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Saturday, October 01, 2005

With a script

Discussion has arisen on other blogs about the possible removal of restrictions on the Mass of 1962. Inevitably these posts generate much (and impassioned) commentary about the relative merits of the Novus Ordo and the classical rite.

The Novus Ordo Mass can indeed be celebrated with all smells & bells commonly associated (exclusively) with the older liturgy. My college had a daily Latin NO, ad orientem with chanted ordinary (introit and recto tono communion antiphon on feasts), kneeling for communion, surpliced male server, chasuble lifting at the Consecration, full Canon. It was very beautiful, increasing my love of the liturgy, and paving the way for my regular assistance at the Old Mass. There is nothing to prevent the simplest NO Mass from being celebrated with reverence, and we must judge not from the worst examples but from the best, and in this regard the Mass of 1968 is certainly worthy of our respect, proven by my happy experience.

I came to the Tridentine Mass through the text. Having a love of the Psalms, I was so very pleased to see much greater, and indeed more subtle, use of Scripture, where lines or half lines evoke countless generations of lectio divina. The entire Mass is one prayer, the Bible accompanying every sacred action. The words of Scripture are on his lips: as he approaches the altar (Introibo ad altare Dei), reaches it (Deus, tu conversus), says the propers, incenses at the offertory (Dirigatur oratio mea), washes his hands (Lavabo inter innocentes), and so on. The fumes of incense are not mere decoration: the Tridentine Mass offers a harmonious fusion of vocal prayer and corporal gestures, joined by a proper interior disposition. It is not a show enhanced by antique vestments, glorious music, or gilt ornaments, a shallow spectacle for the leisured and educated classes. If anything, the very visibility of the external signs causes distraction—and, unfortunately for some, scandal—from their symbolism and textual correspondences. The harmony between internal and external action—always extant—has been ruptured, the acts pretty but meaningless.

Having intellectually dispensed with the necessity of external dimension of the liturgy and the fusion of word and action, the equivalency of the two rites of Mass is assumed. Looking solely at the visible aspect, the Mass of Pius V and the Mass of Paul VI seem extremely alike. Why do we still need the older form? one asks.

The Tridentine Mass matters because words matter. The verbal richness of this venerable action prevents (if properly understood) a facile reduction of the visual elements which we all love into a gaudy pastime for reactionaries. The newcomer need only open a missal to be rewarded most amply by words of depth and antiquity, to realise that gestures once foreign have assumed meaning. He discovers that the priest is always praying—and that he, with all the faithful, is praying as well. Directing our eyes from the action to the text, the images in our memory lay their foundation upon the words impressed in our souls. Viam veritatis elegi; iudicia tua non sum oblitus.

Thus, I join my prayers to the priest as he prepares for the Sacrifice: Dilexi decorem domus tuae et locum habitationis gloriae tuae… pes meus stetit in directo: in ecclesiis benedicam te. The fumes of incense have filled the sanctuary, the heavens have opened to us, and we mirror the actions of the archangel, Stetit angelus iuxta aram templi habens thuribulum aureum in manu sua… et ascendit fumus aromatum in conspectu Dei, standing before the face of our God in unceasing worship. Our words and deeds are united to each other and to the liturgy of the triumphant. In conspectu angelorum tuorum psallam tibi Deus meus. I look around the statues around the church; Melchizedek glances back, holding his offering in one hand, and a thurible in the other.

Comments [13]

Anonymous Hrodberctus Tacitus:

"The verbal richness of this venerable action prevents (if properly understood) a facile reduction of the visual elements which we all love into a gaudy pastime for reactionaries."

quare tanta copiositas, tanta verborum redundantia, quare, inquam, tam elaborata invectio contra nos amatores temporis acti?

Sat Oct 01, 08:31:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Brownthing:

Yes, the words constitute the difference. Well, that and the orientation of the priest has a distinct impact, I think. But I am struck by the whole mood of worship and thanksgiving and penitance and petition quoted from Scripture in the Tridentine, compared to blatant "O God we worship you". I'm not saying that right. oy vey. There's just so much more reverence in the old Liturgy's words than in the new...*sigh* Whatever. i can't talk right now but I know what you're saying.

Sun Oct 02, 05:10:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Juan:

My point was that all the thurible swinging (and some other actions) at the new Mass seemed rather empty without the prayers, reducing it to decoration. It looks the same, but there's no substance behind it.

Sun Oct 02, 05:52:00 PM GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous:

I agree with many of the comments here. A few provisos though - there is far greater scripture exposure in the Novus Ordo Mass, than the old-rite Mass - this was indeed a deliberate action taken by the Second Vatican Council. One other thing is worth mentioning on this rites issue that so many people tend to forget. We can certainly say the old-rite is objectively holier, more spiritual etc than the Pauline rite, and the Church cannot and does not prevent us from doing so. However, we would also be wrong, as this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, which very unambigously states in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy (Dec 3, 1963) that all rites are equal in right (i.e. authority) and in dignity. I may personally prefer the old-rite for various reasons, and am entitled to have that opinion, but I am not entitled to extrapolate from that and say it is "better", holier from an objective point of view. So even though we may feel the old-rite Mass is more pleasing to God, this is our own feeling, and only that - not the teachings of the Church. If I say I prefer the old-rite Mass as I personally feel it is more conducive to prayer, then thats perfectly ok, but again, I hope people might be prepared to submit to the Church when it comes to matters of objectivity in these issues.

Mon Oct 03, 04:39:00 AM GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous:

Domine, dilexi decorum domus tuae, et locum habitationis gloriae tuae. That is about all I am able to say. A most beautiful post - if only I could express the movements of my soul, but I suppose refer to the Chesterton quote below.

Mon Oct 03, 05:15:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Juan:


Thanks for the comment. I was hoping to avoid invidious comparisons between the two rites, and your monitions about submission to authority are gratefully received. My argument was not about the intrinsic holiness of one or the other, but about certain visible signs, and the popular perception thereof. The first part of the post would indicate my respect and devotion to the new rite.

I hope that we would soon be privileged by your name. Cheers.

Mon Oct 03, 11:22:00 AM GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous:

Anonymous here again (and the same anonymous as in a reply to Perpetua's long juventutem article earlier) - I'm actually Chrysogonus, but couldn't remember my password. I asked the blogger to e-mail it to me several times but it never arrived despite checking my 3 possible e-mail accounts! I may just re-register again after this post. I had thought anonymous posting had been disallowed actually, but it seems to be back.

As for your reply, point taken, you do indeed display a healthy respect for the Novus Ordo - the problem of which is its so hard to find somewhere where the rubrics are followed as intended (i.e. straight down the line). Too many "traditional Catholics" seem to compare a perfect version of the Latin Mass, with an sub-standard version of the Novus Ordo which is unfair - they confuse a particular instance of the rite, with the rite itself. Liturgical abuses occur at Latin Masses too, although far less, since there are fewer Latin Masses to start off with, and its much harder to do so anyway. I suppose the point I was trying to make is, no matter how powerful are own feelings might be on certain issues here, we still must defer to the Church's teachings. I attend the Latin Mass several times a week, but am equally happy to attend the Novus Ordo in our Cathedral, which is celebrated properly with all the "smells and bells"!

We are about (here in Melbourne) to have a series of nine talks on the documents of V2, over 2 months, offered by our priest, Fr Glen Tattersall FSSP (one of only two (I believe) priests in the juventutem delegation with English as their main spoken language). I have been reliably told the talks will potentially enrage both "traddies" and "liberals", so certainly worth attending! (See for more details).

Mon Oct 03, 11:55:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Juan:

Thanks Chrysogonus. I should have made it clearer that I was comparing properly celebrated 'High' NO Masses with properly celebrated 'High' Tridentine Masses. As you noted, it is unfair to compare bad NO with good Trid.

As for me, there are no traditional options in my area so I go to the Novus, and making a trip to Rome every two weeks or so for a dose of Latin.

Mon Oct 03, 02:44:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

Hrodberctus: As the subsequent comments have presumably made clear, this really, really isn't about inveighing against folk who prefer NO! Being Triddily inclined ipso facto gives one a vested interest in legitimate diversity of rites, no? Um. That's rather a negative way of putting it. But you probably see what I mean.

Is it legit for priests to say the Canon silently in NO? The silent Canon is one of the things I find most profoundly beautiful and helpful about the Trid.

Mon Oct 03, 05:10:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Juan:

I've asked about having a silent Canon in our Latin NO at school. Father thinks that the prayers are too beautiful for the congregation not to hear. In any case, I had no complaints with his services.

Tacitus is a friend who attends the same Mass and the Latin NO at the Oratory. He was just teasing my prolixity.

Mon Oct 03, 06:46:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Boeciana:

Oh... I'll just go and be embarrassed now...

(Incidentally, to anyone who's due an email from me, you should get one soon - week of ridiculous work and weekend of much sociability has killed off brain cells required for extended composition for the moment. Apologies.)

Tue Oct 04, 05:38:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Juan:

Don't be. I had no idea at first either; luckily I waited for other responses. hee hee.

Tue Oct 04, 06:54:00 PM GMT  
Anonymous Laeta Aemilia:

ah, good old Tacitus, always causing trouble...

Thu Oct 06, 03:30:00 AM GMT  

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