Incarnation Catholic Church in Tampa, FL released a video entitled "Tridentine Mass Promo" which I posted HERE. Yesterday, the same company posted their newest video from the parish, "What It Means to be an Altar Server." Anyone with a bad connection should turn HD off; it will lag tremendously .
This is awesome. Every parent of altar servers and every young man who serves at the altar should watch this video. These young men have been given great grace and insight, and I hope that it opens the eyes of other servers. It certainly expressed my own thoughts well, and added to them.
As an aside, a more liberal use of torches in the procession and recession are an improvement in the Novus Ordo that would do well to become the local custom in the older form. No more than eight of course, as that's the limit for the celebration of Pontifical Mass. Anyways.
I certainly would say that I terribly enjoyed the Sunday mornings and other evenings spent in the sacristy at my home parish, especially as I got to know the other boys better. It's been such a great blessing to know the boys I serve(d) with at St. Martin's. Sometimes, I wonder if a silent sacristy might be better, and counterintuitively would increase the development of friendships. It would require better and more careful communication. It would also be a way to more concretely set aside a sacred space and time in preparation for Holy Mass. Then the noise is all left over for play and talk on the lawn outside of the church.
Yes, I know the video is that of a Missa Cantata in the traditional form, not the Ordinary Form. Personally, I want every boy to come to love the traditional form as well, so that cross-pollination can occur and eventually we get back to one liturgy. You can stop one boy from genuflecting at the center, but you can't stop twenty. The same applies to kneeling on the tongue for the reception of Holy Communion.
And, we need priests who can celebrate the traditional form and cross-pollinate. But most especially, we need husbands and fathers who will raise children to become the saints of the next generation, and to become saints along with their wives. Those assisting at the altar are very well-primed for their vocations. (Now just give us the patience to find a spouse...oh well, she'll come one day! Studies first, Matthew, studies first.). I think of the times where one person-who happens to be a server- kneeled for a blessing, and everyone else followed suit. That was twenty or so other kids. Or when I see dads kneeling at our altar rail, in front of the statue of Our Lady crowned during the month of May, praying with a baby girl in arms and holding the hand of his two-year old daughter, with his spouse and the rest of his children praying in the pews or assisting in the sacristy. I want to be like those men, so that I might become more like Christ.
Altar servers lead by example. In the traditional form it's not so much by posture (for the servers and congregation do not match precisely), it's by attitude. Keeping the eyes downcast, the hands folded upright. Wearing and taking care of vestments and sitting and kneeling properly. Knowing the responses and actions well. A good server is only one if he can serve Low Mass alone in addition to being able to assist in the more solemn liturgies, said Dom Matthew Britt, OSB anyways. These are all true in the newer form as well, with the addition of getting the posture right to aid the congregation. How many of us remember to kneel at the Et incarnatus est in the Credo on the Annunciation and Christmas?
The server's attitude towards the sacred liturgy must display a care, one that grows over time, for what the liturgy is. It can't start out fully of course. This understanding and care increases with the increase in grace through the sacraments. Fr. Nathan at Solemn Vespers on Sunday in Christ the King Chapel reminded us that priests should celebrate the Holy Mass-and we should assist-as if it were our first Mass, our last Mass, and our only Mass. The liturgy is the work for the people, for their sanctification. It is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross and the Last Supper. Heaven and Earth meet, so that as we approach the altar we are drawn outside of time and created space, towards Heaven.
Fr. Nathan also pointed out that the Church Militant is present, but also the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering are present in the liturgy. An example of this is seen in the closing words of the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity, "Quam láudant Angeli atque Archángeli, Chérubim quoque ac Séraphim: qui non céssant clamáre cotídie, una voce dicéntes," which then of course is followed by the Sanctus.
The structure of the traditional form makes everything in the Holy Mass so much more obvious, even if it's a mystery. Psalm 42 Judica Me marks the entrance to the sacrifice, and on our knees we ask to be forgiven, acknowledging our sins as we ask the Lord to lead His people to Himself and hear our prayers (the Confiteor and the versicles). The bell at the unveiling of the chalice carries symbolism as the priest enters into the Holy of Holies, or in another sense, moves along the Via Crucis. The silent Roman Canon is another example. We put away our principal sense of hearing and use an impaired visual sense (due to worship ad orientem, especially when at the high altar) so that we might encounter a taste of Heaven here, and become fully aware, more so than our first parents in the Garden were, of Our Lord in perfection after we receive the beatific vision.
Always love! Bring the love of God the eternal Word incarnated that was presented upon the Cross for our redemption to the world without condition.
St. John Berchmans, pray for us altar servers.