On the recent changes to the way we celebrate mass in Singapore

In recent times, notably after Archbishop Nicholas Chia was ordained, I have noticed a few changes to the way mass is celebrated.

The first change was when all the Eucharistic ministers were no longer wearing cassocks but only a white sash and long sleeve white shirts, black trousers and tie. They were also more often being referred to as extraordinary ministers of communion(EMOC). They were also no longer standing on the altar but had a pew reserved for them.

At communion time, it used to be that the celebrant and the EMOCs would give out communion. Now, all the priests are involved in giving communion.

As Chris had earlier noted, his choir has now started to sing the Pater Noster in Latin.

Overall, I sense that mass is being celebrated with an increasing awareness of the theology of mass and a better study of the Conciliar and post conciliar documents of Vatican II(VaII). But wait a minute, isn't singing the Pater Noster in Latin contradictory to VaII's decree for the mass to be in vernacular.

Frankly, we must be very careful about listening to anyone who refers to VaII and what it says. Unless it comes from a reputable authority, I feel it is still best to read the document yourself and come to some conclusion of your own. Take for example the introduction of the vernacular in our Eucharistic celebration. You probably have been given the strong impression that VaII says that the Eucharist should be celebrated in the vernacular, so that more people can participate and understand what is being said. That VaII states that the priest must face the people during mass (versus populum rather than ad orientem). That VaII says that we must join hands at the time when we sing the Pater Noster (Our Father).

The sad fact is that VaII and its documents has been severely misquoted at some points to support the "abuses" that have occurred in the way we celebrate mass.

I will only deal with the use of vernacular and the introduction of the Pater Noster in latin. Here is the often misquoted portion on the use of vernaculer.

Sacrosanctam Concilium, Chapter III on reform of the Liturgy, C) Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy, point 36.

1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.

It is not difficult to see that it is not that Latin should be totally excluded from the liturgy, but that the vernacular should be included at certain points of the mass.

With the RE-introduction of the Latin chant of Pater Noster into our mass, there is seemingly a move to correct or find a equilibrium between the use of vernacular and the preservation of Latin, as was first deliberated upon in the document and the council fathers. Furthermore the use of chant was supposed to be given pride of place.

Sacrosanctam Concilium, Chapter IV on Sacred music.
116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

117. The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X.

I would not be surprised that we would see more Latin chant being introduced back, and the priest singing a bit more than usual. there is also talk about not joining hands during the Pater Noster (Do I hear gasps?) But more importantly, with the age of the internet and the increased availability of church documents, coupled with the higher education level of Catholics in Singapore, it is inexcusable if we were not more aware of what the council documents say and not more critical of abuses in the way liturgy is celebrated.

The re-introduction of Latin chant for the Pater Noster is only a superficial signal to the observance of the council's teaching on the liturgy and the norms that have been decreed. For everything that was decreed in the documents and the norms of the liturgy do not exist without a reason. Every action, every word uttered has a deep theological meaning that it gives expression to. I am personally beginning to discover more, the richness of our liturgy, and I invite you all to examine the documents and help educate one another on the highest form of our Catholic worship.

You can read Sacrosanctam Concilium or Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy at http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/v2litur.htm

I have also been recommended to read Pope Benedict's Feast of Faith, written when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger.


ChrisYeo said...

I thought that holding hands during the Our Father was a Singaporean thing and that it will be changed soon. You said that VaII says that we must hold hands? I'm confused...

I understand the power of the liturgy, and appreciate the tension between expression and conservatism, but I think we should always make the mass as alive as possible. I'm fine, like I said, with Latin or Gregorian chant, but we need to do something if the congregation fails to understand, or is bored by it. For example, cathocism must include understanding Latin and the parts of mass.

ChrisOw said...

Wow. Hot topic. So much that could be said. From SC, para. 14:

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.

I think the problem is here. If those who must teach are not themselves well taught, then we can't expect too much of their students, can we?

Careful observation will reveal that not all priests are equally conscientious when it comes to celebrating the sacred mysteries. Also, few take the time to explicitly teach about the Mass on Sundays when most Catholics come for Mass.

Of course, the teaching must be simple, concise, and precise, and given at an appropriate time of the Mass. And it can sometimes be overdone or wrongly timed. But this is no reason to shun it.

The fault does not lie with the Latin language, or with Gregorian chant (or the lack of it). The chief fault is a lack of education, and an inertia that resists change.

ChrisOw said...

There is a more recent document from the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) that may have given rise to these changes.


There are some other pages commenting on it.


ChrisYeo said...

Chrisow said: "The fault does not lie with the Latin language, or with Gregorian chant (or the lack of it). The chief fault is a lack of education, and an inertia that resists change"

Precisely because there is a lack of education, and, as Irene has pointed, because the congregation and clergy are not ready, me must not go into Latin or gregorian chant! It is only when the formation is in place and the people are ready should we adopt more "intricate" ways of worship.

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

This post is a helpful contribution to the 'Reform of the Reform'. Indeed, all too many changes have been instituted without proper mandate of the Council. You may wish to refer to the GIRM too...

For example, the GIRM does say that the common vesture for all who minister on the sanctuary is an alb. So, one may argue that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) may wear the alb. I doubt they ever wore the white (indult) cassock in Singapore. The use of the diaconal stole (or a sash resembling it) is altogether to be avoided though. In a similar way, even lay readers may (and perhaps, even should) wear the alb...

Of course all this raises another point - seeing as Vatican II mandated the re-institution of the permanent diaconate, why do the bishops of S.E. Asia still resist this?!!

Nick Teo said...

to chrisyeo: i don't think the congregation can ever be ready, nor can it be practical for everyone to be educated. i think sometimes we need to do the right thing, and then if they want to learn or find out, let there be informations be available.

like what john said, the time has come where information and educated masses abound, it is very sad if we do not even bother to read up and find out. but instead take a back seat, and let the priest decide for us.

I am abit disgusted that (considering that what john blogged is true) the whole mass is conducted in a not-so-true-to-correct-form way. Not that God would mind, but how can the authorities be so slack as to allow this deviance from the Vatican 2's directives?

another amazing but true incredible criticism of our beloved church.

ChrisYeo said...

Latin: Reclaiming Our Heritage
, an article from ThePrompt webzine by Kenny Leong on why Latin should be THE language of mass,

and Estella Young's response, which I urge everyone to read. It makes a strong case for why our venacular language should be used in the mass. Perhaps you would like to respond, John?

Daniel said...

What I like most about Estella's response is that it brings in the role of the Holy Spirit. It links the movement of the use of Latin to the vernacular as something inspired by the Holy Spirit, not merely the will of men.

Many changes in the Church are credited to the working of the Holy Spirit in the faithful. This is something that should never be forgotten.