Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Liturgical Aesthetics of Pope Francis : 2

In a previous post, as part of our Retrospective on the Papacy, we traced briefly how the aesthetics of Papal Liturgy had changed in the second half of the twentieth century (notably from 1965 onward) and the beginning of the 21st.

Now we have a new Pope and once again the aesthetic of Papal vestments has changed. A distinction must be made, however, between changing aesthetics in the Pontificate of Benedict XVI and that of Francis. Pope Benedict accepted two different aesthetics presented to him by two different Papal Masters of Ceremonies: Piero Marini and Guido Marini. This time, the changed aesthetic is obviously the manifest wish of Pope Francis, not of his Master of Ceremonies.

Since Pope Francis has occupied the See of Peter for not even a month, we should not try to draw firm conclusions about what has been seen thus far.  Nevertheless, the intervening rites of Holy Week have given sufficient information for us to make some comments.

In the previous post, we wrote about continuity between the Papal Liturgies of Benedict XVI and Francis.  In this post, we wish to mention specific differences which have emerged thus far.  To be specific:
  • The Pope will not sing a note, so that the Invitations, Orations and the Preface of the Mass are all read instead of being sung. See here for a discussion of the Pope's tone-deafness.
  • The use of albes and surplices by the Pope and his ministers which are decorated with flounces of lace has been discontinued.
  • A very simple aesthetic has been adopted for the vestments used by the Pope and his ministers.
  • Holy Communion is distributed to the Ministers of the Papal Mass on the tongue, whilst they are kneeling, but under both Species by the practice of Intinction. 
  • The use of the Pontifical dalmatic beneath the chasuble of the Pope, which was reintroduced by Pope Benedict, has been discontinued. 
  • The Pope only uses one Pectoral Cross, which is suspended upon a simple chain.  He has not used the choir cord with this Cross.
  • The Pope has not generally distributed Holy Communion during the Solemn Celebrations of the Papal Mass.
  • The Pope preaches whilst standing at the Papal Throne, using a lectern.
  • An announced period of silence is observed at the end of the Homily and after the Distribution of Holy Communion at the Solemn Papal Masses.
All of the above would seem to have been implemented for the celebration of the Papal Liturgy at the explicit request of Pope Francis.

Some comments on the above observations are not out of place. Pope Francis does not seem to be particularly liturgically-minded. We will avoid the stereotype about being as "lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week". His offering of Mass is very reverent and recollected but he manifests impatience with drawn-out ceremonial. He clearly shuns personal ostentation and wishes to see the ministers attending him dressed simply. Although much could be speculated about (and has been at other Blogs), this is all that can be written with certainty about the Pope's aesthetical philosophy, since he has not spoken explicitly about it or his liturgical preferences.

Next post: the new vestments of Pope Francis.