The Mass - elements of, relative intensities
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I'm sure many of us have had the experience of attending an OF Mass that seemed sort of chaotic in its emphases. Given that the Church teaches us (CCC) that the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of our ecclesial life, we might begin to wonder about the extent to which the drama of the Mass reflects that teaching.

    Being something of a numbers guy, and coming off a few weeks of budget presentations, I took a few minutes to gin up a little bar chart (attached) that attempts to do two things:

    1. to show the relative 'intensities' of different parts of the OF Mass in a quasi-ideal form; and
    2. to compare that ideal against my common experience of the intensities of the OF Mass.

    The ideal is shown in gold; the common practice, in mauve. By "intensity," I mean a loose combination of volume and importance. Yes, it's imprecise.

    Doing this exercise suggests a couple things:

    1. the two graphs are pretty far out of wack;
    2. the ideal chart resembles the natural wave structure of Gregorian chant, with a clear high point;
    3. the common practice chart indicates a relative lack of focus.

  • Pes,

    I've often reflected on this matter myself and I appreciate your chart. Here is my chart. What do you think?

  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I'm intrigued by these charts. I can remember years ago seeing something similar for the EF, and it was a model of clarity __/\__ something like that, with the consecration at the top. I've often wonder what the effect of the new liturgical catechesis has been, the new model that so clearly divides parts into sections, and into two major sections in particular (Word, Eucharist) and if this division unwittingly creates a hermeneutic of rupture between the OF and EF, and I've wondered whether the structure really has been imbalanced by this new emphasis. Perhaps the entire concern evaporates once we see these models as tools for understanding rather than normative instructions.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Ok, Pes, I'm understanding your chart a bit better now. Your point is that the ideal looks like it did in the old instructions books _/\_ whereas your modal experience looks more linear like "one thing after another." I think you are on to something here.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Jeffrey, yes, that's it exactly.


    Great, it's clear we're been thinking along the same lines. A couple observations on the fly:

    1. You include Processions, and I didn't even consider them! I should.

    2. Both our charts see the Mass in terms of elements, but your chart gives greater weight to the four major divisions. Perhaps that explains why your chart has the ascending arrows ("rising action") within each major division, each of which rises to the same level.

    I was thinking more in terms of how those elements form a continuity, all of which lead to the central height ("source and summit").

    3. Third, my chart attempts to present the relative intensities, within sections, with some precision. There's a risk in all this of being overly precious, but let me give you an example. You know how the First Reading and its tone is OT/Prophetic? It has more intensity than the recto tono opening prayer, and has about the same intensity as a chaste RP with psalm tone verses. But the Second Reading, which is usually St. Paul in Full-On Hortatory Mode, ratchets up the pitch a bit. The Alleluia gets even more excited (cf. the chants) until we come to the very important, sustained intensity of the Gospel. Then the Homily relaxes. In all this, I was letting the character of the chants guide my sense of how these things built towards the Gospel.

    Too often in OF parish Masses I've seen, there is no sense of rising action through here. It's just reading blah blah, then SONG SONG SONG for the RP, then reading blah again, then BIG HAPPY SONG ALLELUIA, then the Gospel blah blah until Fr. Emsee takes the mic, steps away from the ambo, and launches into his Weekly Spiritual Sales Pitch.

    What's distressing about this -- apart from the obvious -- is that the Word ends up feeling totally disconnected from the Eucharist. This disjunction is exacerbated by the typical Musical Offertory Number (and long collection process) that does two crucially bad things:

    a) a complete sense of deflation, as if the Mass had a built-in Intermission;
    b) obliteration of the prayers of the celebrant, the hearing of which crystallizes the sense of preparation and impending Sacrifice.

    To me, these things deform the Mass, and since I could rather go on about it, I'll stop.
  • Interesting charts, but I don't understand very well what is meant by 'intensity.' Not sure if something musical or spiritual is intended. I'm wondering if it's something analogous to the participatio activa (external, visible, audible intensity) versus participatio actuosa (internal, contemplative intensity) debate.

    With regard to the Offertory, I was struck by the big white space (gap) in Paul Ford's chart during the offertory. It sure looks like an intermission.

    As I recall, my childhood Missal (from First Communion in 1963) shows a 'plan of the Mass' laid out like the floor plan of a basilican-type church. It progresses from the entrance/prayers at the foot of the altar near the western end, up to the consecration in the sanctuary. It also delineates a 'Mass of the Catechumens' (latterly known as liturgy of the Word) and 'Mass of the Faithful' (also called liturgy of the Eucharist). So that's not entirely new. And yes, at least some young first communicants were taught things like this back in those days.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    David: "'plan of the Mass' laid out like the floor plan of a basilican-type church"

    Ditto for my First Communion May 1965.
    In the drawing, the delineation was an altar rail between nave and sanctuary.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    By "intensity," all I was thinking of was volume and sense of energy -- the latter a function of relative importance. That combination of energy and importance is imprecise, but it's the only way I can represent the Canon as a high point in *relative* terms.

    The priest chants that alone and we have the congregational Amen: how could that possibly be as loud and energetic as a happy-clappy Gloria? or a choral Sanctus? And yet, if everything is as it should be, this central point ("the still point of the turning world") should be as intense as a voice that suddenly drops to a dramatic whisper. Everyone should hang on this moment, and then, at the Elevation, be focused on this astounding Presence of Christ. No high-volume fanfare and crashing cymbals, but the still, small voice you cannot but say Yes to.

    Part of what grates about the big crashing tripartite Amen is that it often sounds ginned up, like forced laughter, as if one were abruptly cajoled into cheering. I think this mistakes volume and bombast for intensity and energy. Those things are not equivalent.

    Am I making sense?
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    This is something I've become mildly obsessed with recently, partly because I substitute around in different churches. I think that blah blah blah sing sing sing is sadly quite accurate.

    The Liturgy of the Eucharist has definitely acquired a second-class status. Even very orthodox clergy seem to pick up speed, choosing short prefaces and eucharistic prayers. The sense is "we better hurry up and get this over with before everyone starts to back up in the parking lot." Punching up the music at this point doesn't make that much difference dramatically.

    In many churches, the homily seems to be the climax of the liturgical drama. Many parishioners find their personal high point to be the Our Father and the Sign of Peace.

    I'd appreciate a good book on the structure of the Mass, something that combines the historical and spiritual. (And yes, I've read enough texts on what's wrong with it.)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    In the first chapter of A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music (Ed. Ross Duffin), William Mahrt recommends John Harper, The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century: A Historical Introduction and Guide (Oxford, 1991).
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    blah blah blah sing sing sing

    That's the title of Jeffrey's next book! :-)
  • Pes,
    Yes, I do follow your idea of intensity and recognize the difficulty in measuring it. It's not like you could just record a decibel-meter during Mass. As a fairly quantitative oriented person who works with statistics--including charts like this--my first questions are: What units does it show? Does the scale make sense for what is shown?

    Reflecting more on my childhood Missal's floor plan, and just using the gold (ideal) bars in your chart, if I were any way inclined toward visual arts, I would draw a side elevation of a church with domes or towers of various heights representing the 'intensity' as the Mass progresses. A porch for the entrance rites on the west, a small tower or dome for the Gloria, a bigger one over the nave middle for the Gospel, and the largest one with a spire over the sanctuary for the consecration...and a little apse at the eastern end for the concluding rites.
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    Great pedagogy = deep, life-long learning. David's floor plan = "a graphic organizer".

    Now, I've always dreamt of an interactive FLASH presentation with the following features:

    FIRST, the structure: Layers to represent the "skeleton" or "scaffold" (the Mass Part labels) of each Form. One setting can be the OF layer, translucent, on top of a second EF layer.
    - Buttons can change the order to place the OF on top and even add/move/COMPARE other layers (non-Latin Rites, older Latin Rite).
    - COLOR CODINGS show Mass Parts/Categories. The Propers and Readings can be a similar color, the Ordinary another, Hymns can either be a layer OVER the Proper (so we can visualize what the hymns do to the propers). Buttons can change options.

    SECOND, the interactivity!
    - We can play "liturgist" or "MC" or "music director" with the movable parts. [Imagine the "frogNoel Game": What did you experience last Sunday?] It can even be serious enough to challenge OCP's Planning Guides.
    - Buttons can show how the Mass changed over the ages.
    - Links can show video/audio examples of each.
    - Buttons can be linked to JoguesChant on a weekly basis w/ IMMEDIATE mp3 playback or score link.

    It's late, otherwise I'd keep going.

    Who has mad FLASH skills?
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Thanks, Pes. I check those out.