Saturday, 13 August 2011

In A Reflective Mood...

I was fortunate enough to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form during my stay in Eastbourne. The greater freedom to pray quietly without having to join in with responses fitted my mood, and I was able to contemplate the Mysteries depicted on the panels behind the altar and on the stained glass.

It provided me with a salutary reminder that the Catholic Church acknowledges and cares for our human nature so much: the senses are fully engaged - sights, sounds, smells, bodily gestures...

close-up of altar-piece

The tendency to simplify things, to whitewash over frescoes, to reduce things to their most basic forms might seem to be a return to a more pure form of worship (and I'm sure that was the motivation behind the "reordering" of many church buildings) but what it really does is emphasise the spiritual at the expense of the physical.

We are soul and body. We are created as a unity of spirit and matter, not a spirit trapped inside a physical shell from which it needs to escape in order to reach God. Jesus became Man so that he could communicate fully with us. That is the reason we adorn our churches with statues, paintings, beautiful vestments, ornate vessels; that is why we have music, incense, ritual...


Sorry about that. Just one of those moods. I'll be back to normal tomorrow. Meanwhile there are a couple of photos from Our Lady of Ransom over on my Flickr page.


Clifford Carvalho said...

That was beautiful. It's nice to hear meditations from someone other than myself. I'm sure many readers would like to read more posts like this.

It's that nice soothing feeling that makes it so rewarding to be a Catholic, knowing our place in God's plan.

Richard Collins said...

Good sentiments and true, maybe next time on the Guild blog?

Diamantina, aka Gentillylace said...


It was interesting that you mentioned that not having to join in with the responses in the Extraordinary Form Mass fitted your mood. Is it usual for the congregation at Extraordinary Form Masses not to join in the responses?

At the handful (four or five) of Extraordinary Form Masses I have attended, I have attempted to join in the responses in my best Latin (which is not very good, I admit: I speak Portuguese, Spanish and French to varying degrees, but have never learned Latin), but I am perplexed that as a rule, the rest of the congregation (other than the choir) does not do so. Why is that so? Even the Latin versions of the Creed and the Our Father are said too quickly for the congregation to follow along if they wished -- and I would think that those prayers should be said in common by the entire congregation at every Sunday Mass!

I feel lost and confused if I am not actively participating in the Mass, whether it is joining in the responses and singing the hymns or serving as a lector or EMHC. That is just my personal opinion :-)

Ben Trovato said...

Yes, you are quite right. Catholicism is an incarnational religion.

One of Luther's problems was his inability to come to terms with the possibility of the redemption of the flesh: he thought Christ's righteousness could only cover it, like snow on a dunghill, not transform it, as we know, as we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

That problem of Luther's sits behind a lot of the puritanical and iconoclastic aspects of some protestantism.

Mulier Fortis said...

Richard - I'm afraid it didn't even occur to me to put this on the Guild blog, because I was just having a "stream of consciousness" ramble... it doesn't seem appropriate for the Guild, somehow, as it was my own thoughts on the Faith rather than something authoritative.

Diamantina - your question is a common one, and I want to answer it fully, so I shall turn it into a blog post soon.

Anonymous said...


lately I haven't been audibly making responses at Mass either (I attend a TLM every Sunday). There are plenty of people in the congregation in my parish who do make the responses out loud (and of course the servers do), and there may be others like me who don't (for whatever reason).

Now I have no idea which points Mac's post is going to touch upon, but here's my little offering: sometimes (and I have no idea if it's the exception rather than the rule) I can simply pray at Mass better if I can keep my trap shut (except to receive Holy Communion). Sometimes I neither need nor want to talk out loud at Mass. The TLM is a Godsend (hehe) in this respect; I'm not forced into responding.

Mac: ahhhhh you may have just got me blogging again.

Diamantina, aka Gentillylace said...


When I have attended a TLM/Extraordinary Form Mass and find it too hard to make the responses out loud, I find myself having to follow along in the English/Latin missal. Reading the responses silently is easy enough, but hard to make into a prayer. And making my own prayer when the priest is obviously praying for my sake seems wrong to me. Besides, it is too easy to lapse into daydreaming if I am not tied down to responding or singing.

I have my difficulties with the Novus Ordo Mass: sometimes the music is jarring (not so much the hymns as the instruments: somehow, a soft-rock band seems inappropriate for Mass) and although I am an EMHC to the sick and at the altar, I think that whenever possible EMHCs should be used for the Precious Blood during Mass, and not for the Body of Christ. I feel uneasy giving the Body of Christ during Mass: that is something a priest or deacon should do, not a comissioned laywoman like me. (When giving Communion to the sick, I understand that the priest shortage makes it imperative that I visit nursing homes and give the Body of Christ: that is not what I am talking about.) And the only real emergency at Mass is that Sunday Masses are scheduled every 90 minutes and therefore Masses must be no longer than 1 hour and 15 minutes, and preferably only an hour. But I find myself more at home with a reverent Novus Ordo Mass in English (or a reverent Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy in English) than a reverent TLM/Extraordinary Form Mass.

I don't think my difficulty with the TLM/Extraordinary Form Mass is due to a difference in the ages of Mac and myself: I am 44 years old. A bit about me: baptized Catholic in infancy to non-practicing parents, I began to attend Mass on my own at age 10 and later received Communion and Confirmation. I was a practicing member of the Orthodox Church -- mostly in the Serbian Diocese of Western America (although I have no Slavic blood as far as I know) -- for 13 years as a young woman, until I returned to the Catholic Church in 2003 by confession. I am a Lay Carmelite (T.O.Carm.) and a single woman living in the world: I am wondering whether to become a consecrated virgin or to take private vows, which is how I found this blog.

Sorry for rambling on. Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Diamantina: practise, practise, practise ;) I've never really gone along with praying, for example, Psalm 42 (the psalm recited by the priest and servers/ministers at the foot of the altar), out loud, but I know (most of) it and the other responses during Mass off by heart. It took perhaps a year or two of Mass each Sunday, a good Missal, and in my case an almost insatiable langugage nerd-quotient. Perhaps once you have them off by heart too, it'll be easier to make them silently if you wish.

I think the problems with the Novus Ordo are on two levels: one exterior and one more substantial. The exterior problems - music, inattention to rubrics - can, but often don't, also happen in the TLM.
The substantial problems come from the prayers themselves, and also the situation out of which the Novus Ordo came.

This distinction is something often alluded to on blogs, but rarely described explicitly.

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