Sunday, 11 November 2007

We will remember them

A sight not seen in the Cathedral for the best part of 40 years - until today. The liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council dramatically changed the form of Mass; now the Pope has relaxed restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine ('extraordinary' form), and today this form was celebrated in the Cathedral for the first time in decades.

As it is Remembrance Sunday, a Requiem Mass was celebrated. At the foot of the altar stood the catafalque, representing a coffin and so symbolising the numerous dead we remember on this day.

There are many similiarities between the two forms, particularly in their structure; yet the difference in feel is extraordinary. In the Tridentine form there is much more silence; the Mass is celebrated entirely in Latin (the sermon is given in English, but this is understood as being outside of the Mass, and so is bracketed with the sign of the cross); except when directly addressing the people, the priest faces east with them, as a sign of him leading the people towards the rising sun, a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. At a Requiem Mass, incense (pictured above) is not used until the offertory.

It was heartening to see a large number of people attend the Mass - about 140 in total. Many of them were too young to remember the days when this form of the Mass was always celebrated, and yet came to experience this ancient way of celebrating the Roman Rite. Amongst those who came was Fr Michael Docherty, assistant priest at the Cathedral until about 18 months ago; it was a pleasure to welcome him back.

At the end of Mass there were prayers of absolution said at the catafalque, just as these prayers would be used next to the coffin at a funeral Mass. The Cathedral also prayed for the war dead at the main 10:30am Mass and at Vespers this afternoon. The local Latin Mass Society have requested that further Masses in the extraordinary form be celebrated here; a low Mass will be said on Christmas Day at 12:15pm. The Canon did forget to remove his maniple before the prayers of absolution - but then, he doesn't get much practice at celebrating this Mass!