Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vertical vs. Horizontal

I've been reading a lot about the Mass lately. Part of the reason is SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, of course. The other is the almost constant talk of a motu proprio, that is (of his own accord,) to be issued by the Pope on the Mass. The words motu proprio signify that the provisions of a document were decided on by the pope personally, that is, not on the advice of others, but for reasons which he himself deemed sufficient. For months those who desire that the pre-Vatican II rite of the Mass, the Tridentine Mass, which is said in Latin, to be more widely available have hoped and prayed that Benedict, who is know to be sympathetic to the saying of the Mass in Latin, would issue a motu proprio "freeing" the Tridentine Mass. At the present time it requires an indult to celebrate the Mass using the Tridentine missal. An indult is a special permission to do something which is not normally permitted in Church law. So why is the Tridentine prohibited? At the Council of Trent the Church decided that there would be only one Latin Rite Mass. At the time it was what is now known as the Tridentine Mass. At Vatican II it was decided that the rite of the Mass would be revised. The new rite, sometimes called the Novus Ordo, which means simply "new order" or new rite was intended to replace the old, or Tridnetine Mass.
Certain members of the Catholic Church have problems with the the N.O. and requested from the Vatican an indult to allow them to continue celebrating Mass using the Tridentine Missal. Most people who prefer the Tridentine Missal do not deny that the Novus Ordo is a valid Mass in and of its self. The criticism of the N.O. generally falling into two categories.
The first criticism is that the N.O. lends itself to liturgical abuse. What is liturgical abuse? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is pretty specific about what is and is not allowed in the celebration of the Mass. Unfortunately some celebrants and parishes ignore the requirements of the GIRM. Because some parts of the N.O. allow the celebrant to choose from different authorized rites some people feel that it is easier to a priest with the inclination to ad lib or substitute during the liturgy when a Mass is celebrated under the new rite than it would be if the Tridentine Missal was used. After all how many people can ad lib in Latin?
A much more theologically based criticism is whether the Mass should be horizontal or vertical. What does this mean? Vertical worship is concentrated exclusively on God. We say the Mass to worship God. Primarily only the priest speaks during the Mass. He speaks in God's language, Latin. The priest stands before the people, with his back to them, because he stands in Jesus's place, representing the people to God. When the host is concencrated and becomes the body of Christ only the priest may touch it, he delivers it directly to the tongue of the recipient. Certain types of music, primarily organ and certain types of song, chant and polyphone primarily, are reserved for use in worship and other types of music, which also have profane uses, are not used. Because we are worshiping God we should dress in a manner that is respectful, as if we were going to meet the president or going to some other very special occasion.
Now proponents of a more horizontal form of worship see the Mass as community. We come together as a community to worship God. So God is not only present in the Real Presence of the host. He is also present in the community. The Mass is said in the language of the people, most often in English or Spanish in the Unites States, but sometimes in other languages. The priest faces us because he stands in the place of Jesus, and just as the Apostles sat at table with Jesus when he said the first Mass, so do we sit at table with Jesus in the person of the priest. Music is performed for God's glory and sung by both the choir and the community assembled at Mass. We dress as we would when going to a friends house or to an informal celebration with out family.
So if there are so divergent opinions on the proper way to celebrate Mass which side is right? Not a simple answer and one for another day.

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