Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Novus Ordo: An Authentic Expression of the Faith?

Leaving aside the altar-facing orientation of the priest; use of Latin/Gregorian chant and Communion on the tongue (which are the norms of the Novus Ordo; the people-facing orientation, the vernacular and Communion in the hand all being the legitimate options), could I take an oath to say the New Missal is an authentic expression of the Catholic Faith? I have to say I could, but I could not take one to say it is the best expression of the Faith. To be honest, the Novus Ordo leaves me feeling very unsatisfied by...

  1. by omitting the prayers at the foot of the altar, since by omitting them we now walk onto the sanctuary as though we are there by right and not by grace
  1. by a Confiteor that has me confess my sinfulness to other sinners but not to the saints who, being intimately united to God, are indirectly offended by my sins (it seeks their intercession at the end without having allowed me to make any confession to them)
  1. by a Kyrie reduced to a three-fold repetition that gives many the idea that it is addressed to Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively when in fact it is one of the few prayers in the Mass addressed to Christ alone
  1. by so much scripture reading that one gets over-loaded and the force of each reading gets lost
  1. by a ‘preparation of the gifts’ that does not prepare them for sacrifice but is a grace before meals (the Mass being a sacred banquet as well as the Sacrifice notwithstanding, since participation in the banquet depends upon the Sacrifice having been offered)
  1. by an acclamation (the Mystery of Faith) interrupting the Canon in which the Lord is addressing the Father in His Church
  1. by the out-loud Canon which makes it seem the prayers are said for the edification of the people rather than as an interceding of the Divine Son with the Divine Father for our salvation (we do not have a right to hear what passes between the Father and the Son)
  1. by the frequent use of the phrase ‘sacrifice of praise’ which gives the impression that the sacrifice of the Mass is that of our time and effort given in order to honour God
  1. by the lack of a genuflection before the elevations of the Host and Chalice and after the per ipsum
  1. by the fact that Canons 2,3 and 4 make no distinction between the mode of offering in the ordained and lay states
  1. by the Pater Noster having no ‘Amen’, which gives the impression that the doxology is part of the prayer as given to us by Our Lord
  1. by the single proclamation of the Domine non sum dignus which diminishes its psychological force by the many options permitted: one goes to a Mass not knowing with what one will be presented. This destroys the unity of the Church’s worship in its concrete celebrations.

 The above said, how then could I take an oath saying the New Missal is an authentic expression of the Faith? Well, in addition to the affirmations of these in the General Instruction which I spoke of briefly here, within the Rite itself there are elements which even those who say it is not fully expressive of the core Doctrines of the Mass have to say it is at least consistent with those doctrines:

The Real Presence:
“that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” (EP II)
“make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ” (EP III)
“recognising the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son...” (EP III)

A re-present-ing of the Sacrifice of Calvary:
... “as we celebrate the memorial of His death and resurrection we offer you the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation...” (EP II)
...“recognising the sacrificial Victim by whose death you reconcile us to yourself, grant...” (EP III)
... “as we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption....we offer you His body and blood, the acceptable Sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world...look upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your church...” (EP IV)

The propitiatory value of the Mass:
... “may this sacrifice of our reconciliation we pray O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of all the world...” (EP III)
... “that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the celebration of this great mystery which He left us as an eternal covenant” (EP IV)

The distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the lay state:
We must grant that other than in EP I (The Roman Canon) where this is made clear (“we, your people and your ministers”) this is found in the Orate fratres: “that my sacrifice and yours”.

There is a criticism made by some that while the new Eucharistic Prayers may be consistent with the Faith they are not fully expressive of it, and that what gives these prayers a sense of orthodoxy for such folk is a bolting-on to these texts their belief in the Real Presence and the Sacrifice. I have to say that is my own experience too, for while nothing in them contradicts our Faith but it seems quite muted in them. It seems very odd -even inconsistent with the Second Vatican Council (which recognised that liturgy also instructs cf. SC.33) that anyone should have to bolt-on to the texts they hear/proclaim their underlying understanding of the Faith: it would indicate some measure of failure in the lex ornadi/lex credendi of the New Missal.

I may be alone in saying the New Missal can be seen as an authentic expression of the Faith, but I find it hard to believe that sincere and holy Popes such as John-Paul II and Benedict XVI did not find the Novus Ordo poor enough to warrant significant alteration. Given the chance I would of course, use the Usus Antiquior far more often than I would use the Novus Ordo: I not only find it richer in its texts, but it gives me a far better experience of my union with the Church of the past.


  1. An extremely sensible and well-considered post, Father. People who know more about the history of liturgy than I do point out that ancient rites can be found (Addai and Mari and so on) that do not include things we consider essential. I know some rites do not have a recognisable epiclesis and I believe there is one that even lacks the Institution narrative (rather like S John's Gospel, in fact). Like you, I prefer the Tridentine rite - but mass-goers in earlier centuries would be shocked by a low mass because the only 'proper' way to celebrate the mysteries was a fully sung High Mass; and, even earlier still, I'm sure there were people who were very doubtful about presbyters celebrating mass in place of the Bishop - is it valid, has he the sacramental power, isn't this all a step too far? It is interesting to consider what the irreducible minimum for a legitimate rite actually would be.

    1. Thank you for your comment Adrian.
      I am not liturgical scholar either, but to my knowledge the history of the liturgy in its early days is shrouded in mystery. I may be wrong but I am not sure the Anaphoras without a consecration formula were well accepted (or at all) by the Church. Even Canon II of the New Missal, said to be from Hippolytus, has been discovered to be unlikely one that was actually used for the Eucharist but simply a model Hippolytus gave.
      Your note about how easily the folk would have taken to a low Mass is an interesting line of thought to pursue, though we are talking their of a change in celebration of the one Rite, not as change in the Rite itself. The offering of Mass by presbyters is also an interesting point. This is complicated too though, since prior to Vatican II we did not see the episcopate as a further ordination but as a consecration to the office, with Trent having define seven steps to the priesthood, not eight steps to the presbyterate. Indeed, there are occasions in Church history where Abbots who were not consecrated Bishops were given permission by the Holy See to ordained their own monks to the presbyterate.
      It is all very complicated and to be honest, beyond my scope of knowledge so I stand to be corrected/informed by the more knowledgeable in the Church...

      Once again, many thanks for your stimulating and insightful comment.

  2. Father, I wonder how you can say there is an authentic expression of the Faith in the New Mass when there are significant differences. For example, there is the direction the priest faces; the use of lay readers, extraordinary ministers, reception of Holy Communion in the hand while standing, to say nothing of the use of English. All of these give a very different feel to the New Form of Mass, and I prefer the new Mass because of these changes.

    Dorothy D

    1. Thank you for your comment, Dorothy.
      I shall respond in a new post when time permits.
      God bless you and yours.


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