Attending the memorial Mass of a former parishioner yesterday left me musing about the organic development of the Mass for the dead in the last forty years. Such Masses seem to have developed a few distinctive features that, at least in the States, seem almost universal, without any diktats from on high.
- Requiem æternam and Lux æterna are out; Amazing Grace, On Eagle’s Wings and How Great Thou Art are in. Indeed, these three songs are so ubiquitous at funeral and memorial Masses (at least two of them have been sung at 90% of the Masses for the dead that I have attended) that they almost seem to constitute a new “proper.”
- Black or purple vestments are out; white vestments are in.
- Eulogies after communion are typically in, despite efforts to stamp them out. People expect them today the way they expected the Dies iræ in former times.
- Bodies are, increasingly, out. It’s been several years since I’ve attended a funeral in my parish that featured a body rather than “cremains” or sometimes just a photo of the deceased.
- In terms of overall tone (readings chosen, homilies given, etc.), intercession for the deceased is out; celebration of the life of the deceased is in.
These developments all seem to me to be “organic,” in the sense that they are the result not of legislation but of what the pips (people-in-the-pews) are asking for. Of course, their desire for these things is shaped by larger cultural forces, some of which may be benign and other malign. But hasn’t this always been the case with “organic development”?