In Ukraine I find myself far from that part of the world, and from the parish and the excitement of the first experiences with the new English translation of the Roman Missal. I have to content myself long-distance with comments in the blogosphere and candid reactions from friends at home and elsewhere in the English speaking world. Among the tidbits which have come my way, I was a bit taken off guard by a comment from an Italian priest friend who said very simply that the new English reminds him of the Italian Missal in the sense that both demand attention and application if a priest is going to pray them properly for the people. My spontaneous thought was: Looks like we're back in the fold with the greater Church around the world. Despite glitches, it is obviously a smaller but significant blessing that this old Simeon has lived long enough to see. Deo gratias!
My prayers continue for all who strive in the area of sacred music. Long term and not discounting initial hurdles and objections to abandoning much of a parish's repertoire of songs in an attempt to set forth the genuine tradition of the Western Church (read: Latin Church), I am convinced that in the area of music, sacred music, the English-speaking world is called to provide the leadership in the work of recovering plain chant and more, both in Latin and in the vernacular. I'm exposed to music in a lot of different languages and most of it involves translations of the English speaking world's hymnody or popular church music. The Western Church's vernacular music repertoire in the average community everywhere in the world is really quite limited. If you taught people or even a scola just a couple basic chant melodies and turned them loose on the propers for Mass, you'd end up with exponentially more variety (if that's what you want) than comes forth from those few hymns everybody knows and that just with verses 1 and 2, which are as far as we go. As I say, all involved in church music and pastors who have responsibility for encouraging restoration and development according to the mind of the Church are definitely in my daily prayers.
On the issue of worship ad Orientem, I'd ask your continued prayers for my carpenter who has begun preparing the new altar for my chapel. I can't wait. The other day I finally met with the priest who designed the chapel and we have agreed on the modifications which need to be made. I may have strong-armed him a bit, but the sisters were there to console him after our meeting and to assure him that the additions and changes were really going to make Father's work even more beautiful. Don't ask me to go into liturgical art consulting!
In this regard, the experience of these months of celebrating across the altar have confirmed my belief that we are dealing with a fad and not any kind of liturgical development. Both ways of preparing the gifts and praying the Eucharistic Prayer are possible in the Church today, but the great tradition and, I am thoroughly and profoundly convinced, the better way is ad Orientem.
Not from my own experience (which I explained back in Island Envoy), but from listening and observing, I can see however that the change to ad Orientem where that is possible without a huge financial outlay is really a terribly high hurdle to clear. What was done overnight and in haste two generations ago (moving in a table or quickly fabricating something of TV or movie set quality) looms terribly large and immovable for most priests today when it comes to reversing a trend. What can I say? The Extraordinary Form of the liturgy today teaches eloquently and should have its impact on the Ordinary Form. Beyond the Missal and decorous music, a key component is studying and accurately celebrating the Mass according to the rubrics but doing so if and whenever possible ad Orientem.
No doubt the difference from 2 generations back in time is that Father back then could act capriciously and few dared call him to account. I can only hope and pray that for our day and time genuine leadership among priests and bishops in this regard will find the way.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI