“O Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New” (St. Augustine)

During this past Easter week I had the happy occasion to participate in a Solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated in the ancient Roman Rite.  The Mass was beautifully celebrated with great care and devotion.  It had been carefully prepared and the episcopal celebrant, assistant clergy and altar servers were meticulous in the ritual.

Easter candles and flowers decked the sanctuary, and an excellent choir and organist sang and played with great beauty.

The ancient rite of the Roman Mass in itself is beautiful in its solemn ceremonies and symbolic actions.  The Roman vestments of the bishop and the clergy were intricate in their colours and patterns. The careful execution of the Latin chants and polyphony surrounded us with more, auditory colours and patterns.

As I watched, listened and prayed many memories came to mind:  The times as a lad I watched the same ceremonies at St. Boniface Basilica as Archbishop Maurice Baudoux, a giant man, made even taller by his mitre, presided.

In the sanctuary of the cathedral it was as if an intricate ballet was being performed to the accompaniment of the great pipe organ and the voices of the seminary choir.

Another great bishop, Attila Miklósházy, also came to mind.  When he was professor of Liturgy at Regis College he taught us seminarians the intricacies of this ancient liturgy.  He also lead us through the research and many diverse discussions of liturgical reform that preceded Vatican II and the liturgical changes that followed.

He showed us how a new form of the liturgy was founded on the old with a new splendor of its own.  In these lectures I remembered the gradual changes that had taken place in our parish over my childhood years, preparing for the new liturgy.

In these prayers and memories I thanked God for this beauty that reminds us of God’s own goodness.   I thanked God for the Mass that we celebrate each day in our world and time.  The setting, music, ministers, and prayers are familiar and different but the whole assembly declares   Alleluia!  Amen! O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new!

Joseph Schner, SJ, is a professor of Psychology and Religion at the Toronto School of Theology.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:08h, 04 July Reply

    Thank you Joe!

  • Eileen Curran
    Posted at 07:38h, 05 July Reply

    Wow! What a surprise to find an tribute to the old Latin Mass. What a waste of words, space and thinking. Why hark back to pre-Vatican 2? What possible.interest can this have.to.peple seeking spiritual enrichment? And who are wondering how to find in the church and in her priests the strength to go on in the face of all she/they face?

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