Thursday, April 5, 2007


This is from this week's Providence Visitor, our diocesean newspaper, written by Fr. John Kiley, in his weekly column, The Quiet Corner. Fr. Kiley is one who, like many of the typical Catholic blogger/blog reader these days, tilts to the right. You'll be surprised to see that he's not turned on by the Tridentine Mass. However, he has yet to see the Novus Ordo done right - the way it was REALLY intended. His take on the Novus Ordo and how it's been done over the last 38 years reminds me of some of the passages from Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis.

Personally, I do appreciate the Tridentine Mass. After all, I played it for four years, and it's a happy memory for me. However, I would have no problem with the Novus Ordo in accordance with the wishes of Pope Paul VI, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, and (most currently) Pope Benedict XVI. The good Father here points out the weaknesses of the Tridentine Mass, at least as it was celebrated "back then". Of course, since the Indult by Pope John Paul II in the 1980's, those celebrating the "Old Mass" have been (on the most part) doing so with class, with High Mass being the norm. The "New Mass" can be done with the same high amount of class.

My personal point for: it's the traditional rite. My personal point against: it would be like the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer - Rite I and Rite II.

Anyhoo, without further ado, here is Father Kiley's column this week. Enjoy!

PS: Emphasis is mine. So are the little blurbs in red.


Pope Paul VI's New Order Mass should be embraced

If one can believe the conservative Web logs on the internet, every priest in Christendom will soon be offering the old Tridentine Latin Mass in parish churches and private oratories throughout the known world.
Episcopal permission be damned as celebrants don their maniples and join their thumbs and index fingers in deference to the Sacred Species. In spite of the reputation for traditionalism that the Quiet Corner has willingly fostered over the decades, the author is little attracted to a revival of the liturgical practices of his youth. I was 24 years old when the Mass switched from Latin into English and still in my 20s when the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI was fully implemented with parish altars reversed. Considering that I attended the old Latin Mass every day of my seminary years and that the Canon was still in Latin when I said my first Mass, the old Mass has held no interest for me.
If I might adjust a phrase from Chesterton, the trouble with the new Mass is not that it has been tried and found wanting; it really hasn't been tried at all. (This is reminiscent of a quote in Sacramentum Caritatis, section 40) The new rite of Pope Paul VI was introduced to the world precisely at a time when Western civilization was relaxing all its traditions and customs. Everything from marriage to manners, and not just the Mass, has suffered in the last 40 years. People forgot the rules and embraced the exceptions as their criteria for action. The ritual for the Mass became a backdrop for puppet shows (I do remember running into the infamous "puppet homilies" in the early 1980's - not a happy memory), interactive readings, balloons, birthday cakes, basketballs and the occasional ballerina. The very notion of ritual - repeated behavior - gave way to innovation - a new gimmick every week. Consequently the new Mass itself, the New Order of the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul, was left untapped. Since the authentic rite of the Mass remained ignored, the supporting actions of the Mass were free to exalt supposed relevance over neglected ritual. Gold chalices and silver patens gave way to ceramic goblets (and KoolAid pitchers - don't forget them) and straw baskets. The organ yielded to the guitar. Roman copes and Gothic chasubles were replaced by Mexican ponchos and third world stoles (and even vestments with rainbows). Panis Angelicus capitulated to "The Whole World in His Hands." (And the music became more "me-centered" instead of "Christ-centered") Everything was very folksy - which is exactly why the Tridentine Mass now evokes nostalgic appeal among many. People remember the old Latin Mass as being very majestic, very grand, very triumphant. Yet, was it as regal as some fondly recall?
The Tridentine Mass, for most of its history, was not the dialogue Mass of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Nor was every Tridentine Mass a solemn high celebration. In most parishes, parishioners knelt with their faces in their missals or their fingers on their beads, while the priest quietly offered prayers and supplications on their behalf to a God who was somewhere out in the middle distance beyond the marble and the frescoes. The old Mass was genuinely an act of faith in which most participation was interior. The well-meaning but often abused active participation of today - presentation of gifts, signs of peace, lay readings, general intercessions, Communion in the hand and under both Species, even concelebration - was unknown. Unfortunately, these ancient but recently-restored forms of participation overwhelmed the basic new rite itself. The fundamental rubrics have been neglected while the participatory parts have been over-indulged. Rather than resuscitate the old Tridentine Mass, the New Order Mass of Pope Paul VI should finally be allowed to see the light of day.
Cross and candles, incense and holy water, books and bells, genuflections and bows, gestures and vestments, ambience and appointments, even Greek and Latin acclamations, can be employed with equal reverence and equal effect in the new rite just as in the old rite. Nothing was drearier than the Tridentine Holy Week observances before Pope Pius XII revised their rituals in the 1950s - lonely clergy processing and praying in empty churches at the crack of dawn. These Tridentine holy days were more somnolent than solemn. Old did not mean better. The glory and grandeur that the Christian world will experience on this Easter Sunday can be echoed every Sunday and, at least faintly, even on weekdays if the new rite is embraced with faith, respect, compliance and an extra candlestick or two.


EdenC said...

I have been fortunate enough to sing at a few reverent Novus Ordo Masses, replete with incense, chant, candles, etc. I thought the Tridentine was lovely, but I did feel "distant." The Novus Ordo, properly done, can be very moving and intense.
Because Father X does not know Latin and does not want to learn, he has severely limited our parish's ability to have a reverent Novus Ordo. Instead, we try to create a sense of reverence from the choir loft and hope it rubs off. I don't think the Motu Proprio will help us much; I fear that we will lose more singers and parishioners to parishes that switch over to Tridentine. The best we can hope for is that Father allows the Schola to do more and more Latin.

Lawrence Gage said...

We are all part of our times and our times are part of who we are. The same is true of the New Mass (cf. New Coke). Its fundamental failing is that it is part and parcel of the times of its origin. It exists in discontinuity with the Apostolic Mass, so its modus vivendi is necessarily that of revolution (pejoratively speaking), not continuity with received forms of worship. Certainly a reverent New Mass can be inspiring, but I'm afraid the usual riotous state of affairs (ad libbing, etc.) is more normal than advocates of Magisterial Positivism want to believe.

The Traditional Rite, in contrast, developed slowly over time and exists in organic unity with the Mass of the Apostles. It finds its origin not in a 1960's Freemason, but in the original Font of Christian Revelation. Certainly the Old Rite isn't perfect. But changes to ritual need to be made gradually, lest the rite excessively embody the limited perspective of a particular age.

I'm afraid the Latin language is not the summum bonum of reverent liturgy. Our Eastern Christian brethren, for example, have been much freer with translation, and they epitomize reverent liturgy. The language that should be controversial is not the tongue in which it is spoken, but the meaning behind the words: even secular studies have shown the language of the New Mass to be far less transcendent and far more "this worldly" than that of the Traditional Rite.

Happy Easter!