As the Scottish historian Sir Tom Devine once joked, “the future is not my period”, but having just read Amy Welborn’s pithy article in Medium, it seemed worth sharing her observation with our readers.
- No touching. Noli me tangere: not yet taken as an episcopal motto, but one for us all to adopt. Since offertory processions involve touching the sacred vessels, perhaps it will suffice for the priest to have the chalice and ciborium (if there is one) on the altar from the start of mass and the liturgical actions at the offertory could be enriched by the offertory antiphon.
- No shared Sign of Peace. And with its suspension, perhaps also the permanent disappearance of the “song of peace” that still persists in some places before the Agnus Dei. Perhaps in the Church’s wisdom, this was one reason that the pax took a more ceremonial form until the liturgical reform in the first place.
- No congregational singing. Meaning the need to rediscover the true liturgical participation which liturgical singing symbolises and promotes. It also gives us the opportunity to rediscover the proper antiphons which can enter into a dialogue with the other scripture readings casting light upon particular themes and drawing connections between them.
- So any music should be provided by a choir or cantor. Meaning a greater need for an aesthetic of beauty now that the alternative, an aesthetic of “participation”, is not possible (a false binary, but an operative one).
- People should be super cautious about receiving Communion. At least that isn’t new.
- No Communion from the shared chalice for the congregation. As one Dominican student brother has observed: communion under one kind but only in the hand, so no one is happy. That said, with fewer people going to communion, the short antiphon from the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Parvum in Latin or English would seem a more appropriate length than a hymn.
- Maybe even the priest should think about wearing a mask. Or better still, face in the same direction as the congregation to absolutely minimize contagion. Since he will have to do a lot of the singing to make up for the lack of congregational chanting, this will be particularly important.
- No socializing before or after Mass. Though choir coffee will doubtless continue via Zoom/FaceTime even when the parousia comes.
All in all, if ever there was a time for a less busy, more contemplative, less wordy, more beautiful liturgy, that time is now. In this precedented time, let’s use the precedents already established by the Church to join in her worship of God and “never let a crisis go to waste.”