From the Pastor: Continuing a continuation
For the last two weeks I have been promising to give you some directions as to proper postures and actions in the Traditional Latin Mass. I have pointed out that the Missal contains no detailed instructions for the people in the pew and that local traditions differ somewhat from place to place on account of this. Knowing that, you should never be scandalized if a visitor comes to Mass and does something different than what you are used to. Likewise, nobody elsewhere should be scandalized if you are attending Mass as a visitor and your postures don’t conform to the local customs. That being said, though, prudence would indicate that “when in Rome, do as the Roman do” rather than simply sticking with what you are used to.
There are many competent authorities who have written about this very topic. I do not claim to be an authority whatsoever in this regard, so I need to defer to others. Unfortunately, not all of the authorities (again, most likely do to local custom) agree with each other as to the best postures to take. So, for the sake of “uniformity” (which, I told you last week, is long ingrained in my Catholic training, for better or for worse) and for the sake of practicality, I have decided (yes, the pastor gets to make a few decisions now and then!) that we at Epiphany of Our Lord will follow the guides given in the Saint Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal which we have on hand for those who forgot to bring their own missal with them. The guide is located inside the front cover of the missal, making it very easy to follow. Unfortunately, this guide, for some strange reason, only covers the sitting, standing and kneeling for a Sung Mass (either a Missa Cantata or a Solemn Mass). Fortunately for those with a missal from Baronius Press (publishers for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter), included with the missal was a similar guide with identical postures for the sung Mass but also including the low Mass postures. It is copyrighted so I cannot reproduce it in this bulletin but it is available on the web in PDF form if you don’t have one and wish to print one out yourself. Perhaps in the next week or three I will be able to make a similar guide for your use. Stay tuned...(but no promises!). [By the way, at our low Mass you simply kneel for almost everything. Exceptions are: stand for the processions before and after Mass, for the Gospels and for the Creed (if there is one; also, the servers may kneel); sit for the sermon and offertory; and genuflect anytime the priest does if you are standing at the time.]
But sitting, standing and kneeling are only part of the postures at the Mass. It is also common for the congregation to follow the altar boys’ gestures. Make the sign of the cross when they do during the prayers at the foot of the altar (technically, Mass hasn’t started at that point). Feel free to strike your breast along with the threefold mea culpa at the servers’ Confiteors, during the Agnus Dei, and at the Domine, non sum dignus before your communion. As mentioned above for the low Mass, everyone genuflects along with the priest whenever he does, as long as you are standing at that time. There is an exception for those who are singing. (I know I haven’t yet gotten around to explaining when and what to say/chant/sing but I will get there eventually.) For instance, at the Creed of a Sung Mass, the priest and servers and congregation will genuflect when the priest prays the words “Et...incarnatus est” through “Homo factus est” and genuflect or kneel again when the choir chants those lines. (If it is a long chant the priest, servers and congregation will be seated during the choir’s chant of those lines and will simply bow the head instead of kneeling.) But those who are singing do not genuflect at the priest’s first genuflection, as they will not be singing those lines at that time! I know, I know. That throws uniformity right out the window. But the Traditional Latin Mass experts say that those who are singing along with the choir do not follow the postures of the rest of the congregation while they are singing, but rather follow the postures of the choir. More on that next week.
I have again run out of room so let me leave you with the proper way to strike your breast (as mentioned above). The priest and servers are told to hold their fingers outstretched, palms slightly curved, and just touch the tips of the fingers to the breast at those so-called “beatings.” But very ancient writers tell us that the sound of everyone beating their breast (with clenched fist) would fill the entire church with the beautiful echos of penance. Take your pick. Not everything has to be uniform!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka