In the Extraordinary Form Mass [that is, the Latin Mass from the Roman Missal of 1962], why do the servers hold up the chasuble sometimes?
This question is a wonderful observation of an act that happens during the consecration in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. As the priest elevates the Body of Christ above his head for all to see, and then the Blood of Christ in the same manner, the servers gently take hold of the back of his chasuble.
As much as I’d prefer to simply say and leave it as “it’s part of the mystery of worship,” (which it is, in fact), I know that I can give one actual answer to this question that is a correct description. In this moment of the elevating of the Body and Blood of our Lord immediately after the consecration, the Lord is descending upon us on earth in a real way. Said another way, heaven and earth are meeting in this moment. Accordingly, the server is to grasp the back of the chasuble in a symbolic gesture, lest the priest be carried off into heaven…. As other meanings may also be present in this moment and action, I want to leave it at that – once more minding that our encounter with Christ in the Mass is a gift of His infinite majesty – and thus ought to remain open to more than what we outwardly see.
Why so many different Masses?
I take an educated guess that this very general question means something to the effect of the following: “why are there Latin Masses, English Masses, Masses offered like they were before Vatican II, and Masses ‘that are
normal’ (i.e., from after Vatican II)?”
In a brief answer, the multiplicity of expressions of the Mass in our day is primarily because we remain in the midst of the full implementations of Vatican II’s reforms of the Mass in the most proper manner. While it may seem to some that as the initiatives of Vatican II have already been fully implement for many years, it is very plain that there remains a significant presence of disunity within the Church when it comes to the manner of worship – and such disunity was never intended by Vatican II. Thus, if we are being honest, we need to acknowledge that full and proper implementation of Vatican II’s principles for reform is still very much in process – leading toward true and unified expression.
Applying this process in our situation, our parish’s multiple expressions for praying the Mass are part of what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI invited as a means to offering all of the members of the Church a manner to participate in Mass in a meaningful way by legitimate means – according to both what is new since Vatican II and what remains available from before the council. His word that was given to us in 2007 in his apostolic letter Summorum pontificum included the very interesting (and I say “beautiful”) invitation to have both “forms” of the Mass offered regularly, serving to bring “mutual enrichment” to each form. In other words, by offering both the Latin Mass of the 1962 missal and the Mass of the most recent missal (from 2000) on a regular and consistent basis, all offerings of Mass can become more of what is
intended in the interest of true worship of God and sanctification of souls, with the side-by-side presence of both forms each helping the other to become more of what they are meant to be as worship of and encounter with God.
While I could say much more, I want to point you back to our parish website, where these questions and many more related topics of Mass are addressed in the series of articles entitled “Catechesis for the Masses.” These articles are accessible at www.stbensduluth.org/catechesis.