“Low [EF] Mass”: Interviewed by Psallite Sapientier

Back on the day Ratty died, I attended Low Mass at St Phillip’s Blackburn North with Josh, the Tasmanian owner of the blog Psallite Sapientier. Josh acted as server for the day. We spent some time talking afterward, and Josh asked me if I would be willing to do an “interview” for his blog on my thoughts on the Latin EF “Low Mass”. He has posted my responses on his blog here, and given me permission to put the whole interview up on my blog at the same time – a kind of “simulcast” if you like. So, here are his questions and my answers.


Low Mass as Seen by David

My good friend and fellow blogger, David Schütz, was kind enough to invite me to join him last Saturday morning for the usual Low Mass offered by Fr Dillon at St Philip’s, Blackburn. The twenty happy parishioners present testified to their esteem for their new parish priest. As matters transpired, I was drafted to serve the Mass.

Upon later reflection, I was curious to know more of how David enters into this distinct form of the Liturgy, given both his usual attendance at Ordinary Form Masses (daily at the Cathedral, on Sundays at St Philip’s or in his home parish at Boronia or wherever his work and family life takes him), and his unique background as a Catholic-minded Lutheran pastor prior to entering full communion with the Bishop of Rome.

David being agreeable, I sent him a list of questions, to which he has deigned to vouchsafe a response (as the new translation would express it):

1. The service being in Latin would I suspect be at once notable and yet, to a well-educated Lutheran pastor, not at all difficult; indeed, I recall David asking me about the Gospel pericope and in doing so betraying that he had been reading along in Latin! Any further comments, David?

Actually, what I betrayed was my ignorance in matters of Latin. I couldn’t work out the reference to a little “rex” – it was, of course, a misprint in the pew sheet for “grex”. Silly me. Few Lutherans today are well educated in Latin, although Luther wished it to be retained for liturgies conducted “in the schools”, and many of the Lutheran Agendas (ritual books) retained Latin for the parts of the Ordo of the Mass. But ecclesiastical Latin was offered as an “elective” in my Seminary training. I opted to do it as a part of my BA at Adelaide Uni, however. The reminder that the Western Rite is the Latin Rite (even in its Lutheran form) is quite pertinent.

2. Beginning at the beginning, would the fact of the liturgy being celebrated ad orientem

This is a curious matter. It was only while I was in Seminary in the late 1980’s that celebration “facing the people” entered into local Lutheran usage. Catholics should not underestimate the effect that their own liturgical practice has on their Protestant brethren and sistern [sic] around them. Up until then, the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) followed the time honoured practice of the Lutheran tradition, which was indeed ad orientemad orientemad orientem

3. Were the minutely specified and executed liturgical gestures of the priest, most carefully observing the ceremonial rubrics (and the attempts at doing the same by his bumbling server) something adding to or detracting from the Mass?

Certainly, for me, it was not a distraction. There were Lutheran manuals for ceremonial (I remember one by Lang, called “Ceremony and Celebration”

4. In contrast to the priest’s manifold posturings, his bowings and crossings, the congregation at a Low Mass simply kneel, but for standing at both Gospels and sitting during the Epistle and Offertory – which is very different to the standing, sitting and kneeling both at High Mass and at all modern Roman Rite Masses. How do you find this – more meditative, or constricting? Or just odd?

Yes, I find this very confusing. Lutherans always fully participated in their liturgies, both in singing or saying the responses and in terms of posture. So the postures were more like the modern Ordinary Form than the traditional Extraordinary Form. The exception was kneeling – which was only done for the general confession and absolution (corresponding to the prayers at the foot of the altar) – although some Lutherans practiced kneeling for the Sanctus

5. I would expect that, mutatis mutandis, the prayers at the foot of the altar, the psalmodic dialogue and mutual confession of priest and server, would be recognizable to Lutheran eyes as similar to way their own traditional services began with a hymn and confession, even before the Introit – but the invocation of Our Lady and the Saints would of course mark this ritual as Roman. Am I right in saying that, to an ex-Lutheran, now mainly a Novus Ordo Mass-goer, the prayers at the foot of the altar have an unexpectedly familiar feel?

Yes, as I said above, the Lutheran orders all followed the Roman rite in this respect: Invocation, usually followed by the Opening Hymn, followed by General Confession and Absolution (kneeling), followed by the Introit (said by the Pastor) and Glory be (sung by the Congregation), followed by the KyrieGloria in excelsis. The “Lord be with with you: and with your spirit” preceded the Collect as in the old mass. And certainly no invocation of Our Lady or the Saints in the confession of sins!

6. Similarly, am I right in saying that the use of Introit with Gloria Patri

Again, I have pre-empted this question. Yes, that was the way it was done – although the Antiphon was never repeated after the Gloria Patri. And although there were settings of the Introit available for singing, I have never attended a Lutheran mass where this was done. The Gloria Patri, however, was routinely sung. Most Lutherans (uneducated in the origin of this practice) regarded it as a part of the liturgy separate to the introit.

7. Any reactions to the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis

Well, there was only ever one Collect – and we followed more or less the traditional English Collects according to Cranmer – although in later years, there was a proliferation of “alternative collects”. Otherwise, the entrance rites were just the same as in the old Roman rite. The Gloria in excelsisGloria

8. David, you being the Scripture expert, how do you perhaps differently perceive and appreciate the Epistle and Gospel (not to mention the Gradual and so forth) when read by the priest at the Latin Mass, as opposed to the less formal manner in which they are proclaimed by lay readers?

Traditionally, Lutherans followed the historical lectionary with only the Epistle and Gospel, although since the late 1800’s, several different Old Testament lectionaries were added as well. The Roman “three-year lectionary” became common since the late 1970’s, although this has largely been replaced by the modern “Revised Three-year Lectionary” common now in all Protestant Churches – which is something of an improvement, may I say, on the Roman version. Again, copying Rome, lay readers for the first two readings is now the norm, although in my childhood, the pastor read all three readings. There was no “responsorial psalm” between the Old Testament and Epistle readings. The psalm of the day, even now, is usually used in the place of the Introit. Where parishes have adopted the Roman usage (as in my wife’s parish) the psalm is often sung responsorily. The LCA has many settings for these psalms produced as part of the Lutheran Worship Project (for which I was the major editor in the years immediately prior to my conversion). You can find these resources here. The musical settings are available as a separate booklet to be ordered from the LCA head office.

9. Dr Martin famously claimed that, from the Offertory onwards, “all stinks of oblation” – hence his cutting away the Minor Canon (the offertory prayers) and the Major Canon (all bar the Lord’s own Words) from the Mass as he himself, as a good Augustinian priest, had celebrated it daily for many years. David, given your unique background, and as a liturgist yourself, how do you regard the silent offertory and the prayers so robustly offering sacrifices of propitiation and expiation to the Lord?

Well, given that almost all these prayers were traditionally said silently, it does not surprise me that Lutherans in the 16th Century barely noticed their omission – especially when the practice was for the choir or congregation to sing an extended Sanctusaloud

10. The silent Canon is to contemporary Catholics one of the most surprising features of the Extraordinary Form Mass. Luther remodelled this part of the traditional service, by retaining only the Preface, the SanctusVerba Domini, that central Institution Narrative whereby the Consecration is effected, and having it all prayed aloud. How do you relate to the age-old silence of the Roman Canon, into which the priest enters to offer sacrifice?

Again, I have anticipated this question. Reflecting more upon it, I see that there is correspondence here with the Eastern practice of visually hiding the consecration behind the iconastasis. Whereas the East veiled the consecration from sight, the Western practice was to “veil” it with silence. I think Joseph Ratzinger has written on this…

11. Dr Martin retained the Elevation, at least at first, regarding it as a visible preaching of Christ’s New and everlasting Testament, whereby all are called to eat the Bread containing His Flesh, Flesh given up for us sinners to save us. Adoring the Real Presence of Christ as both good Lutherans and good Catholics do, may I ask if any such “Lutheran patrimony” still strikes you at this holy moment?

Luther retained the elevation all his life – it was only in the 17th Century that the practice died out. I restored it in all liturgies that I celebrated. Luther taught that it was right and proper to adore Christ present in the Sacrament during the celebration. Lutherans still retain kneeling for the reception of the Sacrament. My wife and children have no problem at all with the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, whether in their own parish or when they join me for mass or adoration. I am thrilled when attending EF masses to be able to kneel to receive Holy Communion.

12. Many moderns find it strange that the priest in the old rite says the Lord’s Prayer by himself, the server responding only with the last phrase thereof. I believe that Lutherans say the prayer all together, and that traditionally by them it is regarded as quasi-consecratory, by reason of its words “Give us this day our daily bread”, regarded almost as an epiclesis, and its repositioning in the Lutheran service to before the Words of Consecration. How do you relate both to the manner and the specifically Eucharistic connotation of the Pater noster?

Traditionally, when the Lord’s Prayer is used before the Words of Institution, it is said by the pastor alone, with the people joining in the doxology, thus retaining the sense that this is THE prayer of consecration. Luther taught that the Real Presence became present during the praying of the Lord’s Prayer, and not only with the Verba. However, today it is indeed usually said by the congregation as a whole. This is not in accordance with Lutheran tradition, and is, I think, a matter of copying the modern Roman rite once again. The understanding that “Give us today our daily bread” refers to the Sacramental Bread is not well known in Lutheran circles.

13. Very sagely, Luther realized that the Pax Domini

Although the practice of “passing the peace” has entered into modern Lutheran practice – again copying Rome – you are right that the “Pax” was understood as blessing. In traditional Lutheran rites, the response to the “Pax” is not “and with your spirit” but “Amen”. Some Lutheran parishes – my wife’s for instance – has the passing of the peace after the absolution at the beginning of the service.

14. Crying out Agnus Dei, begging mercy from Christ the Lamb of God Who alone takes sins away is, of course, very Catholic and very Lutheran, being simply Christian. But in the traditional liturgy, the attendant prayers and rites are rather more complex than in the Mass of Paul VI; and so far as I recall the Ecce Agnus DeiDomine non sum dignus

You are right on all counts. The Agnus DeiEcce, there is an invitation to communion along the lines of “Come, for all things are now ready”.

15. Kneeling for communion would, again, be more familiar to you qua Lutheran rather than qua Catholic – ?

Oh yes. A thousand times yes. There was never anything corresponding to the Anglican “black rubric” in the Lutheran Church!

16. The Last Gospel and the Leonine Prayers are unique to the old Mass; comments?

The Last Gospel was known in Luther’s day, but he cut it out. The Leonine prayers are much later of course, and never had any place in the Lutheran rite.

17. I personally, when not serving, can find the dialogue of priest and server alone a bit irritating, being used to giving the responses, and having enough Latin to do so confidently. How do you find this?

I agree. I want to join in. Which is why I generally prefer the High or Solemn Mass to the Low Mass in the EF. I wish the “Dialogue Mass” – which was only just gaining ground when Vatican II came along – could have a place in today’s celebration of the Low Mass. The people seem to want this.

18. Do you miss the Prayers of the Faithful, or for that matter any other parts of the modern Mass, such as the Memorial Acclamations?

No, not really. I am now used to occasions at weekday masses where the Prayers of the Faithful are omitted, and I am not a fan of the innovation of the Memorial Acclamations, which seem to interrupt the flow of the Canon.

19. I forgot to query Communion under one species only, which is very un-Lutheran! You?

I must confess that I still prefer a mass where I can receive under both kinds, but I accept the necessity for one kind communion in large groups. I am not a fan of the Lutheran practice of consecrating a whole flagon of wine for the Eucharist – the danger of profanation of the left over “wine” is too great.

20. Any other points come to mind?

I hope that this has answered most of your questions. My preference is still for the Ordinary Form of the liturgy – although I would wish for: more Latin than usual, ad orientem, and kneeling to receive Holy Communion. I think Pope Ratzinger’s idea of the Old and New forms mutually enriching each other would be a good thing, if it ever came to pass!

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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35 Responses to “Low [EF] Mass”: Interviewed by Psallite Sapientier

  1. Schütz says:

    Josh, on his blog, has raised a question about the Lutheran practice of standing for the consecration of the Eucharistic elements (ie. during the Verba Domini). I do not know of any particular controversy concerning standing/kneeling at the consecration during Lutheran Mass in the 16th Century. I do not know (1) whether standing was the norm in the 16th Century anyway, or, if not, (2) whether and when practice of standing was introduced by the Lutherans. It would be worth asking better informed Lutherans. Perhaps Pastor Weedon will post a comment on my blog to enlighten us?

  2. Mary H says:

    Some reflections from someone who had the Latin Mass until my pre-teen years.

    Ad orientem. At first, it seemed good to be able to “see” what the priest was doing at the altar. But really, there isn’t anything important to see that we couldn’t see before. Is it really missing anything to miss seeing the details of the priest washing his hands, which is the kind of thing we can now see that we couldn’t before? But the main thing missing is the idea that we’re all facing the “same direction” and that “direction” is God. Having the priest face the congregation doesn’t keep from making him seem to be our leader. It’s just that instead of both leader and congregation facing God, we’re facing each other. The older I get, the more the orientation of priest and congregation makes the priest into the “actor on a stage” and the congregation into the “audience.”

    “the congregation at a Low Mass simply kneel, but for standing at both Gospels and sitting during the Epistle and Offertory”
    Oh my dear. Did we do all that kneeling in the Latin Rite Catholic Mass? I may not remember it now because I was a girl. Now that I’m in my fifties with knee problems, I very much appreciate the changes from kneeling to sitting to standing. Sitting the whole time makes the congregation too much into an “audience”, but too much standing and especially too much kneeling is too hard physically. I try to kneel through the major canon up to and through the consecration, at the least.

    “the age-old silence of the Roman Canon” So that’s what I was remembering! I can remember as a girl reading the English translation of what the priest was supposed to be saying to himself before the consecration and trying to read fast enough to finish at the same time the priest did. I usually (always?) failed.

    Kneeling to receive communion. Oh, yes, I remember that. Did/Do Lutherans receive the bread on the tongue when they kneel or do they take it in their hand?

    A big problem with taking communion standing and in the hand is that it is really, really, really hard to show proper reverence. If you’re kneeling and receive on the tongue, everyone is in the same respectful position and there is very little chance that the elements could be accidentally dropped or treated disrespectfully. The way it is now, even when everyone bows before taking communion, it’s almost impossible for everyone to bow the same way at the same time, so you get all sorts of odd jerky bows, and you either bow before you actually get to the priest/deacon/EM (ie, to the back of the person in front of you) or you hold up the line a bit when you get there. Then everybody puts it in their mouth and eats it at different times, you’re walking back to your pew when you should be able to meditate at what you’ve just received (no, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time). If you try to receive on the tongue while standing, it looks really wrong for the priest/deacon/EM to have to look UP at you if you’re the taller one – as if Christ had to bring himself up to your height instead of coming down to you. Finally, I’ve given up on receiving the cup at all, anymore. I’m just not sure I can receive it anymore without potentially sloshing too much, and I’d hate to get any of the wine / precious blood on my clothes or the carpet. I just bow in the direction of the cup and then pass it by.

    I’m not saying you HAVE to kneel to be properly respectful, but what we’re doing now certainly doesn’t seem to work very well.

    I like the idea of the New and Old Forms enriching each other. I’m fine with keeping the New form as it is if they can come up with some way that is as good at maintaining respect for Christ in communion as the Old Form was. I’d also prefer Ad Orientem, but just putting the tabernacle back on the altar so that we’re at least always facing the Real Presence as well as the priest would be enough for me.

  3. Christine says:

    Bravo Joshua and David, great post!

    (no, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time) Wow, Mary I thought I was the only person thusly afflicted :)

    I am grateful that even though my parish has a separate chapel for perpetual adoration the tabernacle in the sanctuary is still centrally located and I would be happy to see a return to ad orientem.

    Here in the U.S. there is some variance as to how Lutherans receive Communion. Some still kneel and receive on the tongue, others use “stations” where communicants receive standing. And of course, Orthodox and Eastern Catholics stand to receive which is native to their traditions although they never receive in the hand since the priest offers Communion by intinction.


    • Mary H says:

      That’s interesting about the Orthodox and Eastern traditions of communion standing and on the tongue.

      How do they handle height differences? And for some reason, I worry about losing my balance if I were to receive on the tongue while standing. Our parish allows receiving on the tongue (all parishes are supposed to, even in New form, in the US, aren’t they) and I’ve considered it, but I worry about that.

      As for “walking and chewing gum”, welcome to the club, Christine. :)

      Actually, receiving on the tongue standing instead of kneeling would be practically the best solution for me, if I could figure out the height difference and balance issues.

  4. Christine says:

    How do they handle height differences? And for some reason, I worry about losing my balance if I were to receive on the tongue while standing.

    A few years ago I attended a Divine Liturgy at a local Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic parish. The priest there is quite tall so if need be he just bends down a bit to give Communion (and Eastern Catholics are instructed to open their mouths W I D E to receive since they are receiving a cube of consecrated Bread soaked in the Precious Blood, no slipping the Host on the tongue like us Latins do!); if a particular parishioner is a bit short or, on the other end, if a communicant is taller than the priest the communicant just dips down a bit to accomodate the differences in height. It works quite well. It made me feel good to know that as a Latin Rite Catholic I was welcome to receive at that parish.

    At my home parish people are free to receive on the tongue or in the hand.


  5. Christine says:

    One more thought Mary, I’m not sure if this video will open up for you but I recalled that there are two steps leading up to the iconostasis/royal doors and they are also employed in the distribution of Communion.

  6. Christine says:

    I was musing on the observations of Bishop Challoner regarding the Canon back in the day:

    After the Preface follows the Canon of the Mass, or the most sacred and solemn part of this divine service, which is read with a low voice, as well to express the silence of Christ in his passion and his hiding at that time his glory and divinity, as to signify the vast importance of that common cause of all mankind, which the priest is then representing as it were in secret to the ear of God; and the reverence and awe with which both priest and people ought to assist at these tremendous mysteries.


  7. Stephen K says:

    David, I found your responses to Joshua’s questions interesting and informative. I found Joshua’s questions touching odd chords. So, may I contribute a personal response here? First, I’ll venture some context so you don’t think I’m talking through my hat.

    Like some others, my pre-teen years coincided with the old mass, being communioned and confirmed with the unreformed pre-vernacular rite. The sights and sensations and recollections of my religion in those years remain very vivid and had a great deal to do with the evolution of my particular religious sensibilities. (I must clarify, however, that the High Mass form was rare, and the liturgy that most conveyed the ritual sense of the sacred to me in my earliest years was Benediction.) Moreover, shortly before the new mass was promulgated in 1970/71, I had begun to serve regularly at Latin low masses and during the period immediately following participate on special occasions at missae cantatae and high mass. These masses were celebrated in a very early resistant (or persistent) environment. I will not elaborate but suffice to say, during the following years I attended, served or participated at Tridentine masses on a daily basis. In other words, I have attended/served a lot. I think I can rightly say I understand the spirit of the old mass well.

    At some point the old mass became problematic for me, but not because of its intrinsic qualities, if it can be said to have these (and I think it can), but because of extrinsic ones. The politics of the Mass (either form) are substantial and intrusive, and I have to say that I find them distasteful and scandalous. It seems that Mass form preference has long been the litmus test for theological allegiance; that, like team colours, instantly marks one off for receiving either support or condemnation. It may be indeed true that ritualists and minimalists in all traditions never see eye to eye, but I suspect it’s worse in the modern Catholic Church.

    Of course, not everyone who loves and responds to the old Mass or prefers the new Mass is an ideological warrior; I realise many are simply expressing their spiritual sensibility. But I think consciously attending old or new Masses often gets interpreted as a statement, whether it is or not, and mostly I think it is.

    Having said all that, what do I think about the things Joshua asked David? Here are some thoughts.

    (1) The contribution Latin makes to the sense of “mystery” and “other-worldliness” may very well be diminished, in my view, by the extent to which a person understands the language. The more one is familiar with Latin, I think, the more one’s ability to analyse and appreciate the sense of the words brings the prayers closer to earth and alters the linguistic stream of consciousness. It is harder for me now to really remember what it was like to hear Mass as I did when I was a young school boy – although I did of course learn the dialogue responses. It is true one had the translated missal alongside the Latin, but understanding through hearing is different from understanding through reading a translation. Besides this consideration, the “other-worldliness” of another, unfamiliar, language like Latin has to be offset against the very real advantage of the accessibility of the vernacular for most people. It is so easy to be seduced by the perceived sensuality of the medium (i.e. Latin, or BCP English, Church Slavonic etc.) into not actually praying unselfconsciously or at all.
    (2) There is no doubt in my mind that periods of silence punctuated only by the tintinnabulum and the raised strategic murmur of the “Nobis quoque” etc. highlight special moments in the liturgical transaction. But the need to express prayer vocally is both strong and natural, and one ought always remember that liturgy – the Mass – is public prayer. Yes, I know that some will say one does not need to say anything to be said to “participate”, but, both psychologically, and practically, the confinement of response to the altar server makes everyone else, for all intents and purposes, mere spectators. I say simply that the difference between a journeyman and a great symphony lies in a balance and deft use of instruments. For the very reason that the Canon is a Great Prayer, I do not like it silent, but think it works best declaimed strongly.

    (3) The same applies, in my own sense, to orientation. There are parts of the Mass that best suit different orientations. I see the Entrance phase (old Psalm 42, Introit, Kyrie etc), the Credo and Offertory and the Lord’s Prayer as best suited to the versus altare, the Liturgy of the Word (Epistle, Gospel) best suited to the versus populum. The Eucharistic Prayer suits both.

    (4) The Last Gospel and Psalm 42 are two great losses to the Mass in my view. What more fitting introductory prayer could there be than to declare “I will go up unto the altar of God etc.” And, as for the Last Gospel, the opening words of John are quite simply, in Latin or English, in my view the supreme words of any Gospel, even more than Luke’s attractive canticles. Supreme, not only in the sense of sublime, but profound and the most effable(sic) attempt at the ineffable.

    (5) Joshua is totally correct in saying that it is the high Mass that is the true expression of the Mass. The chant is a powerful feature of sung high tridentine masses but there is no reason why it ought not be part of a sung new mass. And, in my view, the music and incense are stronger and more important elements than Latin in conveying the special character of public liturgy or divine worship. “Low” mass is appreciable, and as a pastoral convenience, has its place in both forms, but I think a simply recited new mass makes more “sense” than a simply recited old mass, and a high sung Mass makes better sense than either of them.

    These are just my own views about the two forms of Mass, from a strictly liturgical point of view. The thing that ought to be kept in mind, I think, in all this, is that allowing Mass preference to influence one’s attitude to one’s co-religionists is to be avoided at all costs.

    • Mary H says:

      “It seems that Mass form preference has long been the litmus test for theological allegiance; that, like team colours, instantly marks one off for receiving either support or condemnation.”

      You are right to a certain extent. It tends to mark of people who like the EF of the Mass, in part because of the extraordinary (pun sort of intended) measures they have to go through to attend one. Other people, like me, are not willing to go to another parish for one, at least on a regular basis, although I would certainly enjoy attending one now and again.

      It is too bad the switch to the New Form was made by more or less “outlawing” (maybe not literally but certainly in practice, and according to the understanding of most American Catholics) the Old Form, instead of adding the New Form as one of the weekly Mass forms. I wonder whether that may also have prevented some of the greater excesses of the implementations of the New Form over the years, by keeping a grounding in the Old Form easily available to all.

      If both forms are commonly available at most parishes, then there will be allowance for different spiritual “tastes” without requiring people to leave their parishes. That means there will be more moderates at the EF. In fact, the average Catholic who (I think) has a favorite Mass but will normally be exposed to every type of Mass at a parish because of the occassional schedule conflicts, will also be exposed to the EF, hopefully removing some stereotypes about it.

      There will always be people who complain about Mass forms they don’t like, and as you say, it will always be something of a litmus test. But it might reduced somewhat if the EF becomes more “ordinary.”

      But really, what do people think about how we implement the “solemnity” or “veiling” of the canon in the New Form? Is it there and I’m missing it? Or is there a way to do it in the New Form and it’s just not being implemented correctly?

      • Stephen K says:

        Just one more thought. Mary H, to my mind the solemnity of the Canon (indeed, any part) lies latent, potentially, in the composition on the missal page. It is only actualised by the voice and performance of the priest/ministers. By this I mean an analogy to music and theatre and public rhetoric. It is only when the priest (or artist, actor or orator) performs “just right” that the people/audience will be able to “forget” the medium and be drawn into the unself-conscious focus on the thing coming alive. It is a living demonstration of Aristotle’s description of virtue as the middle of extremes: the celebrant/performer must be so good that they become invisible. It is only when people cease to see them that they can be swept along etc. Otherwise their attention will be anchored in the contemplation of incompetence and mediocrity.

        For this reason, it is imperative, in my view, priests learn (if possible) to speak, to declaim, to intone, to project, to orate following masters of the relevant art. No mass form is immune from the damage done to it by an indifferent celebrant, no matter how pastorally personable or theologically competent he might otherwise be. It is not that they must learn simply to “perform” either: that way may lead to a mere showy visible exhibitionism. But they must practice tone and rhythm and pitch to do justice to the Great Prayer, as I describe it (and indeed any other part). Then the power or solemnity will actualise in the minds and hearts of those present. Those gifted with pleasing Patrick Stewart-like voices have a head-start perhaps but they need to learn how to excel invisibly.

        (Note, I am not talking about liturgical power or solemnity from a theological point of view, simply at the human psychological/perceptional level).

        • Stephen K says:

          PS. My comments apply equally to those singing or reading the Scriptures. I approve of lay lectors, but they have to be able to compel the congregation’s attention on the Word, not merely the words.

          • Mary H says:

            Oh yes, I certainly agree with better training for the priest, lector, choir on performing their respective parts (I don’t mean that in a theatrical sense). But don’t you think it would help to have some of that “built-in”, so to speak, and not dependent on the level of the priest’s talent and/or training?

            The advantage to physical veiling from sight or silence is that they can achieve their effects apart from the capability of the priest.

            At this point I don’t have any preferences or particular ideas.

    • Schütz says:

      “The politics of the Mass (either form) are substantial and intrusive, and I have to say that I find them distasteful and scandalous.”

      Couldn’t agree more, Stephen.

    • Schütz says:

      “But the need to express prayer vocally is both strong and natural, and one ought always remember that liturgy – the Mass – is public prayer. … For the very reason that the Canon is a Great Prayer, I do not like it silent, but think it works best declaimed strongly.”

      Luther agreed whole heartedly, of course, especially because he saw the consecretory Verba as being a “preached Sacrament”. While sympathising with Luther on this score, I also side with Ratzinger on this point. He suggests that most of the Canon could be said silently, without losing anything of hte participation.

      What if, as a suggestion, when Eucharistic Prayer I is used, everything after the Sanctus (I think the Preface prayers are too significant in terms of the liturgy of the day to lose in silence) were to be said “in a low voice”? It is, after all, a very long prayer and it takes longer to declaim it than it does to say softly in the usual manner of the Low EF. We all know it, or have it in our books, and we don’t verbally participate in it in any way. The Verba – as Luther suggested – could still be said aloud (I think hearing the words “this is my body” “this is my blood” are indeed a very powerful proclamation of the Gospel), and the Mysterium Fidei with its response from the congregation, but then silent again until the final doxology and the people’s Amen. This would not be to break any liturgical rules currently in force, as far as I know. It would restore some of the characteristic silence to the liturgy – like restoring the iconastasis but keeping the doors open?

      • Stephen K says:

        David, the idea of having some period of silence in a public celebration has merit because silence is powerful; and it can help both to earth energy and heighten awareness. Silence highlights the power of proclamation, which in turn needs or benefits by silence in which it may be absorbed and contemplated. I have considered the low voice option, but all the prayers of the Canon seem to me to be prayers one ought to hear, not simply read or not attended to. (Declaiming it may take longer but the attitude that led to the worst instances of the 20 minute low mass ought not perhaps be given any encouragement.)

        I think silence could be inserted in the new mass in two significant places: (1) the priest observes 2 minutes silence, after the Gospel is read, in silent prayer kneeling faced towards the altar, before approaching the pulpit or dais for the homily. Such silent prayer would be in balance to the pre-Gospel “Munda cor meum”; it would take the form of something like “Come, Holy Spirit, infuse my heart, illumine my mind and guide my lips that I may speak with your voice and wisdom; may I shed light where there is darkness, encourage where there is despair, affirm where there is sadness and so speak that the promise of the Gospel may live and awaken in those who hear; and may I always remember that I too am a sinner in need of your balm and the mercy of God. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen”.
        (2) After the reception of the processional offerings, the Offertory is said in silence up until the “Pray Brethren, that my sacrifice and yours…..etc” With the prayers and lavabo, this would represent around 5 minutes silence.

        What do you think of this?

      • Schütz says:

        From Josh,


        I’m having trouble posting comments on your blog – I’ve tried again and again and none of them seem to appear!

        Here is my latest, in response to your remarks about how, now we know the E.P. so well from having heard it aloud at every Mass, we could from time to time have it silent, with the Sanctus sung, and only the Verba aloud:

        I think Ratzinger somewhere made exactly this suggestion in an article on Church music: during the singing of a lengthy setting of the Sanctus (he evidently had in mind his brother directing the Regensburger Domspatzen), the priest should continue with the E.P.; after the Consecration – aloud, no doubt – its second half, the highly appropriate Benedictus qui venit would be sung, and the E.P. finished off quietly meanwhile, ending with the doxology again chanted.

    • Schütz says:

      “the Liturgy of the Word (Epistle, Gospel) best suited to the versus populum.”

      Yes, this is fitting. And even when I attend a OF mass in Latin, I get annoyed when the readings are read in Latin. These are the parts of the mass that are most obviously intended to be heard and understood by the people. Even before the Council, I understand, there was permission to read the readings in the vernacular after they were read in Latin.

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes, that is correct, in my clear recollection, some priests read the readings in English, from the pulpit, prior to the homily.

        Speaking of the vernacular, I have long thought that the old mass should have been/should be allowed in English for the low mass version. The powers-that-be may have thought that this might cause problems of various kinds, but I think it may have both made the old mass more palatable and work better for the mutual enrichment you’ve referred to. I would not have disallowed low old masses in Latin but I’d have considered encouraging the reservation of Latin to High Masses.

    • Schütz says:

      “Low” mass is appreciable, and as a pastoral convenience, has its place in both forms, but I think a simply recited new mass makes more “sense” than a simply recited old mass, and a high sung Mass makes better sense than either of them.

      Amen, Amen, AMEN!

  8. Christine says:

    Like I said, Christine, the East veiled the mystery from sight and the West from hearing.

    I completely agree, David. Some preconciliar Catholics do not and insist that Challoner’s views are the only authentic way of being Catholic.

    I can appreciate the beauty and solemnity of the old rite but especially with the restored translation I am perfectly content witht the Mass as it is today. Who knows, there may be even more restoration coming down the road.

    That was also true of my visit to the Byzantine parish, I am grateful for my Eastern brothers and sisters but in my heart I am and will always be a Western Christian.

  9. matthias says:

    I especially love the section of the EF Mass -Low or High- when after the priest turns and faces the people and says “Ecce Agnus Dei,ecce qui tollit peccata mundi” and
    we all say thrice “Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum
    sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anina mea” Michael Sternecks’ edition THE ORDER OF MASS Ths Missal of Blessed John XXIII is a very good guide.He is also a friend of Fr Tattersalls and I had the provilefge of meeting him at a Sung Low Mass in January

  10. Mary H says:

    Yes, Christine, I see how it could work with the two steps. That would help a lot. Also, the mouth wide open would help – I could do that. I’d also be comfortable taking the wine again if the priest distributed Communion by intinction, but of course for the communicant herself to do it seems extremely disrespectful (in our western world of chips and dips). Just one more thing would make it perfect: a rail of some sort by the two steps to hold onto for my balance problems. (really, I’m not that bad in general, but I don’t like to take chances with Communion).

    I like to see diversity of usages, as long as they stick to the important things. I think it’s cool how the Western tradition uses silence and the Eastern uses visual veiling.

    But what does the Novus Ordo have anymore to underline the special sacredness of the canon? Granted that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular kind of veiling, but it seems we don’t have anything anymore.

    Generally, I would like to see most parishes with both the EF and the NO. I know some people are worried that the NO will turn into the EF. Maybe if people can have easy access to either, they won’t worry as much.

    If we can restore more of the respect for the major canon and Communion, I think I’d just as soon stick with the NO, although I really love the Latin and majesty of the EF, so I’d probably go to that every once in a while.

  11. Gareth says:

    Interesting on question 17 on people’s comments on the High/Low Mass.

    Some traddies would shoot me down in flames with the following: I attend the TLM on an irregular basis and find that and find that 99 per cent of the Extraordinary Form in my Dioceses are High Masses.

    I have no issue with High Masses, but for me personally with a limited knowledge of latin, it would be nice every now and then to experience a low/dialogue Mass for the sole reason that I think with more responses needed from the faithful it would vastly impove our Latin.

    It may also aid greatly a lot of peoples transition to the TLM as after all (for whatever reason) most Masses in Australia pre-Vatican II were Low Masses and the transition from the Novus Ordo where one gets into the pattern of responding regularly to the High Mass where the faithful can at times go for 30 minutes without saying anything can take some time to getting used to.

    Don’t get me wrong, the High Mass is a beautiful thing, but giving the low Mass a go every now and then may be more beneficial than most traddies think.

    • Joshua says:

      You’ve raised some very interesting and stimulating points, Gareth.

      1. It is certainly noteworthy that, where the EF Mass is used around Australia, High Mass (or at least a Missa cantata – the difference being that the former is celebrated with priest, deacon and subdeacon, the latter with priest only) is far more common, relative to Low Mass, than it used to be.


      (a) Traddies today seem to greatly value Gregorian chant and worship “in the beauty of holiness” in a way that would have been foreign, almost, back when a hurried Low Mass was the standard. I suspect this is a reaction to the stereotypical banal, liturgically minimalist OF parish Mass, which too often approximates to a Low Mass with a few songs thrown in; it is also a reaction to the old Low Mass culture (insert comment about Irish Catholicism here!) which, in retrospect, was not so focussed on liturgy per se as on “saying Mass”, the liturgy of which was a given, whose rubrics had to be kept, but which – as opposed to the Sacrifice of the Mass, the dogmatic idea – was not of great interest.

      (b) Low Masses, then and even now, are by and large not dialogue Masses, but rather the server alone makes the responses. This has always seemed weird to me, especially as, being a modern Traddie, I have learnt to give the responses by reason of always doing so as a matter of course at OF Mass. Modern congregants seem to want to respond, and, once they have learnt how, I think it would be foolish and counterproductive to try and stop them, as having a server alone respond is really proper to a priest’s private Mass, rather than his celebration of the Mass in public. Indeed, I noticed even at St Philip’s that the congregation joined in even with the Sanctus and the Pater noster, which, while permitted at a dialogue Mass of an advanced type, was not at all the norm – rather, the priest alone normally said all of both (but for “Sed libera nos a malo”).

      2. I do agree in one sense that a Low Mass is easier to follow. It must be said, however, that the dialogue Mass overemphasises certain prayers (such as Psalm 42 and the Confiteor) that at High Mass, which is the normative form of the rite, are restricted to the priest and his ministers in the sanctuary.

      3. Types of dialogue Mass? At basis, the first type is that in which the people say everything that they would join in singing at High Mass: “Et cum spiritu tuo”, “Amen”, “Gloria tibi, Domine”, “Habemus ad Dominum”, “Dignum et justum est”, “Sed libera nos a malo”, “Domine, non sum dignus…”, “Deo gratias” (to list them all, more or less). The second is that in which, in addition, they also say some of the responses that only the ministers in the sanctuary say at High Mass: Psalm 42, the Confiteor, Misereatur and following versicles, and the Kyrie (antiphonally with the priest); “Deo gratias” after the Epistle and “Laus tibi Christe” after the Gospel, “Suscipiat…” in response to the “Orate, fratres”. The third degree of dialogue Mass has the people join in the Ordinary of the Mass: the Gloria in excelsis, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Finally, the fourth form involves the laity even reading along while the priest says the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia or Tract, Offertory and Communion (this form was rare, and oft restricted to religious communities and seminaries). I should add that, while quite untraditional, permission was given for the faithful to join in saying the whole Pater noster with the priest at a dialogue Mass.

      3. It is important, very important indeed – since OF Mass as usually done often gives the wrong impression of this, and EF Low Mass can also give not quite the right impression – to realise and take to heart that High Mass is the standard form of the Extraordinary Form, and that the chant is integral to it. What to do when the choir sings? Read madly along in the missal, desperately ignoring the music and trying to “keep up” with whatever the priest and assistants are praying in the sanctuary? I would argue, by no means! If the choir is singing, listen and appreciate and reflect upon the chanted text! That, surely, makes sense!

      Introit [take a note from the Lutherans, who preserve the Carolingian ideal, and join in singing the Gloria Patri] – Kyrie – Gloria – Dominus vobiscum &c. – Collect – Epistle – Gradual – Alleluia – Dominus vobiscum &c. – Gospel; then the sermon; then Credo – Dominus vobiscum &c. – Offertory verse – (pray; read the Secret) – Dominus, Sursum corda, etc. – Preface – Sanctus – (pray during the Canon, turning to the translated words if you wish) – Oremus &c. – Pater noster – (pray at the Libera nos) – Pax Domini – Agnus Dei – (pray before, during and after Communion) – Ecce Agnus Dei – Communion verse – Dominus vobiscum &c. – Postcommunion – Dominus & Ite missa est – Blessing – (Last Gospel).

      These are the parts to attend to at High Mass, all but those in brackets being sung or said aloud; in the earliest centuries, these parts alone (more or less) constituted the Mass. The devout prayers later added at the foot of the altar before the Introit, during the Offertory, and at Communion time, are later and, while most holy, of a lesser import than the chiefest prayers of the Mass.

      4. Above all, I must relate at the end of this comment-cum-post that my first few experiences of the EF, about twenty years ago, were of very uninspiring Low Masses. It took my first High Mass to blow me away and make me addicted for life. Having found this love, I was then able with profit and devotion to appreciate Low Mass, whereas before it seemed dark and dumb.

      • John Nolan says:

        What a sensible post! My first experience of Mass was from about the age of three when my father took us to the Missa Cantata at 11 o’clock on Sunday Morning (my mother attended the earlier Low Mass, to get back to cook Sunday lunch). I was utterly transfixed and now, more than half a century later, have an enormous attachment to the sung Latin Mass.

        I didn’t really encounter Low Mass until I started to serve it at the age of eight in 1959 (this was pre-dialogue Mass in English parishes). I knew the responses by heart and recently served a Low Mass at the London Oratory for the first time in 45 years, and found I had forgotten nothing.

      • Mary H says:

        ” What to do when the choir sings? Read madly along in the missal, desperately ignoring the music and trying to “keep up” with whatever the priest and assistants are praying in the sanctuary? I would argue, by no means! If the choir is singing, listen and appreciate and reflect upon the chanted text! That, surely, makes sense!”

        Absolutely correct, Joshua. I don’t even remember whether there was music at that time or not. My “trying to keep up with the priest” game as a pre-teen girl is not something I recommend in any form of the Mass. :)

      • Gareth says:

        Thanks for the post Josh.

        It could be that a lack of my personal exposure to low Masses is due to a lack of EF Masses in our Diocese at all.

        Whilst, I think the call for a EF weekly may be pushing our limits somewhat, there is most defintely room for something more than the once a month fiasco.

        Hope to catch up some time

      • PM says:

        And I might just add that, if the choir or schola sings a chant ordinary, the congregation can join in – indeed they were strongky ancouraged to do so by Pius X and later popes.

    • Schütz says:

      For what it is worth, I AM a great fan of the EF High Mass. The few times I have experienced this, I have been able to see the connections between the liturgical traditions of the West and East far more clearly. It weems to me that the East never developed a distinction between a “High” and “Low” mass – every mass was for them a “High” mass. This is likely due to the fact that the East never seems to have developed a widespread tradition of daily mass. The “low” mass seems to me – I could be wrong – a direct outcome of two Western practices: daily mass, and the practice of priests often saying mass without a congregation.

  12. Christine says:

    Stephen K, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    but of course for the communicant herself to do it seems extremely disrespectful and is not an option in the Eastern rites. I want to be clear that by no means am I implying that the Eastern way is superior to the Western, only that since Eastern Christians are given Communion in the form of bread soaked in wine from a spoon the priest is careful to “drop” it in the mouth rather than place it on the tongue as is done in the Western tradition with the Host.

    • Mary H says:

      Of course, Christine, understood. :) I know that you’re not pointing out the Eastern methods as superior, just different.

      The idea of re-introducing kneeling for Communion at the Novus Ordo seems to be divisive, so this article has gotten me to thinking about how we could re-establish the sacredness of Communion through our actions in the N.O. Obviously, nothing we do could possibly make the body and blood of Christ more sacred, but we can certainly act in ways that make us more mindful of that fact.

      One of the advantages of different usages, like the particular Eastern one you described and provided the video for (thank you so much – that helped immeasurably), is that we can get ideas for how things could work. I do honestly believe the current rubrics (is that the correct term?) for distributing and receiving Communion don’t work. It’s just too awkward to maintain the proper “sense of the sacred.” I think the Eastern method you describe receiving standing, but on the tongue, is a real option. Kneeling is another option, but that may have the negative connotation that we’re forcing the EF on the NO. Genuflecting before receiving in the hand, while standing, would just be physically impossible or difficult for some people (although I suppose anything would be a problem for someone – this may just be my joints speaking).

  13. Schütz says:

    Thanks for all these responses. I haven’t detected in any poster a spirit of “it must be done as it was” (the “museum piece” attitude that promoters of the EF are sometimes accused of), nor of any odium expressed for the OF (when done well and according to the book). Instead, I detect a strong note of desire for the EF and OF to inform one another, so that the best practice of both can be mutually enriching to each other form. That this attitude can be so widespread in just the few years since Summorum Pontificum indicates that the Holy Father was on the right track from the beginning, and gives me great hope that within a generation we may see the flowering of an entirely new “liturgical age” in the Western Church.

  14. matthias says:

    “the flowering of an entirely new “liturgical age” in the Western Church” . Yes one would hope and pray so. it is helped by priests who celebrate the EF in other parishes around Melbourne-st Phillips North Blackburn and St gerard’s North dandenong.
    As one priest said to me, there are more young people attending the EF now than before.
    (On another matter I would value your prayers as i await a confirmation of a chronic disorder)

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