Monday, March 12, 2007


A Quick Lesson in Liturgical Law:

Let us suppose that it is my birthday (it isn’t – not even close) and you want to take me out to dinner and tell me to choose my favorite place to eat in Cleveland. So I say to you my favorite restaurant is One Walnut, then Valerio’s, followed by the Lemon Grass. So you, in your kind-heartedness take me to the Lemon Grass as you prefer it. In fact, the next few times you take me out, you take me to the same place. Soon you are of a mind that this should be my favorite place because it is such a fine restaurant. In your estimation, it is everything that a restaurant should be. You tell others that, although I said I like One Walnut better, you know that I should be taken to the Lemon Grass. This is perfectly fine. I like the place a lot. But despite all your reasoning and I would prefer One Walnut.

Liturgical Law is not far from this. In the same way that no words are used without careful consideration, there is also no randomness in the order of things in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Things listed first are preferred.

For example: Notice the preferences for the opening “chant” (GIRM 48). The singing is done alternately by the choir and the people or (less desirably) by the cantor and the people (and less so) by the people alone, (and still less so) or the choir alone. All permissible; some preferred.

The music to be used is 1. The antiphon from the Roman Missal or Psalm from the Roman Gradual, 2. The seasonal antiphon from the Simple Gradual, 3. A song from another collection of psalms and antiphons approved by the Conference of Bishops, and finally 4. A suitable liturgical song approved by the Conference or local bishop.

So, instead of, Oh, let’s say, “Gather Us In” (in the Subject Index under I, Me, I, Me) with its lyrics, “Here in this place new light is streaming,” following the Rule of Firsts, this past Sunday at mass you would have sung (alternately along with the choir) the opening antiphon from the RM, “Remember your mercies, Lord, your tenderness from ages past. Do not let our enemies triumph over us; O God, deliver Israel from all her distress.” Interesting.

Example Two: (GIRM 160) “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of the communicant.” While there is a clear preference for one, the decision is squarely in the hands (or tongue) of the one receiving, not the one distributing.

How to get around Liturgical Law:

Easy Method (recommended): Declare that the Spirit of Vatican II obviously intended for (insert your own personal cause here) to be preferred. Since this (spirit? Spirit?) (did not/was not able) to manifest itself, we take it upon ourselves now who are in touch with this (S/s)pirit to make this change and require others to do so also.

Advanced Method: Being an expert on the documents, it is easy to see that this part of the law was clearly a compromise document to appease those who (what? Are less faithful? Less influenced by the Holy Spirit? Are less Catholic? Less with it?) were causing trouble about what (the real Catholics?) wanted.

Yes, today I am blowing off a little steam. It seems some people are all about the Rule of Firsts unless it does not meet their desires. Either the Holy Spirit was present at VII or not, either the Rule of First works or it does not. This GIRM is either the legacy we have been given (at least for the time being) or it is not. Then we either invoke the Rule of First (and admit that we sometimes personally prefer or need the second, third, or fourth option) or just stop talking about it all together.

Now I need to go say mass and recite the introit, the least desirable option for the opening hymn.


Adoro te Devote said...

The "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd gets my goat, too; they make innovations by projecting their own preferences upon the documents they have not read.

In a class I'm taking right now, I'm actually learning a lot about the V2 documents.

Yesterday (yes, really) we had a discussion in class about the alleged "ambiguity" of the documents. One of the comments I made about it was that V2 was written by geniuses and theologians who knew and understood the historical and theological terms they were using throughout, so there was no ambiguity. Then people who are NOT theologians come along and rather than looking at the documents and reading them within the correct context and with reference to theological definitions of the terms, they inflict their own wishy-washy opinions upon the text.

So the result is that we get people who think that "full and conscious participation" means that they should wear spandex and jump around the sanctuary during Mass.

Of course, this exact same "mistranslation" happens with regard to every other document, including the GIRM, as well.

When will people learn that there is freedom in obedience?????

Rob said...


I think you are missing something. When the GIRM says something is preferred, that really means only bullies and curmudgeons want to do it that way. See, you have to know how to read between the lines in this New Age.

Just like the documents of Vatican II. When it says Latin is to be retained but vernacular is permitted, that really means Latin is to be thrown out and supplanted by the vernacular. Or, when it says that the Council of Trent is still the dogmatic council of the Church, that means you should laugh and laugh and laugh....

There. Now I blew off some steam.

Adoro Te Devote - I hope you enjoy the class. I have found that the documents are indeed vague but not heretical, though the post-VII documents and actions are suspicious. I think you are probably right about the geniuses and theologians being misinterpreted by the spandex crowd.

Fr. V said...


Anonymous said...

I plan to hang in there unless and until the celebrant wears spandex. At that point, I will open my veins. (Or not.. it kinda depends on what we're singing at the moment.)

I have a question about music, as it were.. Is a cantor/choir supposed to screech the brakes all through our holy Communion (and well after), or were we rather to have, as of old, just a bit of quiet to ponder Who's on our tongue? I know what is permissable, but that word hurts our hearts, sometimes. Maybe it hurts His, too.

Anna said...

Granted, we shouldn't go around telling people what the Vatican prefers us to be doing, when the Vatican has said otherwise. But is there really a problem with people campaigning for the use of the options they prefer? Isn't that all people are really usually doing, underneath?

Anonymous said...

It's been my experience that the people instinctively want what is licit. We want kneelers, art, incense, dignified music, a centrally located tabernacle. We don't want inclusive language (I'm a woman), new age goofiness, or to "share our story".

A message to the guy who asked if the sisters in the "Nun Run" wear habits...those nuns went New Age a couple years ago. I think the name of their order ends in an exclamation point now.

Rob said...

-I think the name of their order ends in an exclamation point now.-


Adoro te Devote said...

rob ~

I'll admit I haven't read the documents yet, just parts (Sacrosanctum Concilium in its entirety, though - amazing to me how clear it is in comparison to what has happened). The class I'm taking is actually on the writings of JPII, and his entire Pontificate was all about implementing VII. He quotes Gaudium et spes quite a bit in what we've read so far.

Maybe the parts of VII I've read because of this class just make more sense because it's being taught by JPII in context, and of course, we're learning about them through a theologian who is both faithful and understands the need of the definition of terms as well as the application of the history of the Church and prior teachings.

I don't think that VII is suspicious at all, nor do I think, again, through that which I've read, that it's vague. But then again, I do think that people with their own agendas and intellectual dishonesty are choosing to interpret it much as our court system is interpreting the Constitution - through their own eyes as opposed to the eyes and hearts of the original authors.

(Of course, the true author of VII is the Holy Spirit; if we do not believe this then we are rejecting the Lord's promise and thus we are rejecting the validity of Church authority....etc.)

I have a lot to learn though....the more I learn the more I realize how ignorant I am. Must change that. I do NOT want to turn into a spandex-clad ignoramus mis-preaching my own agenda. How undignified.

Rob said...

-the true author of VII is the Holy Spirit; if we do not believe this then we are rejecting the Lord's promise and thus we are rejecting the validity of Church authority-

Oh, not at all. I am too dim theologically to know whether VII was authored by the Holy Spirit or not, but I have seen people really get themselves into a tizzy, "forcing" themselves to "accept" the Council or risk schism or somesuch nonsense.

First of all, since it was not a dogmatic council but rather a pastoral one, there isn't anything to really reject or accept.

Secondly, Councils have been held and then called heretical by later councils. It was either the Council of Siena or Basel in the 15th century that was, at first, added to the list of Ecumenical Councils and then later stricken from the list as preaching heresy (in this case, conciliarism). The Middle Ages were a mess and make our present quandaries look petty.

So I don't worry too much about VII and whether it is or isn't heretical. The Church is the Church whether you go to the Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo and all these liturgical concerns will eventually be worked out. In the meantime, everybody still needs to pray, fast, give alms and do good deeds.

Fr. V said...

Interesting points.

Historically there is always great turmoil after a council. The Church didn't change over night after the Council of Trent either - there was a lot of working out to be done. And we will eventually settle also.

I have no problem going through options. (I think I made that clear?) But when individuals start pressing options as the dogmatic truth on others that I get my feathers in a ruffle.

Adoro te Devote said...

Fr. V - I think I actually heard somewhere (maybe on Relevant Radio) that it took 40 years for Vatican I to begin to be implemented. And as I further understand it, V 1 has STILL not been fully implemented.

And I just realized that I have NO IDEA what Vatican I said or why it was relevant to the times.

There's so much for us all to know; it's what drives me to study theology and the more I learn the more I realize I'm in over my head.

Here I am seeking a grad degree in theology and I have never before had a solid theology course What I did learn in college was, at times, outright heresy (seriously, I "learned" that "God is not all powerful and he can't help us") and it was a test question. (As an aside, when I "learned" that, I had the most need of knowing that God was there; my Dad had just passsed away. I excelled on my test; I fell away from the faith, completely lost in the idea that God was not really there. Let us presserve anyone else from such torture!)

We live in difficult times; we have so much going on but the average Catholic is so ill-equipped to deal with it. I don't think our theology is really complicated, but our culture is such that EVERYTHING is complicated by misunderstanding and a lack of true education.

It seems that so much is out of control; what can we all do about it?

Fr. V said...

Exactly what you are doing!

I try not to be too positive about it so that I am laxed into thinking that all is Okay - but there is so much hope for the future. Those, like yourself, who are taking the faith seriously are REALY TAKING THE FAITH SERIOUSLY and learning about it.

We lost two generations of Catholics when the pedulum swang to far and all we talked about was that God loved you - go make a banner about it. Now those generations have no language with which to teach their children. BUT! A whole new crop of Catholics is coming up - hungering for the faith in all of its richness! It is so exciting to see. It will be a slow (the best kind) healing and by what you do - blogging, studying, practicing, encouraging - you are part of the solution and cure! Thank you!

UltraCrepidarian said...

I always wished they would use the Introit around here. Chant it preferably.

I absolutely despise the "Gather us In" ilk of songs. Arghh... And don't get me started about the CBW III (the current hymnal here in most parishes in Canada).

I'm feeling like a Crabby Catholic today, I guess.



TimcoStandard said...

Sadly, few lay people know what VII really said re: reform of the Mass. Michael Davies, the late author and friend of the current Pope, describes the intrigue surrounding VII and it's preparation in the book "Pope Paul's Council", now reprinted.
Few know, for example that VII called for "pride of place" for Latin and Gregorian Chant and only limited use of English. It NEVER in a million years would have approved of communion in the hand. It never approved Mass facing the people or the trashing of centuries of sacred music. The 1964 Missal was the closest to what VII approved, with the antiphons and readings in English, retaining Latin for the remaining parts of the Mass.