefit of creatures. Thomas Aquinas’s own account of the rite of the Mass, while somewhat different from what modern liturgical theologians might give, pays a lot of attention to the effect it has on the people, since much of the liturgy is intended to properly dispose them to offer the sacrifice and receive the sacrament.

      So, “anthropocentric”? Well. . . sure, in a sense. God has no need of sacraments and liturgy. But we, at least while we are viatores, surely do. So what is genuinely fruitful for the people is rightly a central concern in our thinking about liturgy. And I think both Paul and I have the Angelic Doctor on our side on this question.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #2:

        You wrote: “nothing ‘pleases…God’ except his own goodness.”

        Did not Christ please God in His humanity by His Sacrifice on the Cross? And what else is the Mass besides the unbloody representation of the very same victim offered by the very same priest? The Mass is the acceptable worship to God precisely because it is God who is the victim offered. Right?

      2. @Joseph Anthony – comment #3:
        I don’t think we’re disagreeing, are we? Christ’s sacrifice is pleasing to God because it is the act of a divine person, albeit a human act. But this is something quite different than the idea that we can please and charm God by using a particular type of music or vestments etc. Whatever argument we want to make for the superiority of particular music, vestments, etc. would have to be based on their effect on people, not their effect on God.

  2. Thank you for your excellent essay.

    Thank you for explicitly stating what so many of us understand: “How the Ordinary Form can be enriched by the Extraordinary Form in the matter of ecclesiology escapes me.”

    Also very helpful is the distinguishing of the fact of the sacrament and its fruitfulness at the outset of the essay – which I think is the crux of many arguments regarding contemporary ars celebrandi.

  3. Is the GIA Quarterly really printed in a three-columns-per-page format? No offense, but that’s grotesque typesetting.

  4. The point with the GIRM is fair but the Order of the Mass comparison seems to be a bit exaggerated. Aside from a few significant references (e.g. the “Populo congregato” at the beginning) if one replaced most of the “R.” and references to the “minister” with “People” (as was done in the 1965 Order of the Mass, for example), the comparison would not be anywhere as vast.

    I think the point about the Spirit could be stronger. I find it somewhat ironic that you use the “The Lord be with you” to illustrate it, when the missals before 1969/70 used this salutation far more frequently than in the missal after 69/70. One could conclude that in the former, the priest asks more frequently for “for the rekindling of the gift given all in baptism/confirmation and the gift given the presider in ordination in order that what [is] about to be done [can] be done and [can] be fruitful.” The comparison also fails to account for the presence of the Veni Sanctificator in the pre-1969/70 Offertory.

    One thing I appreciate about the pre-70 missal (at least, on the notional level) is the extension of the community worshiping on earth to the heavenly community specifically in asking for their intercession. My background is in the (Indo-)Syriac liturgy where there is a strong (one might say overpowering) focus on the intercession of the saints. In the modern Latin liturgy, unless one uses the Confiteor (which seems to be discouraged especially for the liturgy of the Lord’s day) or EP I or III, there is an absence of any sort of petition to the saints. Most of the new EPs have excised the notion in favour of a simple request for communion with the saints. That goes with the whole theory of the intercession having sprung out of the memorials, and the earlier form of sanctoral reference. But if the later pneumatological development in the liturgy is accepted, it seems arbitrary, as the modern Latin liturgy does, to reject the sanctoral intercessory emphasis.

  5. This ia great, even-handed article. Kudos to Dr. Ford for a great essay. If only all such articles were as balanced.
    I look forward to reading Fr. Smith’s response.

  6. One way the OF could influence the EF is to allow the 2010 Roman Missal to have an OPTIONAL EF Order of Mass with the minor reforms of the 1965 Missal. This way you keep the reformed calendar, revised vernacular prayers, lectionary, and vocal euharistic prayers. Of course the other propers,entrance chant, offertory chant and communion chant would be sung in English or Latin as well as all the other parts of the Mass which normally are sung in the EF Sung Mass and should be recovered in the sung OF Mass.

    1. Why? It is an indult and should be allowed to die out in a few years. The church would benefit from some “sunset” laws in canon law and in liturgy.

      Also, you appear to ignore or skip over Paul Ford’s three main points – not surprisingly given his conclusions.

      Paul – do hope that you use these materials when training and teaching at Camarillo – it would challenge the typical ROR meme that increasingly seems to crop up in theologates these days.

      1. What’s an indult? The EF is no longer an indult, but has permanent normative standing. For now (in the sense that any permanent norm is always subject to development. But it’s different than an indult, which is expressly set up as an exception to a norm in Roman legalese; these things matter more in the Roman legal culture than in the legal culture of the Anglosphere – in the Roman way, to be grouped within the normative world is different in quality than dispensations from that world).

      2. Agree except would strongly quibble about the use of the word – Permanent. Also, trying to connect back to Paul Ford’s post and his three points….this normative decision doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense. Wonder if B16 hasn’t gotten a whole lot of “unintended consequences” that have created more polarization rather than his stated intent – to enhance some type of mutual benefit. And Paul has laid out some serious reservations in terms of this whole experiment.

    2. The more I think about it, the more I like Fr Allan’s proposal. It allows for the EF Mass to be celebrated at an ordinary parish without interrupting the unity of the parish in regards to the calendar, and it incorporates virtually everything good the OF has to offer (larger lectionary, vernacular).

      The OF has so many options as it is. I see no good reason why anyone would oppose the inclusion of the EF Ordinary and rubrics as one of them. I think the OF’s many options are its weakest aspect, but only really because there is no clear guidance to how the various options are used (I know there are recommendations, but practically speaking it all comes down to the particular priest’s personal taste, outlook on theology, or inclinations). An EF Ordo given as an option would at least have clear directives as to how it is to be used as a coherent whole (people would know what to expect from the whole Mass as soon as it has begun).

  7. “In the modern Latin liturgy … there is an absence of any sort of petition to the saints.”

    Not if one considers that the experience of liturgy includes art (great, trashy, and in-between). Also keep in mind that the unfortunate stagnation of Catholic liturgy in the West gave rise to an immense diversity of popular devotion to the saints.

    I suspect that we are still suffering under many of the unintended side-effects of the 1570 Missal. It’s not bad that we have some tensions along these lines. But let’s not sugar-coat the pre-conciliar rite as some golden calf, or the post-Tridentine centuries as some golden age.

    1. Um, “popular” superstitions by definition can contribute nothing to the liturgy — they serve only to detract from the Eucharistic assembly.

  8. Hi Sandi, I don’t necessarily disagree. But the connection to the Communion of Saints is more than just theological. It is part of the incarnational aspect of our faith–a sensual connection to an existence beyond our lives. How else do we explain icons, statues, paintings, or even the photographs that mark the walls of our homes, the desktops of our computers and cubicles?

    If and when the liturgy fails to adapt and connect to people, the people will invent ways to make those connections.

    I agree it would be better to foster healthy connections in context of the liturgy. But I stand by my critique of the 1570/1962 Missal in that it has little to nothing to teach us.

  9. Todd,

    The 1962 missal could teach you humility, as it has taught me. But, if you want to understand the 1962 missal, I would suggest you get a copy of Pius Parsch’s The Church’s Year of Grace and use it to follow the old liturgy, as well as read the pre-1960 office of Matins, third nocturn.

    1. I can also learn humility from service, from parenting, from implementing MR3, from examining my faults, and from any number of spiritual sources in the liturgy, the saints, and indeed, in life. An unreformed rite, and a rallying cry of schismatics? No thanks.

  10. Wonder if B16 hasn’t gotten a whole lot of “unintended consequences” that have created more polarization rather than his stated intent – to enhance some type of mutual benefit.

    and “unintended consequences” from establishing an Anglican ordinariate too.

  11. How the Ordinary Form can be enriched by the Extraordinary Form… escapes me.

    I agree very much on the issues stated, i.e. ecclesiology, scripture, and pneumatology. However there is an area where the OF has much to learn from the EF, that of having of a strong ritual structure. I mean predictability, in Father Taft’s words that the people have the right to not be confused, or surprised. Each EF Mass is very predictable, when things change they are very predictable according to the liturgical year.

    The OF’s great potential strength, its flexibility, is also a great weakness because few people know how to use it well. One local parish does.

    At this parish, the Eucharist Prayer is always sung, as are the responses to the Prayers of the Faithful. The Creed, Preface, Lord’s Prayer, and Dialogues are never sung. Personally I would prefer that everything be sung always as in the Byzantine tradition. Nevertheless I still experience the Eucharistic Prayer as the high point of the liturgical day even though I have celebrated the completely sung Vespers-Matins Vigil the night before at a local Orthodox Church. Actually not chanting the entire Mass heightens the position of the Eucharist Prayer rather than making Mass another one hour completely chanted service.

    At this parish, the standard four hymns are usually sung. However the sung Eucharistic Prayer keeps them from becoming psychologically a four hymn service of the Word with communion added. Connecting the four hymns to the readings actually makes the service more of a Service of the Word and less a Eucharistic liturgy.

    Outside of Ordinary Time, this parish has made some effort to make the hymns very predictable as in the EF. For Holy Week, each service is almost exactly what it was last year. During Lent and Advent, the priest uses incense during an extended entrance chant making the penitential nature of the season clear, etc.

    1. It strikes me as exceedingly odd to sing the EP but not its preface. One of the clear deliverances of liturgical scholarship in the last 100 years is the centrality of the eucharistia, largely located in the preface in the Roman liturgy, to the EP.

      1. There are many odd things about how liturgy is celebrated in this parish. They work well psychologically and sociologically even if they challenge scholarly or conventional wisdom.

        The sung Preface could become the highpoint of the liturgy, especially if people kneel after the Sanctus, the EP is not sung, and the people therefore do not have the extra sung responses during the EP. Do we want to make it such?

        However since we stand during the EP and sing responses, it is more our prayer. In fact I sing it mentally with the priest, and therefore know the EPs better than by listening to them or reading them in a book. Indeed at Masses in other parishes I now sing the EPs mentally.

        It is much harder to follow the Preface. Those words like the Collect go in one ear and out the other, even if they are sung. There are too many to learn them. One would need a missal to follow or sing them mentally!

        Yes the Preface can be seen as a great wonderful remnant in the Roman Rite of the improvisation of the early EP. Surely its variety should be retained and even increased.

        But I think this pastor has made a good psychological and sociological decision not to sing it with the EP. Singing the EP already focuses attention on the priest as performer; a sung preface would heighten more that emphasis upon the priest.

        Both the Preface and the Lord’s Prayer are recited; it would be interesting if they were both sung in addition to the EP. Would the Priest’s Preface and the People’s Lord’s Prayer balance each other? That is why we need to do systematic studies of these issues rather than desk chair speculation.

        Whatever choices are made, they need to be predictable. PIPs should be able to predict whether the Preface, the EP, the Lord’s Prayer are going to be sung in any particular parish. When these are not sung, or sung occasionally or unpredictably, the psychological center of the liturgy shifts to the readings, the homily, and the four hymns.

  12. Jack – good points/insights. Would quibble that EF’s weakness is its rigidity (and we wonder why folks said the rosary, read the Sunday paper, watched rather than participated). Also, you paint a too rosy picture of the EF – think side altar masses; think 15 minute low masses; etc.

    Not sure that VII’s weakness is too much flexibity – rather, it set the “bar too high” given the resulting commitment or lack of commitment to liturgy/eucharist. It has and was only partially implemented and that implementation hinges on the preparation,skill, and ars celebrandi skills of the presider and the ministers. Just like the pre-VII mass, every pastor and every bishop, in their own way, impacts the community’s experience.

    We have commented a lot over the last 20 months about the fact that the VII liturgy never reached far enough to impact seminaries and liturgical training – from music to ars celebrandi (too often, it is an afterthought). As you yourself have pointed out, how many dioceses/parishes ever have a forum to provide feedback to presiders/deacons/ministers? Is there any current accountability for good liturgies or is the default position to insist on “reading the black/doing the red”?

    My quibble is that the weaknesses of the past 30 years focus more on poor preparation – what do your sociological studies (VPL) indicate – poor preaching; same old, same old music; lack of resources put into liturgy/music; adult education in terms of eucharist, liturgy, sacraments.

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