As I make my way around to various meetings and conferences, I am always a little leery about where I will end up for Mass. The other week I was in northern Illinois and “caught” the 10:45 AM Mass at Saint Paul the Apostle Gurnee. I am sure that neither Good Pope John nor the “Fathers of Vatican II,” ever dreamed that the changes in the Liturgy for which they called would have resulted no only in such a radically transformed mode of worship, but such a dynamic and mission-minded Christian community.
Being off-radar these past two weeks have convinced me that I need to focus more and to tie up my various “series” lest they get lost in the pile of postings that are scattered over my hardrive. One of those series I am close to finishing is the one on the ten reasons why the Liturgical Rites promulgated in the1970 Missal are superior to the rites of the 1570 Missal incorporating the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent.
I had begun my series on why the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council are an advancement over the rites used prior to the Council in response to an article published on the Neo-Traditional website New Liturgical Movement making the counter claim in the NLM agenda of restoring the pre-conciliar rites as the normative.
So lets get back to the subject of why the current liturgical rites are the best available for the Roman Rite. I am not saying that the current rites could not be better. They could be much better. But they are a vast improvement over the old rites.
And so to reason 7:
The Liturgy introduces us to the life of discipleship as we follow the saints through the Church year.
This may sound strange because the “Old Mass” had a calendar of saints that rolled on day after day, in season and out of season, piling up two, three and four saints for any given day. (If you checked out the martyrology for any given day you may find another dozen or so who didn’t make the Missal but who still, under certain circumstances, had an expectation of being commemorated.
The priest “reading the Mass” had to read, in order of importance of the feast assigned to each saint of the day, collect after collect, gathering them under a signal concluding
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
This complex roll-calling of the Saints is one of the reasons that priests—both to avoid lengthening the daily morning Mass and to escape the liturgical ennui that is a by-product of saying Mass every day—took cover under the choice of saying the “Black Mass” (i.e. the requiem) leaving the saints unmentioned.
There also are the numerous popes, bishops, virgins, and martyrs rattled off by the priest during Eucharistic Prayer I. However, since both the (most often multiple) collects and the Eucharistic Prayer were recited sotto voce, the faithful in the pew was left in the dark about which of his heavenly brothers and sisters may be today receiving the honors of the Church. The absence of homilies at daily (and not infrequently, Sunday) Mass did not help either. We may have had saints but they didn’t get mentioned from the altar. And when they did get mentioned it was too often for incredible legends of beheaded bishops walking the streets of Paris or a young virgin martyr suddenly springing a new pair of breasts to replace those the pervert executioner had amputated. (If you want some omg laughs, read the antiphons for some of he feasts in the pre-conciliar breviary.)
The calendar of the 1970 Rites has been pared down considerably and Lent and Advent have been designated for very few commemorations in order to allow the focus to remain on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption. There are norms to allow Saints from the older calendar, from the martyrology, or significant to the local church to still be celebrated but, excluding S N. and companions, only one saint to the day is to be commemorated. While many have been removed from the calendar, several hundred remain including more recent saints who have been introduced into the Liturgy in order to inspire contemporary Christians in the choices of discipleship.
Most important, however, is the shift of place in which the saints have found themselves. The current rites of the Church make it clear that Chris is our only intercessor at the Throne of Grace. The saints today stand not above us presenting our prayers to God, but with us—praying with us, strengthening us, inspiriting us, accompanying us. They are still powerful in their prayers but even stronger in the communion we share that knits us, saint and sinner into the One Body of Christ.