Monday, October 25, 2010


An extremely well celebrated and faithful experience of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, which had some Latin, including the Introit, Gloria and Credo!

An extremely faithful and well celebrated Extraordinary Form of the Mass which encourages the laity to sing and say all their parts and together with the priest, such as the Gloria and Credo, as well as the Scriptures in the vernacular and facing the people to whom they are proclaimed without them also being read in Latin.

Twelve years ago, October 23-26, 1998, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave a speech on the ocassion of the 10th anniversary of Ecclesia Dei, which allowed a more generous celebration of the Tridentine Mass. You can read the whole speech by pressing this sentence to its link.

One of the things that I have been waiting for is more clarification on what it means to celebrate the older Roman Liturgy, the Missal of 1962, now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and how Vatican II's document on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium impacts its celebration. As well, how does an authentic interpretation of Sacrosanctum Concilium impact upon the organic reform of this 1962 missal as it concerns the revised Roman Missal which we will receive in Advent of 2011? What about more use of Latin in the OF Mass and some use of the vernacular in the EF Mass? What are Cardinal Ratzinger's insights and does he still hold them as Pope Benedict XVI?

Critical to both forms of the Mass is a proper understanding of the ordained or ministerial priest, who chosen from the laity, called by God and the Church through the bishop, acts in the person of Christ to offer Christ's one Sacrifice to the heavenly Father. Now that I celebrate both forms of the Mass, it is clear to me that the OF Mass has reduced the ministerial role of the priest as expressed in the order and form of the EF Mass to one of a mere actor of function as the priest faces the people, speaking prayers directed to God the Father as though these prayers are directed to the people's hearing of them. The EF is truer to whom and what a Catholic priest should be in the celebration of the Mass. I hate to say it so bluntly, but the OF's rubrics are intrinsically flawed in this regard (not so much the authentic post-Vatican II understanding of Holy Orders, "the priest" or the priest celebrating the Mass or the other sacraments.) I believe that the "ad orientem" position of the priest would help recapture the true essence of the priest in the OF Mass and even the silent praying of the canon of the Mass without changing anything else about it. Read What Cardinal Ratzinger says:

Amongst a number of modern liturgists there is unfortunately a tendency to develop the ideas of the Council in one direction only. In acting thus, they end up reversing the intentions of the Council. The role of the priest is reduced, by some, to that of a mere functionary. The fact that the Body of Christ as a whole is the subject of the liturgy is often deformed to the point where the local community becomes the self-sufficient subject of the liturgy and itself distributes the liturgy's various roles.

While properly emphasizing the unique and indispensable role of the ministerial priest in the Mass, the EF Mass does have a tendency to reduce the laity to a parallel liturgy, where their and the priest's parts, such as the Gloria, Credo and Sanctus are independent of one another, espeically in sung Masses. The laity are not encouraged to speak aloud or sing aloud all the parts that are theirs as well as the priests, even in "Dominus Vobiscum" and "Et cum spiritu tuo!" The OF Mass certainly can influence the EF Mass in this regard. Read what Cardinal Ratzinger says:

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the celebration of the old liturgy had strayed too far into a private individualism, and that communication between priest and people was insufficient. I have great respect for our forefathers who at Low Mass said the "Prayers during Mass" contained in their prayer books, but certainly one cannot consider that as the ideal of liturgical celebration. Perhaps these reductionist forms of celebration are the real reason that the disappearance of the old liturgical books was of no importance in many countries and caused no sorrow. One was never in contact with the liturgy itself.

Celebrating both forms of the Liturgy by the book and with the insights of Sacrosanctum Concilium would show little divergence when "saying the black and doing the red." If both Masses were ad orientem or facing the people there would be convergence in this regard. The problem with the OF Mass is not so much its official structure and rubrics, but the failure to follow these and imposing creativity and rupture upon the Mass and its environment. Read what Cardinal Ratzinger says:

An average Christian without specialist liturgical formation would find it difficult to distinguish between a Mass sung in Latin according to the old Missal and a sung Latin Mass according to the new Missal. However, the difference between a liturgy celebrated faithfully according to the Missal of Paul VI and the reality of a vernacular liturgy celebrated with all the freedom and creativity that are possible - that difference can be enormous.

Why in the world can't parts of the OF Mass be said or sung in Latin and this be seen as very normal? Pope Benedict certainly models this when he travels and celebrates international Masses. But why in the world can't the EF Mass employ some vernacular and not as a repeat of the Latin? The 1965 Roman Missal certainly is a good starting point in this and in line with Sacrosanctum Concilium! Read Cardinal Ratzinger's take on this:

The contradictions and oppositions which we have just enumerated originate neither from the spirit nor the letter of the conciliar texts. The actual Constitution on the Liturgy does not speak at all about celebration facing the altar or facing the people. On the subject of language, it says that Latin should be retained, while giving a greater place to the vernacular "above all in readings, instructions, and in a certain number of prayers and chants" (SL 36:2).

This is why it is very important to observe the essential criteria of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which I quoted above, including when one celebrates according to the old Missal. The moment when this liturgy truly touches the faithful with its beauty and its richness, then it will be loved, then it will no longer be irreconcilably opposed to the new Liturgy, providing that these criteria are indeed applied as the Council wished.

I firmly believe that Pope Benedict still holds to all of his presuppositions as illustrated above. The problem is that he hasn't celebrated the EF Mass publicly since he allowed it to be celebrated freely by all priests of the world. Therefore he doesn't model some of his insights about the EF Mass for us as he has with the OF Mass.

Holy Father celebrate the EF Mass and frequently! Show us the way!!!, Your humble servant, Fr. Allan J. McDonald


Kent said...

Thanks for your posts. They're inspiring to me and, I'm sure, to many others. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I am almost tired of wishing for this. I guess if it is God's will, it will happen. But in terms of Continuity and giving the Pope's words more than just air, it should be celebrated by the Pope.

Ribband of Peter's Bark said...

For me the crystalization of the weakness of the EF mass and the theology that underpins it is the manner in which communion is distributed.

The priest says AMEN for the person receiving communion. The person receiving is reduced to liturgical non-existence.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Peter's Bark while it is true the priest says the amen for the communicant, this is something easily remedied, just ask that the communicant answer amen--that would be within Sacrosanctum Concilium's desire I think. But don't you think that when the priest receiving Holy Communion says for his communion, May the Body of Christ save me unto life everlasting" and then he says, Amen to it and then goes and gives Holy Communion to the laity, he only says to them, "Body of Christ" not the complete sentence that he himself was priviledged to hear and respond. That's an unfortunte bit of clericalism that was built into the OF communion ritual!