I was very taken with a recent post by Archbishop Gullickson, Nuncio to the Ukraine
(http://deovolenteexanimo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/getting-back-into-context.html) and the post of Jeffrey Tucker (http://www.chantcafe.com/2012/07/does-ordinary-form-have-distinctive.html). The thrust of the posts was the question, ‘Does the Ordinary Form have its own voice? Is there something distinct about it that makes it valuable in its own right?’ I share my own thoughts here. Please note that I do not go into arguments about whether the Ordinary Form (OF) is valid and licit, since it should go without saying that the Mass I celebrate six days a week I accept as valid and licit, even though for me it is inferior to the Extraordinary Form (EF) in expressing or at least facilitating Catholic spirituality. Indeed as a convert from 1980, the OF was the only Form of Mass that I knew for the first year of my life as a Catholic -after which year I attended some Traditional Masses with the SSPX- and it is the Form at which I assisted daily in seminary.
We should acknowledge that there are legitimate supporters of both the Revised Rite (designated ‘the Ordinary Form‘ or OF) and the Ancient Rite, the ‘Extraordinary Form’ (EF). Some supporters of one Form or the other will have nothing to do with the other Form, but are they so different? Can one find reasons for having a preference?
I note that both Forms follow a common outline:
1. Both have an Entrance Antiphon
2. Both have a Confiteor where the intercession of the saints is sought
3. Both have the Kyrie
4. Both have the ancient Gloria
5. Both have an Opening Collect
6. Both have an Epistle
7. Both have a Gospel
8. Both have the Nicene Credo
9. Both have a Consecration formula
10. Both contain the ancient Roman Canon
11. Both have the Pater Noster
12. Both have the Pax
13. Both have the Agnus Dei
14. Both have Domine non sum dignus
This leads me to ask the question ‘In what ways then, are they different?’
In answer I note first that even in some of the above commonalities there are differences.
· The prayers at the foot of the altar have been excised from the OF, yet these allowed the priest to publicly seek the mercy of God before entering the Holy of Holies. In the OF the priest now seems to enter the sanctuary as if by right and not by the mercy of God.
· The Indulgentiam has been removed from the OF, yet this removed venial sin before approaching the Holy of Holies.
· The Aufer a nobis upon approaching the altar has been excised, yet this usefully recalls the Jewish priest entering the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice.
· The entrance Antiphon of the OF has had the Gloria Patri removed, yet this allows us to praise God as we begin to address Him. Though such praise is not essential, it is surely fitting.
· The Confiteor of the OF has had the confession to the sinless in Heaven removed; only the request for their intercession remains, yet confession to the saints allows us to express our repentance to the whole Church, and not only to the Church militant.
· The Epistle in the OF is lost underneath the themed connection between the Old Testament, its responding psalm and the Gospel, yet the Epistle is the only reading to give Apostolic Instruction to the Christian.
· Scriptural references have been removed. The Judica me (pslam 42) at the foot of the altar has gone completely; the Munda cor meum before proclaiming the Gospel no longer refers to the burning coals of Isaiah; and another psalm removed at the Lavabo –yet making the liturgy more scripture-based was said to be a goal of the reform.
· The Offertory has been removed entirely from the OF and replaced by a Jewish grace before meals, leaving no link to the Sacrifice for which the gifts are being presented and prepared.
· The Consecration formula of the OF now forms part of a continuous narrative and does not clearly denote that it is a sacramental formula when vocalised (one does not baptise while reading the Gospel narrative of Matthew, so why consecrate in the middle of a narrative?). The formula is, however, printed differently from the rest of the text in the Missal.
· The Canon is the very highpoint of the Mass wherein God comes down to earth; it therefore all but demands a sacred silence (cf. Habakkuk 2:20) yet the sacred sotto voce has been abandoned in the OF, the Canon being proclaimed aloud as though addressed to the people. Indeed, the silence of the EF, which indicates God’s presence and allows for prayer, has given way to constant dialogue in the OF, as though Mass were an exchange between priest and people rather than the Church and God. Too many have forgotten that silence is not the absence of speech, but a sacred presence; one learns to ‘feel’ the sacredness of the silence of the Mass just as one feels the discomfort of a tense silence or the silent loving exchanged between friends at a death-bed. Silence can be, and often is, pregnant with meaning.
· The Pax in the OF no longer has a clear vertical dimension as coming from Christ, but is passed among the people in a horizontal manner.
· The Trinitarian nature of the sung Angus Dei can be lost in the OF in that it can be repeated numerous times during the fraction.
· The Trinitarian nature of the Domine non sum dignus has been removed from the OF, being reduced to a single vocalisation.
· The Last Gospel, a reminder that we have received the Word made Flesh in Holy Communion, has also been removed from the OF –and the Gospel cannot be regarded as a ‘useless repetition’.
Add to the above that:
1. few priests celebrate ad orientem as per the General Instruction and rubrics of Pope Paul VI;
2. genuflections have been reduced from 12 to 5;
3. Latin is very rarely heard in the OF;
4. the distribution of Holy Communion is most frequently given in accord with the indult (in the hand) rather than according to the norm (on the tongue)
5. that the Scripture-based antiphons (the word of God) for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion are frequently replaced by hymns (the word of man)
and we cannot help but be aware that the OF has a strikingly different voice to the EF; this does not mean it is not a Catholic voice, but that it is a voice Catholics of the preceding centuries would find unfamiliar.
There is then, I suggest, a major difference between the OF and EF. It is certainly minimised by celebrating with Latin, ad orientem, and by distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, but these are in some way ‘window dressing’ since of themselves they are not sufficient to ensure continuity with the Usus Antiquior. After all, Anglican or Methodist Liturgies could be celebrated ad orientem, in Latin, with Gregorian Chant, but that would not make them other Forms of the Roman Rite.
Do I have a preference? Yes, for the Extraordinary Form, and these are a few of my reasons.
· The Extraordinary Form has a heritage of c.1500 years and grew by natural development under the watchful eye of the Popes. In contrast, the Ordinary Form was a re-build after demolition by a back-room committee. (It is important to remember that, in our teaching and worship, the Church is but the custodian of what she has received, not its master, and that we are to pass on what we have received in faithful manner. As Cardinal Ratzinger noted, “The Pope’s authority is bound to Tradition of the Faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. Even the Pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development” cf. Spirit of the Liturgy, p.166).
· There are majestic prayers in the EF: the Judica me (psalm 42) at the foot of the altar; the burning coals of Isaiah to cleanse the lips before proclaiming the Gospel; the prayer of homage and supplication to the Trinity (the Placeat tibi) before the final blessing.
· The Gospel of the Word Made Flesh fittingly concludes our Communion reflection.
· The focus of the EF is on God rather than on the priest. In the OF the priest sits at the apex and faces the people throughout the celebration, which cannot help but make him the centre of attention; this does not happen in the EF, the priest being clearly subjugated to the Rite by sitting to the side and facing the Lord at the altar.
· There are at least eight Genuflections in the EF, coming before and after each and every time the priest touches the sacred Host, thus offering clear adoration to the Lord. These are reduced in the OF to three, and since adoration of God cannot be over-done, the elimination of these genuflections cannot be justified by labelling them ‘useless repetitions’.
· Distribution of Holy Communion in the OF, in that It received in the same manner as a biscuit at a table or a cinema ticket in the entrance queue (that is, in the hand) does not give the sacred distinction to the Sacred Host that the EF gives by having Holy Communion distributed on the tongue to kneeling communicants.
· The distribution of Holy Communion in the EF comes with a Benediction with the Host over each individual and with the prayer, ‘The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting’. The OF simple says ‘Body of Christ’ and there is no blessing with the Host.
· The sacred silences of the EF allow us to live the words of scripture (“The Lord is in His temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him”, Habakkuk 2v20) and to speak to the Lord in a personal and profound way. In the OF, the silences are but pauses to allow for prayer and reflection (after the Gospel, after Holy Communion etc), rather than silences which are themselves pregnant with meaning; silences which speak to us; silences which have a meaning in their own right.
· It is rarely celebrated versus populum; an orientation which cannot help but provide for the dominance of a horizontal in which there is dialogue between priest-and-people, rather than provide a vertical dynamic of the Church addressing God.
I always propose that the altar-facing (ad orientem or ‘towards the East’) position be more –even most- frequently used; not only because it is the norm of the Missal as promoted by Pope Paul VI to give authentic expression to the reform requested by the Fathers of Vatican II, but because it has great spiritual significance:
1. the East is symbolic of the direction of heaven; the direction in which the Lord ascended and from which He will return at the Last Day;
2. people were traditionally buried facing East so as to be ready for the Lord’s return
3. the priest is the shepherd leading us to God, so it is right that he face the same direction we face: he is not there to entertain us but to lead us to God and to heaven
4. there is no time in Catholic History that priests faced the people, as recent scholarship has clarified for us. Facing the people was a Protestant innovation to change the Eucharist from Sacrifice at an altar to a meal over a table.
So is there a distinctive voice in the OF? I would say a qualified ‘yes’; ‘yes’ in that the Rite of Mass has been significantly changed; ‘no’ in that it does not essentially change doctrine; ‘yes’ also in that it is by nature more inclusive of the congregation -but not of the laity per se, since the congregation are but adding their voices to the lay choir and responding along with the lay servers. In order to ensure liturgical continuity, the voice of the OF needs to speak in the same tone and with the same intent as the EF; the voice that Catholics of the past 1500 years would instinctively recognise as Catholic, and which would be achieved more nearly by the ad-orientem celebration with Gregorian Chant and the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue to kneeling communicants. I have always believed that supporters of the OF are supporting not the Missal of Paul VI itself but its accrued innovations, since that Missal as promulgated by Paul VI to authentically provide what Vatican II called for presumes an ad-orientem celebration with Gregorian Chant, the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue to kneeling communicants and male alter servers. These are what are being supported, not the Missal. If it was the Missal they were supporting, they would be willing to celebrate it ad orientem, in Latin, with Communion distributed on the tongue and male altar servers only –all as promulgated by Paul VI. I very much doubt that they would be willing to do this, however, yet any refusal to do so only betrays them as supporters not of innovation, not of the OF.
Discussions such as the above regarding the Novus Ordo are not welcomed by some, but they are acceptable to Rome in that while the Holy See reacts to accusations against the legality and validity of the OF, it has not yet disciplined any cleric for making faithful criticism. Sadly, some clerics and lay Catholics have turned against the EF, the Mass of their formation and early priesthood. I think this cuts them off from their roots, and a plant without roots must inevitably wither and die.
To return to speaking of those who are hard-line supporters of one or other Form of Mass, we should remember two things.
First, having been promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Christ, the OF is valid and licit. It thus contains the same Lord, Sacrifice and Heavenly Banquet as the EF. The EF we must remember, has, in both its texts and ceremonies, been recognised by the Church in Council (Trent) as holy, and while the Church has all authority to forbid what is evil, she has absolutely no authority to forbid what is holy. Thus neither the Church nor any of her members has the right to speak of or treat the holy EF in a disparaging manner -something too often seen today.
We can legitimately support either Form of Mass, but since both Forms contain the same Lord, Sacrifice and Banquet, what we cannot do is to absent ourselves from Mass on Sundays or Holy Days because the Form of Mass on offer is not what we promote and support.
It might be useful to ourselves, whichever side of the liturgical debate we are on, that we would do well not to resist the Holy Ghost. Rather, we should allow Him room in the discussion by giving both Forms full and equal life in the parishes. In this way He can show by the an ascendency of one Form over the other (by the number of attendees it gather and the number of vocations it produces) the Form most pleasing to God. It might be said that if we do not give such freedom to the operations of the Holy Ghost we might, in the words of Gamaliel, find ourselves fighting against God (cf. Acts 5). And which of us is willing to risk that?