Sunday, July 31, 2011

Some differences between the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo Missae

Sometimes I am asked this silly question: "Which is better, the Novus Ordo Missae or the Tridentine Mass?" Silly questions usually deserve silly answers, but in the second article of the series, I will try to explain some (evident) differences between the two Forms of the Roman Rite.

First of all, fundamentally, all valid Masses from a Pontifical Solemn High Mass to a 'Neocatechumenal Way' Mass all have the same value, that is to say Christ offering Himself to the Father on our behalf. Whether, however, the photo above of a so-called Youth Mass (with lay persons having the clown nose) can be deemed as reverent, I think the answer is an obvious NO!

From my limited understanding and experience, the Tridentine Mass more fully represents a sacrificial nature than does the Novus Ordo. The following are the main, basic differences:

a) Ad Orientem posture: This indicates that the prayers of the Mass, while some are said for our benefit, are not to us, but to the Father. The Priest, in the Person of Christ, is praying to the Father, not announcing to us.

b) Prayers at the foot of the altar: These prayers are reminiscent of the prayers the High Priest would say before entering the Holy of Holies. The priest would do this to purify himself from sin in order to make a worthy offering for the people. The priest says the prayers at the foot of the Altar for the same reason. Note that he does this before the Introit, recognising that he is a sinner and that he comes as a servant.

c) Motions: The motions are much more reverent, more genuflecting and the like, and a small motion that was started due to necessity but that can have great meaning attached. The Deacon and subdeacon hold the edge of the Chasuble when the Priest incenses the altar.

d) Offertory: This part of the Mass has changed a lot. Supposedly this had to with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, on the grounds that it was a needless repetition, and that it was confusing when the wafer became the Hostia! This is nothing less than the preparation of the Victim, and if one reads through the Pentateuch (and visualises the sacrifice) and sees a Tridentine Mass the link becomes clear.

e) Silence: This argument is the same as the argument for Ad Orientem posture, this is not about us, it is about God. This silence is real, part of the Rite, and encourages contemplation. Silence in the Novus Ordo is far less and it seems imposed and unnecessary. How much silence is kept by the congregation during the Novus Ordo should also be taken into account.

f) Communion: In the Tridentine Mass, the Christian kneels, and humbly receives the Sacred Host, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. In the Novus Ordo it depends on the whims of the priest: standing, or kneeling, in the hand, in the mouth, distributed by Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, etc.

In Malta, we can increase the unity of the Church by bringing the Novus Ordo more in line with tradition. We could also incorporate better music (i.e. more traditional) and an ad orientem posture (especially in the old churches). This would increase reverence in the Mass and decrease narcissism. It would also help the Novus Ordo priest’s humility, as quite a number of Masses have become more of the 'Father XYZ Show'.

Other ideas could be to limit the role of lay persons as too often serving at Mass has become a status position or a position of pseudo authority in the Church. A far better way to assist at Mass is through interior participation.

Finally the insistence of a more reverent attitude regarding the dress code at Mass (especially during the hot summer months in these islands), talking while in the Church, and more Orthodox teaching would bring more people in line with Church teaching and lessen fear and distrust of the Tridentine Mass.

People, young people especially, really crave authenticity. The answer is to gradually return to organically developed practices that were developed over the past two milienia, that is the Tridentine Mass. We need to allow the richness of the organic rite to influence the Novus Ordo Missae (which was not organically developed, it was written up by a committee) and purge all elements of the Novus Ordo which are less in line with our Catholic Tradition.

More will follow in a later post.

Godwin Xuereb