January 26, 2014

The Post-1970 era of the church, to which I belong, has had a markedly different liturgical experience.  We encountered a church whose liturgical practices seemed to never stop changing.  From 1970 to 1990 there was much experimentation.  Church sanctuaries were reconfigured; some made more modest accommodations for the new missal while others explored totally new configurations such as asymmetry, removing the tabernacle from the sanctuary, reduction/elimination of sacred art/images, dissolving delineations between the sanctuary and the body of the church, moving music ministry either into or adjacent to the sanctuary, etc…  Also there was experimentation with liturgical music.  Usually these experiments looked to popular secular styles.  After attaching religious lyrics to these new sounds, which most often employed drums and guitars, they were given religious meaning and a place in the liturgy.  Many priests experimented with tone and style of celebration.  Although this may seem a small point, do not be misled.  A small adjustment in the movement of the priest has a great effect on the tone of the Mass.  For example, if a priest decided to exaggerate or minimize his arm movements the tone of the Mass would be greatly affected.  As one of this generation, perhaps what I remember the most is every year something was different.  There were patens at communion, and then they were gone.  Only the priests distributed communion and then others were distributing.  The next year chalices were distributed, then the vesture of the altar servers changed, then girls were serving, etc…  This does not even begin to describe the variation that was encountered from one Mass to the next or from one parish to the next.  Amidst this steady stream of change, my generation’s liturgical experience was an ever-changing patchwork.  We were left with the impression that there were a few things that had to happen and everything else was subject to the desires of the priest and congregation.  Simply put, the encounter of the Post-1970 generation was marked by constant change. 

Although most everyone of this generation was left with the impression that nearly everything was subject to a priest’s/parish’s discretion, not all reactions were the same.  But of course, how could they be with constant change?  If one cared enough, he/she would choose the most accommodating liturgy.  Likewise, what some found goofy and uncomfortable, others liked.  What some found stuffy and boring, others liked.  In short, this generation became fairly comfortable with the idea that, if you cared, you choose your Mass based upon the priest you prefer, the music you like, the most accommodating time, the liturgical tone/mood with which your are most comfortable, etc…  Not dissimilar to nearly everything else in modern America, there was a variety and all could choose that which suited them. 

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