Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sotto or not so sotto, that is the question

There is a very interesting discussion going on, for those of us who could be considered "liturgical geeks", at NLM regarding, inter alia, whether it is appropriate and allowed for various parts of the Mass to be said sotto voce (in a low voice). As with anything to do with liturgy, it should be no surprise there are a plethora of strongly-held opinions on all sides. The discussion extends further into areas such as how to properly play the Mysterium fidei, which has been a particular concern of mine for as long as I can remember (hint: it's not an opportunity for a piano solo).

I think this discussion is a further reflection on, and fruit of, the "reform of the reform" and in particular Summorum Pontificum. If things are allowed to go on as they are envisioned in SP, we should see the close co-location of the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Latin Rite. Continuing in that vein, we should start seeing more and more people, both lay and clerical, exposed to both forms. An inevitable outgrowth of this exposure will be mental exercises in comparisons and contrasts between the forms which will result in the organic growth so desired by the Pope and required by the Church.

Further than that, however, I believe that honest and open exposure to both forms (done well, of course) will help to un-rut some (hopefully great) number of those who go to church on Sunday purely out of rhythm rather than conscious participation. Perhaps that occasional exposure to the "other" form will cause someone who mindlessly repeats their part or waits impatiently for Father to finish whatever he's doing up there will, quite simply, give them a kick in their complacency.

I am not, of course, saying anything new here. The Pope has said essentially all I'm saying here before. My only point of emphasis is that we remember the effect of the availability of both forms can have not only on how Mass is offered but on how it is taken in and participated in from the pews. I look at this not just as an opportunity to reform one or the other form but as a truly teaching opportunity. A priest can only fit so much theology, ecclesiology, soteriology and so on into a ten minute homily - given, however, the inherent comparison and contrast between the two forms, when done properly, the entire hour becomes a tool for teaching simultaneous to praise, worship and sacrifice.

There are some who will consider Summorum Pontificum a true success only if every parish offers both forms of Mass on a equal one-to-one basis (there are some who would go further, but that is another discussion). I don't have such stringent requirements. If the opening up of the liturgical treasure house intended in SP has the effect of only making some otherwise lax parishioners scratch their heads and take up learning a few things about their faith I'll consider it a raving success. The only goal that counts in the end is the salvation of souls.