Watching the Final Mass of WYD 2008 demonstrates just how far we have come in a short time. There will no doubt be discussion of this Mass, as there was of the Washington Nationals Stadium Mass, for a long time to come. However, there is one overarching observation that must serve as the starting point for any discussion of this Mass... we are moving quickly towards a liturgical vision guided by the documents of Vatican II rather than the spirit of Vatican II.
As large mega-event Masses go, this one was remarkable. That it was a Youth Mass was more remarkable still. If there is a message to be had from this point of view, it is that there is no need for a distinction between a "regular Mass" and a "Youth Mass"... There was nothing in this liturgy that demonstrated a need to pander to so-called "teen interests"... no rock music, no scantily clad singer-performers, no dance numbers (OK... the Gospel Procession was a little over the top...) and no simplified rites or dumbed-down messages.
On the contrary, this was excellent liturgy offered to God on behalf of the Youth, whom Benedict obviously respects and values. We heard beautiful music presented by an orchestra and Organist with Choir. We heard a well-trained schola chant the Introit, the Veni sancte Spiritus during Confirmation and the Communion Antiphon in Latin. The Mass Ordinary was sung in beautiful (if not a little theatrical?) settings using Latin and vernacular texts combined. The entire assembly chanted the Pater Noster in Latin. There didn't seem to be any problem understanding what was going on...
The few moments of questionable taste stood out starkly and seemed out of place. The Aboriginal Gospel Procession, the easy-listening karaoke style "Taste and See" at communion.... these now seem nostalgic and sentimental, leftovers of a passing era. Requiem in Pace.
The absence of Extraordinary Ministers, the all-male altar servers, the Pope distributing Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Expect these to be permanent fixtures at events like this in the future, and expect them to eventually make their way back into parish settings. Eventually... it will take time, as this took time. We are a large flock of sheep, and there is only one shepherd. But he is determined.
He has raised the bar. Will we make the effort to rise up to it, or will we opt to "limbo" our way under it?