Liturgical Silliness in the Tridentine Mass

Fr. John Z. shows us one of the many reasons why the Tridentine mass was changed at Vatican II. He doesn’t intend to, of course. He thinks it all makes perfect sense.

  • STAND for the Gloria and the Credo, but SIT when the priest does.
  • STAND for the Preface (and the dialogue preceding it)
  • KNEEL for the Canon.
  • STAND for the Pater Noster.

I direct your attention to the first item in this list. “STAND for the Gloria and the Credo, but SIT when the priest does.” If you haven’t been to a Tridentine high mass (one where the texts of the mass are sung–something not always done), you might not get this point. The congregation stands for the Gloria and the Credo, which the choir sings, but halfway through the priest sits down–while the choir continues to sing the Gloria and the Credo. The congregation is expected to sit, too (even if they are singing). It makes no sense, does it?

Well, you have to realize that what the choir (and congregation) is doing doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant. It is a nice frill, but doesn’t have to be there. Oh, the Gloria and the Credo must be said–but what you didn’t notice is that the priest already said it, quietly, to himself, while standing at the altar. He sat down because he was done with it. He’s just now waiting for the choir (and congregation) to be quiet so that he can say the Collect.

One of the main objectives of the reforms was to eliminate this kind of pretense. In authentic liturgy, what each person does should matter. This could be resolved simply for the devotees of the Tridentine mass–the priest could just sing along with everyone else. That would make sense. It wouldn’t be difficult. It would take no more time. But they seem to want to preserve the specialness that is the priest’s alone. That’s called clericalism, and it is very much a part of Catholic culture.

8 thoughts on “Liturgical Silliness in the Tridentine Mass

  1. While I agree that the particular post Vatican II liturgical change from the old liturgy which considered the recited/sung Gloria, Creed and minor propers by the people/choir “outside” the mass was a very good development, your example of sitting when the priest sits doesn’t really derive from the old “only the priest’s Gloria counts” mentality. It’s really a 20th century liturgical movement innovation which, in the name of active participation, sought rigid uniformity in posture and sign from the laity. Previously, it was perfectly ok for the laity to prayfully follow along the liturgy if they so chose. Or, if they found the priest’s sermon to be tedious or were simply bored with the mass, they could light a candle at a shrine, pray the rosary, ignore the mass altogether, or even (as is sometimes the case), step outside for a ciggie. (I’ve always wanted to read a newspaper during a particularly dull sermon, but that opportunity has yet to present itself.) This state of affairs, according to the “liturgical experts” then and now, is patently unacceptable. The liturgical experts then and now want to force the laity to actively participate in the liturgy by word and sign, even if they don’t want to. So, what’s the easiest way to get the ignorant masses to prayerfully (hopefully) make the appropriate gesture on cue? Tell them to do what the priest (or the altar server) does! If anything, Father Z.’s post about what people should do when and what during the old liturgy is really an anticipation of the post-Vatican II — though possibly he might not particular appreciate that very much.

    Frankly, I don’t like very much to be told what to do when in the liturgy.

  2. It’s really a 20th century liturgical movement innovation which, in the name of active participation, sought rigid uniformity in posture and sign from the laity.

    I think you’ll need to reference that one. Because the emphasis of the 20th century liturgical movement, from the days of Pope Pius X onward, was stressing the importance of people “praying the mass”; for him, “active participation” meant joining the choir in singing.

  3. Hello Bill
    All people like me who love the tridentine mass ask is that we be allowed this mass to be celebrated in our local church regularly on Sundays.
    If you prefer the Novo Ordo all well and good,you ve got it,but you must ask yourself,has the post councilor church shown any understanding to the many who were denied the Tridentine Mass overnight

  4. I personally have no dog in this fight. But I think there are a couple of issues.

    One is the highhandedness with which change was imposed, that grievously wounded folks like yourself. That’s being corrected now, by the pope (but plenty of bishops are still fighting it, in a passive-aggressive way).

    The other question is the nature of liturgy itself, as it was discussed in the last hundred years by folks like Pius X. What we’re seeing in many quarters today (as evidenced by some comments I haven’t posted and by some comments at Fr. Z’s blog) is that some folks who are pining for the “good old days” want the mass back as it was done as they remember–unaffected even by any of the attempted reforms in the 60 years before VC2. They still speak of the “dialogue mass” (in which the people responded) as some kind of liberal innovation.

    So we’ve got an authoritarian hierarchy (whether liberal or conservative) and a good chunk of laity who will be passively led and have minimum needs. The two are opposite sides of the same coin. Is either healthy? I don’t think so.

  5. “It makes no sense, does it?”

    It depend of what the reason for the sitting is given. Can’t juge thing so hrdly without having heardall the explanation !! Every thing can seem stange acting like that….

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