Letters to the Editor

The Order of the Mass

Dear Editor: It is time to set the record straight. I must respond to Mr. Gange’s comments (Readers’ Forum, Nov. 12).

I teach in the diocese a two-hour class on the Liturgy of the Mass. During that time, I do not mention music or singing. The goosebumps should come from an understanding of what is going on in the Divine Liturgy (I like what our Orthodox brothers and sisters call the Mass).

The Mass has a three-fold purpose: 1. The non-bloody Memorial of the Sacrifice of the Cross, 2. Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and 3. Communion where we intimately join with the Divine.

The “outline” of the Mass has not changed from the early Masses in the home to the more elaborate Masses in churches today. The Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Liturgy calls for a “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgical celebration on the part of the faithful.”

In looking at the history for the Roman Latin Rite, the first 1,000 years saw the consolidation of various Rites, for example, the Mozarabic (Spanish) and Milanese (Milan) Rites which are still practiced. There are other Latin Rites that have been used in the past as well.

As the world became closer, so the Latin Rites became more unified. The point being that the Mass is the Mass. The question we are wrestling with is the music and singing. I would exclude from that discussion all the chanting that is part of the Mass and the Roman Missal. They are rarely included in the Sunday Masses as they should be.

What comes immediately to mind are the presidential prayers of the Collect, Offertory, and Communion? Father Marcin Chilczuk in our parish “chants” them as we stand in reverence for these prayers to the Father. We are the Latin “wing” of the Church, with our roots in the Roman Empire and the use of Latin as a language.

We must keep in mind mathematicians like Isaac Newton published in Latin. Latin is no longer “our” language and vernacular languages prevail. So what is proper music to be sung in the Mass? If you want to be a conscious participant, then you must understand what is said or sung and capable of singing it as well.

Pope Pius X warned 100 years ago that the Mass is not a concert. If the “only” thing in the Mass that gives you goosebumps is music, then buy the CD and listen at home.

To those who really love Gregorian chant as I do, there are recordings of Gregorian chant with English words. Beautiful! You can understand and sing along.

Many of the current “modern hymns” have deep theological lyrics and maybe we should give them a try. Music that allows us to “enhance” our wonder and awe during Mass should be considered.