Friday, December 30, 2011

On the War of the Liturgies

It does not take long reading Catholic blogs to encounter the Great War that is occurring: I mean, of course, the War between the supporters of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Traditional Latin Mass, the Tridentine Mass), and the supporters of the Ordinary Form of the Mass (the Novus Ordo Mass, the Mass of Pope Paul VI).  There is a wide range of views on the subject (though, I must admit, most of the bloggers I read are supporters of the Extraordinary Form): some say the Church is becoming Protestant for having the Ordinary Form, while some say it is backwards and controlling for allowing the Extraordinary Form (and for the new English translation of the Ordinary Form). In this post, I would just like to quickly lay out the goals of each side, and I would like to make some comments on what the proper goal would be, in my opinion.

Those supporting the Extraordinary Form have goals along a varied spectrum.  Some want to increase the reverence and similarity to the Extraordinary Form of Ordinary Form Masses, some want to increase the prevalence of Extraordinary Form Masses as an alternative to the Ordinary Form, and some want to do away with the Ordinary Form altogether and return to the Extraordinary Form.  (This last group must be wary: others who have sought this goal have left the Church, becoming members of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X and groups such as Novus Ordo Watch.)

Those supporting the Ordinary Form have varied goals as well (after all, neither group has one main organization leading their discussions).  Some just want to be rid of this whole discussion and to lower its importance (since it is just a discussion of personal taste in their minds), some want the Church to stop the Extraordinary Form from spreading so much (they say it disrupts the unity of the Church's worship), and some want to remove the Extraordinary Form altogether, throw out the new English translation (which is more literal to the Latin), and make the Church remove all of its stifling restrictions on the liturgy.  (Those in the last group can sometimes get to the point of petitioning for women priests, doing away with the need of celibacy, and sometimes throwing out the distinction of the priesthood altogether.)

I will admit plainly that I am more on the side of those supporting the Extraordinary Form than the Ordinary Form.  The reason for this is the greater reverence that I see exemplified in the Extraordinary Form (and in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as well).  I think that there are two main points to keep in mind when evaluating liturgies: correct theology and great reverence shown to the Lord.  While some think that the Ordinary Form does not even espouse a correct theology, I (at least at the present, though I feel I should study it more to be certain) think that it does, when it is celebrated correctly (that is, following the rubrics and instructions of the Church).

The goals of the two sides being laid out and my support being declared, what should the final goal be?  Some want to remove the Ordinary Form of the Mass altogether and return to the Extraordinary Form: is this even possible?  The answer would most likely be yes, more or less.  The Church can declare when a liturgy should not be celebrated: after all, when the Ordinary Form was first introduced, the Extraordinary Form was almost completely made extinct.  From my knowledge, it would be possible for the Church to make the Extraordinary Form Ordinary and vice versa.  Completely removing the Ordinary Form would probably not happen, but it could become very rare (such as the Mozarabic Rite is now).

Though the replacement of the Ordinary Form as the primary liturgy of the Church is possible, the next question is this: should it be done?  Some say that the Ordinary Form is theologically incorrect, in which case it should not only be replaced as the primary liturgy, but most likely be completely eradicated.  If one accepts that the Ordinary Form is theologically sound (as I still do), should it still be replaced?  I think the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form both have theological advantages and disadvantages: the Ordinary Form's larger selection of Scripture readings, including the readings from the Old Testament, are incredibly theologically deep; the Extraordinary Form's prayers and Order of the Mass are deeper than those of the Ordinary Form, though, in my opinion.  Completely removing one or the other would involve giving up one theological advantage.  One possible option would be to incorporate both advantages: create a Mass based on the Extraordinary Form in its prayers with the Scripture readings of the Ordinary Form (or at least with the same idea, that is, the added use of the Old Testament and a wider selection of readings).  

Another point of contention in this debate is the reverence of each liturgy.  It is not hard to see that there is extreme reverence at the Extraordinary Form, and this reverence can definitely be removed at a poor celebration of the Ordinary Form (such as the "Afro Mass").  The real question is this: is the Ordinary Form intrinsically lacking reverence?  I do not have an answer to this: people with more knowledge of the liturgy will need to discuss it.  (Though I am not certain, and this is just my personal opinion, I think it is possible to celebrate the Ordinary Form reverently, especially with the new English translation.)

In the end, here is the situation: if the Ordinary Form is theologically sound and not intrinsically opposed to true reverence, I see no reason why it must be done away with.  The goal, as it stands, should be to promote true reverence: this can be done both within the Ordinary Form and by expanding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form.  Encouraging both clergy and laity to conform to the rubrics and instructions of the Church would be a definite help to reverence in the Ordinary Form (in the words of Fr. Z, "Say the black, do the red").  I also agree that the Extraordinary Form (along with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which I am a huge fan of) is incredibly reverent, and I see no reason why it should not be promoted and its celebration expanded.

From what I can tell, this is my final solution to the War of the Liturgies: we should work to promote reverence in the liturgy, both Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form, and we should also promote the Extraordinary Form, as long as it is helpful in bringing the faithful to Christ.  That is the most that we can do.  Any efforts to ask the Vatican to alter the Ordinary Form or replace it (if those efforts were necessary anyway) could not be accomplished by the faithful.  As many say when combating those who wish to change the Church's teachings on sexuality due to the mass dissent from them, "the Church is not a democracy."  Just so, even if 95% of Catholics wished to do away with the Ordinary Form, it would still be the decision of the Vatican, and we cannot complain that the Rock of Peter does not sway with changing views.

To finally conclude, let us promote true reverence in the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, in whatever Form they are celebrated: through this effort can the War of the Liturgies come to a peaceful end and the world be saved (as Fr. Z says, "Save the liturgy, save the world").

Pope St. Pius V, Promulgator of the Tridentine Mass, Defender of Liturgical Reverence, pray for us!

Nota Bene: I was inspired to write this post after reading the conclusion of Don Pietro Leone's study on the incorrect theology of the Ordinary Form, posted at Rorate Cæli.  I will admit that I have yet to read the entire study.

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