On almost being liturgically indifferent

See here for a well-informed (my comment excepted) discussion on things liturgical in light of the rumored forthcoming liberalization of the use of the pre-Vatican II Mass in the RCC. Obviously Protestants don’t directly have a horse in this race, but as Derek points out what the RCC does tends to affect Protestant bodies.

I admit that I am still quite the liturgical philistine. As a parishoner at what is widely considered to be the flagship parish of Anglo-Catholicism in America it’s still very much a matter of casting pearls before swine in my case. πŸ˜‰

We still gravitate toward the Rite II Sung Mass rather than the High Mass in Rite I, due to the greater prevalence of congregational singing and participation. Maybe the sign of a true Protestant is that you have a hard time imagining a church service without lots of hymn-singing! I’ve certainly met some people whom I affectionately refer to as “liturgical fascists” – they genuinely seem to believe that the High Mass is objectively superior to any other possible service.

For my part I think C.S. Lewis’ self-description fits me pretty well:

[M]y whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is being snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit — habito dell’arte. (Letters to Malcolm, p. 5)

Of course Lewis didn’t live to see some of the more banal, not to mention heretical, liturgies that have been inflicted on long-suffering Christian people in the last thirty years or so. Still, I can’t get too excited about arguments over liturgy, though of course I want worship to be reverent, reflect sound doctrine, etc. I definitely have my preferences – I probably feel most at home in a highish traditional Lutheran service that many Anglicans would probably consider pretty middle-of-the-road. But it’s not a hill I’m particularly willing to die on.

I am glad that there are smart people like Derek, et al. who give this stuff serious thought since they’ll be the ones influencing the shape of worship for the rest of us in the future!

4 thoughts on “On almost being liturgically indifferent

  1. Actually, the best High Masses are sung, too. The most beautiful masses I’ve ever attended were not only had Latin, but included congregational singing. I had the following nonintuitive observation at a Tridentine mass only a few weeks ago: a significant proportion of the congregation sang the Latin hymns, with which they were obviously familiar, whereas at the local parishes’ rock masses, I’d be lucky to hear anyone singing except the guys with the guitars. I certainly don’t sing; even when I can tolerate the tune, I’m not familiar with it, and they never seem to sing the same hymns more than once.

    So which mass has more “active participation” of the faithful: that Tridentine Mass, or the average rock mass?

  2. Sorry – I shouuld’ve been clearer. At our church’s High Mass the choir sings the ordo of the Mass (the Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) with just a few hymns sprinkled in, while at the earlier Sung Mass the congregation sings the Ordo as well as hymns. That’s what I meant by participation (though I realize there are different kinds of participation).

    Your point still stands though. But I’d hope those aren’t the only two options available! πŸ˜‰

  3. It is interesting what you said…I’ve always fancied myself a high-church kind of a guy. The truth is, what is high-church for Lutherans is probably pretty pedestrian for most Anglo-Catholics.

    As far as hymns go, the thing to recall is just how formative hymns are in Lutheranism. This is how we transmit the faith, which is why I get so concerned with “updates” to our hymnal.

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