Monday, August 05, 2002

The Sense of Graduum in the Liturgy
One aspect of the Tridentine liturgy that is more muted in the 1969 missal is what Catherine Pickstock calls the liturgical stutter and what I would call the Graduum. That is, the sense of a gradual approach to the Mysteries based on our total nothingness before the Awesome One. In the old missal that is a clear pattern of alternating contrition and joy as the central mystery is approached. All the oft-criticized repetition and redundancy in the old liturgy was a way of expressing our sense of unworthiness when approaching the Sacrifice of the Cross. This began with the prayers the priest said while vesting (which are still in the missal, by the way, but what priest says them?) I think this sense still exists in the 1969 missal, but not as clearly. First, the Mass begins on a note of joy and almost triumph with the Entrance procession. It is more like we march right in. The first note of hesitency is the Confiteor, when it is used. Then there is the absolution. Not content that we are sufficiently aware of our nothingness, we then pray the Kyrie. This only happens in option one, though. So if you use the other options the sense of Graduum is more muted. Then the Gloria, which is a hymn of joy, but it still contains significant expressions of contrition. In my mind the liturgy of the Word itself is an aspect of graduum. We must be purified by the Word before approaching the sacrament. Of course, this is contrary to the current "two absolutely equal tables of the Word and Sacrament" theology that is going about and of which I'm not a fan. At any rate, I assume you get the point. I think we'd do will to keep this sense of graduum in mind when celebrating liturgy. Since it is there in the 1969 missal, we can highlight it in various ways (such as position, posture, movement). This might help bring back a sense of sacred and maybe even belief in the Real Presence.

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