Monday, July 1, 2013

The Mass We Make

Many thanks to Arlene Oost-Zinner for raising the question anew of the value of worship aids at Mass.

Personally I love them because they can act as a vehicle for all of the propers to be written out. Contrary to some underinformed claims, the 1962 Missal contains far more Scripture than is heard at those Ordinary Form Masses in which the proper texts are omitted. This is because the proper texts are almost always composed entirely of Scripture. Instead of one Responsorial Psalm, the proper texts of the Mass offer the equivalent of 5. I enjoy reading the Communion Antiphon much more than singing one of the same old songs about bread and wine.

Unfortunately, however, worship aids in themselves express something quite contrary to the true spirit of the Liturgy. Worship aids strongly suggest that the Mass is something we make, according to our own lights. Instead of receiving the Mass that is given, we make the Mass that we choose.

When we consider the proportion of the time at Mass which is spent in singing, these choices can seem to take precedence over the text of the Mass itself. And then considering that sung music affects us much more deeply than spoken words, then we might say that the one person who has the most spiritual effect on the people at Mass is the music director who makes these decisions.

Isn't this an extraordinarily arbitrary situation for the Mass, and for the People of God who attend? Are they receiving the best of what the Church's pastors have in store for them?