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Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Room Of Our Own

After reading Father Rutler's ruminations on the Novus Ordo, and some of the comments made about his thoughts, I will chime in.

As a point of information, I have been attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on a regular basis for roughly the last two years. Prior to that, I had no particular attachment to it, nor any particular desire to participate in it. However, I find now that when I attempt to participate in the Novus Ordo, even a fairly well-done Novus Ordo, I am left with an empty taste, as after eating too much ice cream for dinner. This was rather unexpected, and when I discovered it, it was more than a bit of a shock.

The best explanation I have yet heard for the Novus Ordo Mass is this: it is the children's Mass (which begs the question of why anyone ever saw a need for a children's Mass edition, but I digress).

The Novus Ordo is the children's Mass in the sense that it is accommodated to people who have an extremely low understanding of theology and God. For this reason, it is the most accessible Mass for a largely pagan population.

Speaking as a former RCIA director, I would be loathe to see the Novus Ordo Mass disappear. The points made by converts that they would never have converted had they access only to the Extraordinary Form are very well-taken.

I believe them.
They wouldn't have converted.

By definition, non-Catholics - even most Catholics - don't understand enough about God to understand why you would ever want to go beyond the heavily-Protestantized Ordinary Form. As with any idol-worship, we have to be weaned away from self-worship.

The Ordinary Form famously lends itself to self-worship. For this very reason, it allows a serious seeker a more seamless transition away from his self-idolatry towards an understanding of God, however rudimentary it may be.

However, once you grow in your understanding of theology, of Christianity and of Christ Himself, you will naturally gravitate towards the Extraordinary Form. Like any other process of growth, this transition will be rocky and difficult at times, even frankly off-putting (who ever really enjoys going through adolescence?) but the rewards are worth it.

And there is something to be said for letting those who wish stay in the semi-Protestant ghetto that is the modern NO parish. Let them have the secular language, the syrupy-song, the standing-reception. It may be sappy, but at least they get Jesus in the Eucharist and the other sacraments are valid. It is, at least, something; a Happy Meal for the itinerant street beggar who would feel self-conscious if he were asked to enter a real home, even his own.

But, for this very reason, the Extraordinary Form has to be commonly available as well, for a beggar who looks in the window often enough may come one day to yearn to live in the home that lies on the other side of the glass. If he looks in long enough, he will begin to realize the comfortable chairs are not chains, the crackling hearth is not heartless, the walls are not a prison. Rather, the home is so bright and warm, so protected and utterly different from his own experiences of the world, that he rather prefers it to standing in the snow, eating from the dumpster or sleeping in the ditch.

The new translation of the Novus Ordo is an important addition to the liturgical life of the Church if only because the porch where the beggars and homeless waifs live is finally being swept clean of unnecessary debris. It establishes a more appropriate intermediary place between the cold indifference of the pagan world and the sacred warmth of the ancient Christian faith.

The Ordinary Form is, and probably always will be, for the pagans and the beggar children of the world. We should simply take comfort in the fact that the Church has finally encouraged bishops to make a place for the adults as well.

21 comments:

Patrick said...

"Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."

Angela M. said...

What a bunch of sanctimonious crap. If someone didn't want to come to your parish I can think of at least one reason why.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Angela, I agree with you 100%. I was where you are, and that was and kind of still is my reaction to what I wrote - it sounds like a load of sanctimonious crap.

If it's any consolation, I still think the NO Lectionary's cycle of readings is superior to the EF, but other than that, I can't stand the NO Mass anymore.

The great irony is, at the beginning, I didn't even really like it. I mostly went because my wife wanted to, and she went because her brother and his family was going.

As I say in the essay, I never expected to have that reaction - it was quite a shock to discover it within me.

All I can say is, if you attend an EF High Mass solidly every week for 18 months, good Gregorian chant choir, the whole works, with no exposure to the NO, when you return to the NO, it will be really, really disconcerting.

Before, I never had a visceral understanding for what happened in the Church in the 1970's. Now I can absolutely see why millions walked away from the Church when the form of the Mass changed.

Patrick said...

Would the Church endorse this understanding of the different celebrations of the mass? Certainly not. Does one form get a different set of graces than another? Nope. Does one provide a celebration and thanksgiving that is at a different purpose than the other? Negatory. In the end, it's just a personal preference and nothing more. I just went to a polka mass. The church was absolutely packed the way it is every single time they have one in a parish known for its devout followers. As long as the Church allows for different ways to celebrate the mass, there is no reason to believe one is inferior to another. As nothing more than a personal preference, there is no reason for heated discussion on nothing more than an opinion.

Angela M. said...

The TLM is beautiful - I agree. It's the attitude of the Rad-Trads that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Patrick,

What makes you think the Church wouldn't endorse this different understanding?

Is it not the case that even though we receive the same graces (in the sense that the same Eucharist is consecrated) at a Mass for Children as we do at the other form of the NO, yet the Church expressly acknowledges that the two forms of liturgy are adapted to different understandings?

Why wouldn't that apply here as well?

The Church allows for different forms of a lot of things - baptism in an emergency vs. the formal rite, anointing of the sick on a conscious vs. an unconscious person, etc. - yet She also acknowledges that some forms are better than others.

Indeed, according to the laws of the Church, if I receive Reconciliation once a year and Eucharist once a year during Easter season, I have fulfilled the forms. I don't technically NEED to receive Jesus more than that in order to have fulfilled my religious obligations.

Yet am I being "holier than the Church" to say that going more often to both sacraments is a good idea? Is it just personal opinion to say this?

I agree that a lot of rad-trads leave a bad taste, but I don't go to the EF because I like the people. I was actually converted by a bunch of charismatic Catholics who would find the EF VERY off-putting. I like charismatics a lot - although I am not one - but I can't stand the liturgies they provide.

Look at the long history of the Church at prayer - is it personal preference to pursue it? Or is it something else?

Patrick said...

Certainly personal preference. We would never denigrate any form of the celebration of the breaking of the bread or any other thanksgiving to God. It would be as pointless as complaining about the brand of wine used in the mass; the outer appearance is different but the substance remains the same. To be at all dismissive of a form of the mass that nearly 100% of US Catholics have access to versus a version that less than 10% have access to won't get any more converts to Catholicism. Considering that Jesus was described as a man from a background with common resources, dismissive of purity laws for rituals sake, discussed the most problematic theological problems with simple parables, I would doubt that He would believe any celebration of the bread of life would be less important than another. After all, He simply said that He would be known in the breaking of the bread, not with the following gregorian chant. We all know in our own lives that the simplest expression of thanks is often worth more than the most choreographed song and dance.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Patrick,

Please refrain from strawmen. I didn't say the NO was less holy or less important. I just said it was not as edifying to an adult Catholic with an adult understanding of the Faith.

Both forms of the rite give us Jesus. But the EF is expressly called "rich" by Pope Benedict XVI whereas the NO is not. Make of that what you will.

Notice, I do not denigrate the NO It is not a denigration of the Children's Mass to say that a Children's Mass is not very edifying for an adult. To say such a thing is merely to state a fact. To say that the NO is less edifying to an adult understanding than the EF is likewise merely to state a fact.

Now, to answer your other question, does the Church recognize a deeper spirituality in those who follow the older form?

From the letter of Pope Benedict XVI accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum:

"The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often. Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful."

In short, today's faithful don't have the "certain degree of liturgical formation" necessary to properly understand or implement the EF. The actual situation is that communities of the faithful are deficient.

This can even be seen in Pope Paul VI's own instructions - according to his edicts, EVERY Catholic layperson is supposed to be skilled in basic Gregorian chant. That was baked into the Pope Paul VI Missal.

You aren't.

Therefore, you are liturgically deficient. Sorry, but that's according to Pope Paul VI's own post-Vatican II decrees. If you don't like it, take it up with Rome.

Now, given that sentence in Pope Benedict's letter and the facts about Gregorian chant, the following sentence can be read in a rather ironic sense:
"The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage."

In short, "the paucity in the implementation of the NO demonstrates the sacrality in the EF." This reading is confirmed by the fact that the following paragraph starts with "I now come to the positive reasons for issuing this..."

Patrick, I find two parts of your reply illuminating.

1) You constantly refer to the Flesh of God as "bread." Hmmm...

2) You use the word "choreograph." The only place I've seen choreography, i.e., the forbidden and abusive practice of liturgical dance, is in a Novus Ordo Mass.

Patrick said...

"The actual situation is that communities of the faithful are deficient."

Let me fix that for you,
"The actual situation is that communities of the faithful are deficient, only in terms of the EF liturgy."

If we are now to say that the Catholic Church is actively supporting that only EF is liturgically correct, you are going to have to link to an official Church document that specifically states that. You'll see Catholics flee like nothing we've seen to date.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Patrick,

Let me fix that for you.

Nearly all the Catholics who pray the Ordinary Form are theologically and actually deficient.

The Second Vatican Council said Gregorian chant has pride of place.

Pope Paul VI said there was a MINIMUM repertoire of plainchant and Gregorian chant that every Catholic must know.

I do not say the Catholic Church only supports the EF.

I repeat what the Church says: the ordinary form of liturgical song for the Ordinary Form of the liturgy is Gregorian chant. It has not and is not being implemented. You have not been taught it, nor has virtually anyone celebrating the Ordinary Form today.

Therefore, while the Church supports two ways of praying the single Latin Rite, those who pray the Ordinary Form are DEFICIENT in their liturgical understanding and DEFICIENT in their capability to celebrate that same Ordinary Form.

If you don't like that fact, talk to Benedict XVI, who alludes to it in his letter, and Paul VI/Vatican II who say it explicitly.

Your beef is not with me or what I say. It is with Rome.

Patrick said...

Actually, I don't have a beef with either. As has been correctly pointed out:
Both forms give you the full graces, both forms are different, however their substance is the same and fully supported by the Church, however, as you pointed out, maybe not in the way Popes are happy with. However, the Vatican beefs are not to the extent that either ensure there are enough priests to train for it or to make a major opposition to it, so both are completely valid, supported forms of liturgy. Therefore, as I stated before, the Church, both by its current community actions followed by the majority of the faithful and lack of action to the contrary by the authority, is showing that it is a personal preference. It would appear that it is not my stance that has problems with the Vatican, but your stance, and understandably so.

Elizabeth said...

I really had no interest in the TLM when I moved to a new home but I was petrified of my son being exposed to our tertiary priest so I thought I'd give the TLM a chance. This was 9 months ago, and I wouldn't dream of returning full time to a parish that only had the ordinary form of the Mass.

I find it ironic that the ordinary form of the Mass is definitely more designed to be more kid friendly but most of the parishes I've belonged to have sent the kids out for their own "liturgy of the word" during mass. The last Novus Ordo parish I belonged to sent the under 7 kids out even when they were doing the children's Mass. Somehow kids at the extraordinary form of the Mass manage to be quiet and even pay attention. In fact my 3 now 4 year old son pays attention during the entire high Mass and then comes home and spends much of his free time playing priest or asking about how many altar boys will be at Mass next week. He had been atrocious at Novus Ordo Masses. I think that a major advantage of the Extraordinary form is that it is indeed extraordinary. It is not like everyday life.

Brendan said...

There is plenty of evidence that the Extraordinary Form has greater merit, and is a greater source of grace, than the Novus Ordo form, notwithstanding the full Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist in either form.

Simply put, consider the difference between a Solemn High Mass and a Low Mass. A Solemn Mass gives greater praise and glory to God, and disposes those assisting even more to the reception of grace.

The fact that there can be a greater number of Low Masses on a given day attended by more Catholics and celebrated by more priests means the Low Mass has its place, making the Mass more accessible. The Novus Ordo is then more accessible than the Low Mass, but accordingly a lower form.

I would just add that grave abuses in the Mass can constitute desecration and/or sacrilege, which not only do not confer grace but rather constitute the gravest of mortal sins.

Larry said...

Perhaps I'm still going through the growing pains, but I've been celebrating Mass at a parish that celebrates the Novus Ordo, in Latin, in a very reverent, Christ-centered style. The priest was celebrating Ad Orientem but complaints from certain sectors made him stop, but even still, it is a wonderful Mass. I've been attending EF Mass a few times recently, and while I enjoy it, I have not found it just amazingly different than the NO Mass celebrated, again, in a very revernet and traditional way, in Latin. I do like the Asperges - that should be a part of every Mass, IMO, and there are other aspects I like but I have not been taken aback by the beauty or overwhelming power of EF Mass that I've seen others describe. Perhaps it's a transitional state, and it could be the fact that both the facility (you know it, you were there with me last Sunday) and the altar boys are not to the same standard, at present, as the NO Latin Mass we usually attend. Plus, overcrowding distracts a bit and makes it very hard to deal with a wiggling, fussy infant. I want to keep going to EF Mass at least periodically, but at present I don't see a huge difference between the Mass of Fr. Weinberger and the Mass of Fr. Longua.

Larry said...

In my comment, in the last sentence, the term "of" is being used as a substitute for "as celebrated by." Just for clarification!

charles77046 said...

Larry,

I have the impression that you have not read through all the prayers of the EF liturgy. If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do. There are huge differences between the EF and the OF that are quite obvious and startling when you compare the two in detail. The EF is more reverent and more explicitly expresses the Catholic theology of the Mass.

Bugnini, the architect of the OF Mass, wanted to minimize distinctly Catholic aspects of the Mass for ecumenical reasons. He said, "We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants." For this purpose, he consulted with six protestant ministers in the creation of the OF Mass. It was hoped that the OF would be adopted by Protestant denominations, facilitating some sort of Christian unity in liturgical worship. Except for a few isolated instances where a liturgy based on the OF has been used by Protestant faith communities, the effort to modify the liturgy of the Catholic Mass so that it would be adopted by Protestants has been a big bust.

Since the OF Mass waters down much of the distinctly Catholic aspects of the EF Mass based on Protestant sensibilities, the EF Mass overall is objectively superior to the OF Mass.

Kevin said...

Brendand,

"There is plenty of evidence that the Extraordinary Form has greater merit, and is a greater source of grace, than the Novus Ordo form, notwithstanding the full Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist in either form.
"

Your terminology is a bit off. The source of grace is the sacrifice of Christ. If there is the sacrifice, there is the same grace, no matter what right.

I'm a strong defender of the extraordinary form, have attended it 7 years, and fought in the trenches in the diocese and the blogosphere for it. Yet i've also visited parishes where one would not call it the "childrens mass" where the OF is celebrated. (Take Assumption Grotto in Detroit, or the Corpus Christi procession of Old St. Mary's in greektown.)

Now there's some beef to be had with giving priests too many options, to where many just ad-lib it. Yet we must be measured in our criticism. Attack those priests who care little about a liturgy, and at the same time, work to bring about greater reverence.

Summorum Pontificium was supposed to impact the entire Church. Not just give a "room of our own." We have that, but we are also meant to improve the Ordinary Form, and bring back that proper understanding.

Brendan said...

Kevin,

I'm not sure exactly what it is about what I said you are correcting. If I was imprecise to say that the Mass is a source of grace because the real Source is the Sacrifice of Jesus, OK. By definition the Sacraments confer grace by virtue of having been instituted by Christ for that purpose. I did not think I implied that the Novus Ordo Mass is not a Sacrament because I explicitly acknowledged the Presence in the Eucharist in it (the Eucharist being a Sacrament).

Since I therefore did not raise a question about validity, I did not deny the inherent grace of the Sacrament. When talking about form, we are talking about prayer, and some prayers and actions are conducive to grace and some are not, or at least less so.

Consider the celebration of any of the Sacraments. If it is of perfectly equal value to fulfill the bare minimum for a valid Baptism, for example, why do all the extra blessing and exorcising and prayer? For aesthetics?

That is my problem with Patrick's argument that it is only about personal preference. If the Mass is an offering of sacrifice to God, then we offer the best and most suitable we can, for the sake of pleasing God. That, in turn, has merit, and that disposes us to grace.

If we just do what we feel like, it isn't very likely to be what is pleasing to God and efficacious for us.

In fact, maybe we're not even present, and even that doesn't change that "there is the same grace" in the Mass, but we don't get it.

I don't have the stomach to have a "beef" with any liturgical question. (I know, a bad pun, but I mean it.) It just is what it is. The spiritual ife itself is enough of a lucha without trying to fight about those things.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Brendan has it exactly right.

The Mass is not itself a sacrament, it is a liturgy wrapped around a sacrament.

"Liturgy" differs from "magic" in that magic is a ritual meant to force god(s) to do what we want, whereas liturgy is ritual (the work of the people of God) by which we prepare ourselves to be and do what God wants.

The sacrament at the heart of every liturgy pours out the same grace regardless of how good or bad the liturgy is.

But, precisely because liturgy is something we can change (unlike the sacraments, which we cannot change), some liturgy is more conducive to our ability to be docile to that grace than other liturgy may be.

That's why the Church has over 20 different ways to say Mass, over 20 different rites, because different cultures have slightly different problems in understanding how to open themselves to God's grace.

Now, you could argue that for semi-pagans, the Novus Ordo is the best possible Mass. I would agree.

But for Catholics who know what it means to be Catholic, or are very seriously trying to find out, the EF is going to be much superior.

Now, as Larry points out, a very well done OF, with the priest ad orientam, an aspergum done at the beginning of Mass (which even the OF always allows), lots of incense and Gregorian chant would certainly be infinitely better than what we normally see at most parishes.

But, as Charles points out, the prayers of the EF are simply superior to the OF prayers. There's really no way around that. Indeed, that's why a new Missal is coming out for the OF, because the current one stinks so bad.

Larry said...

Charles -

I have read the prayers of the EF Mass and do understand the completely different philosophy behind the OF prayers and EF prayers. Unfortunately, in practice I've had trouble following along due to various circumstances, most of which are related to having 6 young kids. I think part of the problem is that I had heard and read so many wonderful things about the EF Mass, it had such a buildup, that I may have constructed an image in my mind that was unrealistic. Or, I may be going through growing pains. I'm not arguing that EF Mass is inferior to OF, or that it's equal - I think it's better, it's just not as much better as I thought it would be going in, if that makes any sense. For me, I'd be happy going to EF every week, but my wife wants to go back to OF Latin, so we'll probably be doing both for a while. We'll see where the Spirit leads us.

Perhaps you could pray for us. God bless,

Patrick said...

I think we've all finally gotten to the real point. Graces are not only conferred by what we receive, but in the attitude that it's received as well. If, for some, they find one form of the celebration of the mass better received than another, the graces conferred would certainly be different. Personal preference certainly impacts whether one form of the mass would be better received than another and one form may impact a person at a level that is personally accepted better because of where they are in life. That is precisely why the Church, in its wisdom, allows multiple forms.