A Guide to Solemn High Mass: Part VII


When a group of Ritualists meet over a bottle of gin, they will often begin arguing about the propriety of various liturgical customs. Is it licit to receive the Eucharist from a priest who is not wearing a maniple? Should the Litany be sung in procession, or from a litany desk? If a frog leaps onto an unconsecrated host that is sitting on the edge of a lavabo towel during the Magnificat at Solemn Evensong, should the officiating priest be conditionally reordained? Although the seeming interest of ritualists in determining correct answers to these questions may suggest that they are profoundly concerned with the order and logic of the liturgy, the reality is quite the opposite. Ritualists are quite happy to add elements to the service according to their merest whim and regardless of their appropriateness for the celebration at hand, so that after a few years of Ritualist rule a parish’s simple morning service will have become encrusted with irrelevant additions, like barnacles on the side of a Cunarder.

One such encrustation is the so-called “Introit,” a piece of music sung at the beginning of the Communion Service. Depending on the customs of the parish, the Introit may be sung either to the funereal tones of Gregorian chant or to the dissonant shrieking of a polyphonic composition sung by a surpliced choir. While the ostensible purpose of the Introit is to accompany the entrance of the priest and his associates, the music generally takes much longer than necessary to complete this action. While they are waiting for the Introit to finish, the Ritualist priest and his attendants will shuffle awkwardly back and forth in front of the altar, waving a thurible around; because of their ill-fitting shoes, it is difficult for Ritualists to stand still.


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