Warning: enter this rant at your own risk. I'll try to keep it as civil as possible, but I'm likely to fail. As the old joke goes, at least with a terrorist you can negotiate, but not with a liturgist.
To any reader who doesn't have a good grasp of the Catholic Mass, I apologise in advance because there's going to be lots of unexplained jargon.
Yesterday a knowledgeable person gave a talk on liturgy. This talk followed on from a special occasion Mass at which this knowledgeable person was the principle celebrant.
During the Mass things felt a little 'off', initially I thought it was just due to the normal adjustments that happen with someone different leading. When the talk began, it then became obvious that there was more behind it. Said knowledgeable person hadn't really come to enter into the liturgical celebration of our special day with us, said person was counting in detail each liturgical infraction committed in his opinion. The talk was going to be a step by step run through of where we had blown it.
On so many levels this was wrong/anger inducing.
For starters the parish had been under the rule of another knowledgeable person for many years, one who was not afraid to publicly correct and infractions immediately. It seems both knowledgeable persons are probably not the best of mates, (grudges from one about the other giving poor grades in seminary etc), but you shouldn't take that out on the people.
Secondly there was no seeking to understand the reasons why the minutiae are done a certain way here.
Thirdly there was a delight in unsettling people, first of all in the liturgical celebration itself, ie. shaking them out of routine, and then introducing confusion into the minds and hearts of those present and leaving them wondering where the actual truth is – given that these two knowledgeable persons had quite differing interpretations of them.
Above all else it wasn't done in love. If it had been done in a Holy Spirit inspired way people would have left feeling uplifted and encouraged even if acknowledging that some changes could and should be made. After all the touchstone of when the Holy Spirit has been at work are love, joy , peace, patience, kindness etc – not the negative emotions, confusion and murderous thoughts that actually happened (some were inspired during the talk to air long held liturgical grudges about each other's habits).
You see, if it had been done in love there would have been some humble respect for the liturgical culture that had developed in this place, and a desire to learn as much from what God had been doing in and through us as to teach us.
Let's get down to brass tacks and provide some counter arguments to what the knowledgeable person was imparting, and some support for the good bits.
There's no question that the option to substitute the Apostles Creed for the Nicene Creed has been abused. It should only be an option in Lent and Easter where the link with the renewal of baptismal promises is closest, not as a way to save time.
There's no question that using Eucharistic Prayer II all the time, again because it is the quickest, is unhealthy for both priest and people.
Encouraging the reading of the scriptural texts prior to Mass is always a helpful thing to do.
Questioning the use of missals during Mass was dubious. For starters, you cannot expect the people to do their part with the entrance antiphons, communion antiphons etc on one hand and then to not use their missals for everything else. That's asking them to switch between two modes frequently, and to do it successfully. The argument put forward was that reading the scriptures in their missals as they were proclaimed was more passive than just getting the input from the proclaimer. As a parent I know that a child doesn't have to be sitting still with their complete attention on me to be truly listening. They can listen to a story equally well by playing with a toy truck or in a sandpit, and for some the story will be imprinted better that way. We know that faith comes from what is heard, (Rom 10:17) so the audio part is more important than the visual part, and if reading along in the missal helps you to decode the proclaimer's accent, lack of audible volume, or lack of spoken punctuation, then go for it. Sure the proclaimers of the Gospel would feel better if all eyes were on them, but blanket judgements about what constitutes the more or most active ways of participation aren't possible – that's something for each individual to work out with God.
This almost fiendish desire to throw the congregation a curve ball and to mix up the elements of the ritual without prior warning is of concern. The other knowledgeable person liked to do that too. How petty to take delight in seeing people scrambling to find the right page because you decided to do a votive Mass with a special preface or one of the Eucharist Prayers for Reconciliation! Yes, the desire to shake up the routine a little and give us poor sods some variety from the treasury of the Church is laudable, but not at the expense of unity and good order. To lead the assembly in worship is to desire to serve God and to serve His people, not to show off how clever and in control you are and how insignificant and ignorant they are. The more loving thing to do, the thing that will bring greater unity and flow is to give the people a heads-up as to which proper, preface, Eucharistic prayer and Eucharistic acclamation you are going to use. When and how you give that heads-up is up to you.
Posture during the Our Father: Yes, some people like to hold hands as a symbol of unity as the Our Father is prayed. Some don't. As long as it is a free choice where's the problem? Others object to those who pray with their hands partially raised, saying that only the priest is allowed to use that posture. It is the ancient 'orans' posture of prayer, how all Jews prayed not just the Rabbis and Elders. Get over it. If it helps you enter into this prayer of Jesus more fully, go for it.
The trouble with most of these liturgical controversies is that it divides people into two groups, 'the clever ones who know what to do and what not to do' and 'the ignorant ones'. They destroy both love and unity, the two things that God most wants to see among us. Such schoolyard pettiness of 'I'm better than you' has no place in the sacred liturgy. The things that we must do are in the rubrics, they are non-negotiable and yet they need to be taught with sensitivity and kindness. For the rest, let love be the guide, the kind that seeks to understand why an action has been chosen, and to work together to value the good and to together to seek the best for all.
There's lots more… (sadly)... but that's enough for today.