Thursday 30 May 2013

A Question On The 'Old Mass'

In our parish we do not have a Pastoral Council as it gave the impression that the members were Governors of the parish, which is not at all how they are seen in Canon Law. Rather, we have what we call the Pastoral Action Care Team (PACT). We meet to discuss parish needs, plan pastoral responses and put those plans into action. At our most recent meeting it was noted that there are still some who do not like the so-called ‘Old Mass’, and would I address this issue. This then, is the note I attached to the minutes of the PACT meeting for distribution to the parishioners.

It is not morally possible to say the ‘Old Form’ of Mass (which formed saints for over 1000 years) is no good to us; we cannot say that what was honourable to the saints is beneath us. Throughout the history of the Church, the only people to reject Latin and receiving on the tongue were the Protestant Reformers.

Yes this form of Mass is less easy; it does not lead us by the hand and keep us occupied with words as does the New Form; it demands concentration in our prayer. To be honest, the first time I attended it I did not like it; the first time I celebrated it I found it too hard. Yes some dislike it because of [1] the Latin, and because [2] it demands more reverence from us (by its silence, and its demand for reception of Our Lord on the tongue while kneeling).

As to [1], surely there is no way we can we expect the greatest Mystery on Earth to be easily comprehended? We seem to have fooled ourselves into thinking we understand the Mass because we recognise the words used in celebrating it.

In regard to [2], can we ever say we are giving too much reverence to God? Surely extra reverence for God by receiving on the tongue while kneeling cannot be a problem for us, because nothing we do for God’s glory can be beneath us.  

As a point of information: Do we realise that facing the altar is still the rubric of the Mass? Do we realise the official Form of the ‘English Mass’ (as some call it) is still Latin, which is always and everywhere the norm (without outlawing English)? Do we realise that the norms also hold to reception on the tongue? Strictly speaking, English and Reception in the Hand are allowed only by indult (‘indulgent’ permission from Rome); they are not normative. We can then, sincerely ask ourselves: “Would I still prefer the so-called ‘New Mass’ if it was celebrated altar-facing, in Latin, and followed the Norm of reception on the tongue?” If not, then we need to be honest (or at least recognise) that what we are supporting is not actually the ‘New Mass’ at all, but the options and indults, which may be removed by Rome at any time.

It is contrary to the Catholic spirit to refuse the Old Liturgy since “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too” (Pope B. XVI). We have to remember too that while a Pope, Bishop or Priest has a duty to ban what is evil, they have no authority to ban what is holy; rather, Pope, Bishop and Priest must promote what is holy  -and since the so-called ‘Old Mass’ was declared Holy by the Church in General Council, they are conceivably bound to promote it, not just tolerate it.

Session XXII, Trent. Canon 7. If anyone says that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs which the Catholic Church uses in the celebration of Masses, are incentives to impiety rather than stimulants to piety, let him be anathema.
Canon 8. If anyone says that Masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally are illicit and are therefore to be abrogated, let him be anathema.
Canon 9. If anyone says that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned; or that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only; or that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice because it is contrary to the institution of Christ, let him be anathema.

We are lucky here in Thornley; we have both forms of Mass; we have choices. But it is not for anyone, be they lovers of the Old or New Form of Mass, to refuse or denounce the other Form when both are the patrimony of the Church. We are never above the Church and her Tradition; we are its servants and beneficiaries. 


  1. Well and truly said, Father!

    1. Thank you.

      Let us hope more people can come to revere what the saints revered.

      God Bless.

  2. Wonderfully & clearly put Father.
    I am hoping that the June issue of Northern Cross might publish a letter from me (yes, again) on the subject of reception of Holy Communion on the tongue & kneeling - where physically possible - at celebrations of the EF of Mass.
    Pope Benedict did, I believe, legislate that the rubrics and usages of the EF Mass must be maintained at all such celebrations. My concern is that I do not believe in reception in the hand as my hands (not consecrated as are the hands of a priest) are unworthy to touch the Body of Christ. In my own heart I doubt whether those taking Holy Communion in the hand can REALLY believe in the Real Presence.
    There are some attending the EF Mass who, having been advised of the Pope's comments, insist on receiving in the hand. The priest, rather than cause difficulty, gives it but, perhaps, the situation should be explained further and priests insist that they communicate on the tongue.

    1. It was Ecclesia Dei which affirmed that reception on the tongue while kneeling is to be retained at the EF Mass; it is necessary for the integrity of the Rite. The option of receiving in the hand does not, strictly speaking, apply to the EF. c.f. Letter of Ecclesia Dei back in 2010:

      "...this papal commission would like to point out that the celebration of Holy Mass in the extraordinary form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Holy Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this form of the Holy Mass. With blessings,"

      I am a firm believer in Communion on the tongue and promote it whenever I can; it is a clear witness to ourselves and to the world and it helps faith to grow; reception in the hand is like receiving a cinema ticket, and it was after sincere reflection that I came to dislike it. However I have to say I received in the hand with reverence and firm belief for many years, and have not forgotten the sound-bite which carries some truth in it: "we probably commit more sins with the tongue than with the hand."

      God bless you and yours.

  3. Subjectively, many receive on the hand with reverence, and commit no sin. But objectively, it is sacrilegious, because there will almost always remain some tiny fragments on the hand, which will then be treated without any reverence at all. I was horrified to see at a New Rite Mass recently, a lady brushing her hands as though to remove pesky crumbs as she walked away after having received Communion in the hand.

    I am very grateful that the priest in my regular parish has forbidden Communion in the hand. There are notices up in the church to this effect.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      This is a very brave thing for your priest to do, though we are obliged to such measures if we see the Eucharist exposed to sacrilege because of reception in the hand. In my time I have seen the same 'hand-cleaning' done and found partly consumed Hosts in the Church and outside the Church door. It is because these are all too frequent with Reception in the hand that I am in favour of Reception on the tongue -who wouldn't be if the reverence due to God is truly our concern? I think most clergy have their mind on affirming the people and their dignity to remember the ultimate and only self-existing dignity of God.

    2. What a brave priest bravo I will pray for you

    3. Thanks for your comment.

      All I can say is that I wish I was brave... and more prayerful, more patient, more hard-working, more humble, more generous etc etc etc. Life is, for all of us, one long struggle to acquire virtue and eradicate our vices. Do pray for me and for all priests -our preaching has limited impact if we cannot be seen to exemplify the virtues we preach.

  4. Father my only comment apart from well done is... If we really believe we are receiving Our Blessed Lord at Holy Communion then no act of reverence is beneath us as I have heard sometimes said

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I too am of the opinion that if we truly believed the Blessed Sacrament was God, we would show great reverence. I think the objection to kneeling and receiving on the tongue is because the former feels like submission; the latter undignified. I can only ask those who decry these acts of reverence if it is not right that we submit to God ('Thy will be done'?) and put His dignity before our own, which relies upon Him in the first place.

  5. Father,
    An excellent comment on the rites. I hope it has been well received. You asked, " Would I still prefer the so-called ‘New Mass’ if it was celebrated altar-facing, in Latin, and followed the Norm of reception on the tongue?" That would be my preferred way of attending Mass at all times but I should be so lucky.


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