Tuesday, September 15, 2015
EIGHT YEARS OF THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS
It was great to celebrate this Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the first time as a priest and reminded me of another time that I celebrated this solemnity, only three days after 9/11 in 2001. As I recall, President Bush called for the 14th that year to be a national day of prayer for the country. Our church was quite full for this Mass although it was during the week, a Friday I believe.
Eight years ago, I felt I was celebrating Mass for the first time which I was as it was in the EF style. It was the same Sacrifice of course, but I was more nervous about it that I was about my first Mass. I think it was because the Mass was entirely in Latin and I wasn't quite sure of all the rubrics and these printed in red in Latin made me less secure too.
The positive aspects of this form of the Mass are the following:
1. There is a clear emphasis on the Mass as sacrifice and the priest as the priest as in the Old Testament's understanding of the Jewish priest in the temple. I felt as a priest in that Old Testament context. I felt I was doing something on behalf of the congregation behind me but also for the entire Church. And I felt as though I was truly representing Christ on our behalf before the majesty of God. It created the symbol of awe and wonder so often missing in the revised form of the Mass, what is called a reform.
2. The sense of wonder and awe permeates the entire Mass, especially how the faithful approach Holy Communion. Since restoring our altar railing, I have come to understand that in the EF Mass, Holy Communion distributed to those kneeling at the railing is a true Eucharistic Procession, as the priest processes to the communicant to distribute Holy Communion after the communicant has processed to the altar railing, which is an extension of the altar itself.
The negative aspects of this Mass for me hinged on it being entirely in Latin. I still pray that one day at least the changing parts of this Mass be prayed in the vernacular and that the readings be in the vernacular as is an option today in the Low Mass but for some odd reason not in the High Mass.
I have come to appreciate the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar at a Sung Mass as a prelude for the priest and ministers of the Mass to prepare to enter the holy of holies which is the Mass, which technically begins with the Kyrie after the priest approaches the altar.
I've come to appreciate this form of the Mass as a liturgical Sacred Dance, especially in its Solemn Sung Form. Watch the choreography of this Mass, especially the Solemn Sung form, and you will know what true liturgical dance is compared to the silliness of liturgical dance imposed on the OF Mass.
Celebrating the EF Mass has caused me to celebrate the OF Mass with more reverence and to be an advocate for the "reform of the reform within continuity" as it concerns the OF Mass. I continue to see the OF Mass as the Mass that most Catholics will celebrate and for decades to come, long after I am dead and gone. But it can be improved and the differences between the two forms can be closed as it concerns awe, wonder and reverence. Ad orientem, kneeling for Holy Communion and following scrupulously the words and rubrics of the Ordinary Form is the foundation for this recovery.