What If They Gave a Liturgy War And Nobody Came?
In the last several years, as I’ve traveled the Catholic Blogosphere, I’ve noticed that certain discussions can quickly become maelstroms of invective, caricature of others, and an atmosphere of general and serious uncharitableness. The most distressing topic in this category is discussions having to do with liturgy.
It probably helps that I don’t really have a dog in that fight, so to speak – but then, I see the real problem as that I can use dog-fighting as an analogy, and it makes perfect sense.
It seems to me that the Traditional Latin Mass functions in these discussions as a signifier of what “team” you’re on: the political right favors the TLM, and the liberals favor the Novus Ordo. The thing is, that doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny – as I recall, the contributors here run the gamut: Some like the EF, some the Novus Ordo but in Latin, and some like the N.O. in English.
But in lots of comboxes on Catholic blogs, the caricatures are rife:
The “Novus Ordo crowd” are a bunch of bossy, love-bead-wearing, Happy Clappy Hippies Whose Guitars Made Our Daughters Get Abortions in the Benighted Seventies; They want to replace the the sign of the cross with a loyalty oath to Lenin and put avocado-colored shag carpet in the sanctuary and replace chrism oil with patchouli; They want to banish the very idea of sin to some relativistic irrelevance, where Hell is Temporary and Only For Racists, etc. etc. etc…
“The Tridentine Crowd” are a bunch of bossy, regressive troglodytes who Long For The Old Days When Everything Was Sinful, Especially if s-e-x was involved; where Father Mumbled Mass to the wall in a dead language; where Post-Vatican II Tunes are chucked in favor of Good Old Catholic Hymns like “Now Slay We All The Protestants” and the people cowered silently in the pews, praying their Rosaries and worrying obsessively about Hell like they’re supposed to. Etc Etc Etc…
The thing is, I’ve never met a real, actual Catholic that bears much resemblance to either one of those caricatures: I like the old Latin Mass for mostly aesthetic reasons – there really is nothing like a High, Palestrina Mass performed by a good schola choir and a priest who can sing.
On the other hand, I also like the New Mass because it’s easier to follow what’s going on when I understand the native-to-me language, which helps me focus. I often go to a Novus Ordo Mass at the Newman Center near the University of California here in Berkeley Sundays at 10pm – all the lights are turned off except for a couple dim lights on the altar, a couple on the lectern and a couple in the alcove. The music is by a very skilled musician on a guitar, who selects reflective hymns based on scripture. The atmosphere is reverent, hushed and rather monastic: I recommend the experience the next time you’re in Berkeley.
All that said, for me the important thing about Mass (of whatever form) is the Sacrifice taking place, and the fact that I can receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord into my very body. I am an abject sinner, and I can use all the help I can get. For Catholics to fight about it in the often strident and uncharitable tones those fights can be conducted in, is pretty scandalous, and I really wish it would stop.
P.S. Ok, bonus question- honestly, now: when was the last time you actually heard the literal song “Kum Ba Ya” played at a Catholic Mass? My answer? And keep in mind – I went to Mass in Berkeley. In the Sixties, ok? My answer…let me think…yeesh, it’s been a long, long time. I want to say about 196…7? Maybe 1968 – ok, just to be safe, maybe 1970 at the very, very latest.