N ALL honesty, contemplating repetition within the liturgy is not first and foremost on my mind. But in a new way it is a blatant reality. People are hurting and are in need of pastoral care more than ever. The words of the Mass—or any rote prayer, such as the rosary—bring comfort at a time when words fail us. It signals our universality, our unity of carrying the same cross together. The mere sound of our pastor’s voice is of great comfort. A familiar hymn becomes a soothing balm in times of distress.
That is not to say that only what is familiar is valuable. But it is wise in some cases to consider.
Previously, televised or streaming Masses were merely a supplement, often to minister to the elderly and homebound, we now find ourselves all crowded under the same umbrella: We are all homebound. Televised Mass is necessary. While public attendance of Mass has been suspended, Mass itself has not been canceled! We have opportunities to find new ways to connect and pray with and for each other. On a practical level, many parishes are wisely printing a downloadable worship aid for each Mass. It is a valuable pastoral response. I would highly encourage this practice.
But in reality, it is likely not all viewers are looking at it during Mass, either on another screen large enough or printing out a copy for everyone in their family. While I still highly encourage making downloadable worship aids available some additional considerations may be wise.
IN RECENT DAYS, I have revised my Holy Week plans countless times. Initially planning months ago, I was looking forward to singing some new and different choral settings and mixing the new with the familiar and the necessary. Like everywhere in the world, the landscape has been changing by the day and at times by the hour. However, this time, televising and streaming with no congregation, and limited musical resources, each piece of music has been reevaluated. Assuming few many look at a worship aid while watching a Mass on their computer or phone—extra care may be taken erring on the side of familiarity or repeatability with the Responsorial and the Ordinary. Favoring hymn tunes and texts that are familiar is of importance.
Likewise, there is also opportunity to expose music not often heard. If you do not have limits on time, singing the Introit chant (even as a prelude) may be worthwhile. Something new and transcendent—if very simple and in unison—may be just as valuable as what is easily recognizable. With no congregation, the offertory and communion is likely short. Perhaps sing a simple antiphon for offertory or communion in balance with other familiar responses. It is important to bring forth the new and the old.
I WOULD ENCOURAGE PRIESTS and deacons to sing! Of elevated importance are the dialogues and acclamations, most important things to sing at Mass. These can be repeated with every broadcast and have great spiritual impact on a broadcast that may be limited with normally greater musical resources. Sing the Presidential texts, even if on one note. When in doubt, sing out!
WE HAVE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY to discover new ways to be a community—even while apart. We are forced in closer proximity with our families at home. This is a blessing to while we pray together more. There is opportunity to pray the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours together at home.
Prayer—repeated or not—just pray.
Oremus pro invicem
Let us pray for each other.