Yesterday, at a completely unexpected moment and in a somewhat irregular fashion, I had my first public ministry in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite.
I had the early Spanish Mass here at the parish where we live, which left me free later in the morning to grab my Liber usualis, head down to the lower church at the cathedral, and sing along with the schola at the EF Mass. I enjoy the chance to sing. Also, I have become convinced that I will never learn how to read the chant notation by studying it in a book; for me at least, it seems like a 'learn by doing' kind of thing.
So there I was, sitting in the pew minding my own business and paging up the proper chants for the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, trying to decide if I had enough time to offer the midday hour of prayer before Mass began, when one of the coordinators of the little community appeared and asked for my help. The priest who was to offer the Mass was older and not so steady on his feet, she explained, so my help would be appreciated when it came time for the communion of the faithful. I wasn't so comfortable with the request, not being sure of everything that might be involved, but I couldn't say no. So they gave me a stole to put on when the moment arrived. They offered me a chance to sit in choro in the sanctuary, which I probably should have accepted on the liturgical level, but since what I really wanted to do was sing and study my chants, I declined.
Once Mass began I was happy for my willingness to help. Father was indeed unsteady on his feet; it took the support of two servers and his shillelagh to get him up to the altar. (The latter leaned imposingly against the altar through the Mass.) Nevertheless, Father managed to preach on the stark and dire spiritual condition of our time in a tender and encouraging way, and for this and his willingness to suffer any embarrassment that might come from his missteps I came to respect him very much during the Mass.
As the servers began their Confiteor I made my way into the sanctuary. Father gave the Misereatur vestri... and the one of the servers motioned for me to come up to the center of the altar. I took the ciborium, turned around, and all of a sudden I was a priest in the EF as I said to the people, Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi. (I forgot the second ecce, but I didn't feel too bad because I was just happy that I didn't say Esto es el cordero de Dios que quita el pecado del mundo. Dichosos los invitados a la cena del Señor, which was the first utterance that came to mind. I gave Holy Communion to the servers, and then to the people at the rail, remembering to start on the epistle side and not going back from the gospel side boustrophedonically, as it were.
After all the communicants were taken care of, I returned the ciborium to the tabernacle, purified my fingers, and replaced the center altar card. Then Father finished the Mass.
I'm not sure I have a completed reflection on what this development means for me in my ongoing project of trying to find a way to make sense of my own obedience to the Holy Father's call for a "mutual enrichment" of the two forms of the Roman rite called for in the cover letter to Summorum pontificum, but I'll keep thinking and praying on it. I will say this: it is quite a different thing to give Holy Communion with the "cool media," simple, and somewhat multivalent proclamation "The Body of Christ" than to do so with the much more directed prayer,Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.