AM MARRIED to the most wonderful woman in the world. Cynthia has a thousand wonderful qualities and is a superb artist. However, it would be inaccurate to claim she’s as interested in (obsessed with?) the liturgy as I am. For this reason, her comments are often of much greater value.
Having attended Mass on 2 November, she asked, “Why didn’t the priest wear black vestments? Have they been forbidden?” I explained to her that, following the Second Vatican Council, black vestments aren’t usually worn because they’re considered too “spooky and scary.” Her astonishment — or was it indignation? — rang out: “Scary? That’s stupid … they just seem more respectful to me.”
I COULD NOT agree more. Black vestments have always been my favorite, ever since I was a little boy and saw my first Solemn Requiem Mass. The black vestments are often “gilded” (if that’s the right word) with gold or silver. They are powerful, impressive, and edifying. I cannot say enough to praise them. Furthermore, Cynthia is correct. They’re supremely respectful.
A few years ago, when I explained that the Novus Ordo has ancient Propers assigned to each Mass, my wife’s tone was similar as she exclaimed, “But then, why doesn’t everybody sing the texts assigned by the Church?” Why indeed … ?
Her question is similar to one asked by students of Professor László Dobszay:
For my university students it always came as a shock to open Dom Hesbert’s Antiphonarium Missarum Sextuplex or the eleventh century Gradual of the Roman basilica of St. Cecilia, and to find there, on the same days, the same Proper chants as they read in the Liber Usualis printed in 1950. And without any coaching from me, their first question after the initial surprise was, “Then why should we sing others, instead of these?” Why indeed …?
Dobszay’s full article is provided in a piece I wrote a while back: