The new Roman Missal is a “net plus”…

 

With the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal just around the corner, Crisis magazine reprinted its 2000 article “Worship Gone Awry.”  Its author, Maureen Mullarkey, advanced some excellent arguments about some problems with the Ordinary Form of the Mass (OF), many of which that only became increasingly obvious as the decades of the 1970′s, 80′s, and ’90s unfolded.

But, does that mean the OF is as bad as Ms. Mullarkey indicates?  More importantly, should the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (EF) be made more readily available, as Ms. Mullarkey seems to be implying?

On both counts, The Motley Monk thinks the answer is a resounding “No” if only because Joseph Jungmann’s concept of the “developmental nature of the liturgy” cannot be so easily dismissed.  As the Lutheran theologian, Jaroslav Pelikan, noted one generation ago: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead.  Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

History teaches that what is now the EF developed out of multiple strands constituting a “tradition” of worship, introducing “reforms” to that tradition.  In contemporary language, to make that tradition meaningful—daresay I, “relevant”—in a new era.

The development of medieval Masses and, finally, of the Tridentine Mass also represents a reflection on the part of pastors and theologians in terms of what was not working right in the Mass.  While it is true that the patristic Mass in the West resembled more of  the OF than the EF, great Church Fathers like Augustine inherited a form of the Mass from an earlier time (St. Cyprian of Carthage) in which sacramental theology, especially in terms of the concept of mystery, was not as developed as it was by Augustine’s time.  In this way, Augustine and other Church Fathers from the 5th century onward provided the sources for a later medieval rethinking of liturgy.  So, it’s not the form of the Mass that, say, an Augustine said, that indicates what he really thought, but the deeper sacramental theology in his writings which then influences later medieval developments.  In that sense medieval/Tridentine liturgy was a correction and, perhaps arguably at the time, an improvement over the patristic liturgies.

The same is true of the OF.  It also developed out of a very longstanding tradition of worship, introducing its own “reforms” that hearkened back to the pre-patristic era, “leapfrogging” backwards over the EF’s reforms of the patristic era’s form of authentic worship.

That said, in its intent and design OF may very well have erred in the direction of allowing worship to be made so meaningful—daresay I, “relevant”—that it becomes banal.  And, there certainly is much to support that assertion.  But, that is to overlook the fact that Ms. Mullarkey has emphasized only one side of that history by seizing, as she has, upon post-Vatican II excesses.  That does not mean, ipso facto, that the OF is errant.  After all, the same observation can be made about the EF.  Its attention to the details of historical artifacts—the stuff of maniples, burses, Gothic vestments, birettas, precious metals—can err in the direction of emphasizing what was relevant in previous generations so that that it errs in the direction of being irrelevant in this generation.

There are some real problems with the OF Ms. Mullarkey didn’t mention in her article, but likely would agree with.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • The OF can be celebrated in a prayerful and dignified way.  But, “ad populum” Mass can be problematic in that the celebrant inevitably is reduced to the role of “Entertainer-in-Chief,” even if he keeps his eyes focused upon the altar and not upon the congregation.  Like it or not, the OF encourages people in the congregation to vote implicitly concerning how they “feel” about a particular celebrant’s “style.”  Not only does that verge on Donatism, but it also focuses worship on the person of the ordained minister not the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ through whom God is authentically worshipped.
  • The OF totally and irrevocably erases the “apophatic elements” that are present—even if they are over-emphasized—in the EF.  “Tossing out the baby with the bathwater” may represent a very great loss, one that is known only in retrospect.  After all, authentic worship in any form should “raise up” the congregation’s spiritual sensibilities to the ineffable, not drag them down into the banal.  Clowns, puppets, and vestal virgins prancing around bearing incense buckets, and priests bedecked in vestments decorated with disco-glitter only encourage the latter.
  • In the OF, there is an over emphasis upon Word.  In reality, there are four readings each Sunday if the Responsorial Psalm is counted.  In many instances, the Epistle also has absolutely no connection to the first reading, the gospel, and the “bridge” of the psalm.  And that’s to say nothing about the fact that the celebrant’s prayers are entirely disconnected from the “theme” presented in the readings.  For a sacramental ritual that is supposed to reflect the “best” in that its principles dignify worship of God, this error alone seems egregious.
  • The OF appeals to children and adults who need to be kept busy and entertained because they are easily bored.   However, those who designed the OF appear not to have know or did not realize that the threshold for boredom lowers as people get accustomed to the little gestures and words that they perform, so that even the participation in the Mass signalled in the Missal inevitably becomes boring.  The OF has fallen into the trap of trying to ward off boredom throughout the Mass by getting the congregation “involved.”   But, even that becomes “boring” and can only be reversed if there is continuous change in the liturgy.  So, liturgists keep inventing new gimmicks and tricks for people to perform and remain actively engaged during the Holy Mass.  Even that term, “Holy Mass,” seems somehow unrelated to the OF.

  • The EF requires mental concentration if one’s worship to get absorbed in it in a way that makes what one does a form of engaged participation.  This is not singing.  Nor is it gesturing.  It is being actively engaged with one’s mind (and hopefully, too, one’s heart).  In contrast, participation in the OF has come to mean “everybody does everything.”  And even where that is not yet the case, there is a built in inevitability of people thinking that they are being excluded if there is something the priest does that they can’t do.  This may be the most damning criticism of the OF: it breeds a form of egalitarianism that has very little, if nothing to do with Roman Catholic hierarchalism and everything to do with post-Enlightenment individualism.

 

More likely than not, both the EF and OF err in the direction of crafting idols out of their definitions of “relevance” so that authentic worship today becomes an more of an afterthought rather than a guiding principle.

For what it’s worth, the new translation of the Roman Missal, celebrated/prayed/said (whatever word is appropriate these days) will go a long way in correcting the excesses in terms of relevance.

 

Let the discussion begin…

 

To read Maureen Mullarkey’s article in Crisis, click on the following link:
http://www.printfriendly.com/print/v2?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crisismagazine.com%2F2011%2Fworship-gone-awry-2

6 Responses to The new Roman Missal is a “net plus”…

  • Tom McKenna says:

    MM said:
    ‘It also developed out of a very longstanding tradition of worship, introducing its own “reforms” that hearkened back to the pre-patristic era, “leapfrogging” backwards over the EF’s reforms of the patristic era’s form of authentic worship.’
    Respectfully, this premise, upon which your observation that OF has as much credibility as the EF, is flat out, whopper-like wrong.

    First, the New Mass developed from nothing. It was, from start to finish, a “banal, on-the-spot product” as our current Pope put it. It has become crystal clear after the historical investigations of the past 40 years, that Bugnini and the Concilium concocted the rite from whole cloth with the aid of an ecumenical, i.e., un-Catholic consultative group. This same Pope Benedict, speaking as Card. Ratzinger, put it this way:
    “What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over the centuries, and replaced it–as in a manufacturing process–with a fabrication, a banal on- the-spot product.”
    Dr. Smith, a Lutheran member of this ecumenical committee, once said of the New Mass, “We have finished the work that Martin Luther began.” Bugnini had no compunction in declaring that his intention in drafting the NO was “to 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.”

    Many commentators have exhaustively shown that the changes in the liturgy were in no way envisioned or called for by the Council, but were imposed after the Council by this group of what were, frankly, revolutionaries.

    It is also a canard that the NO hearkens back to earlier rites; again, many learned commentators have shown this, and moreover, the simple fact of a return to some earlier practice, even if that’s what happened, is no selling point. Pius XII in the years before the Council had already condemned this antiquarian spirit,
    “But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See.”
    (Mystici Corporis Christi) Hmmm, sounds like the late Pope knew exactly what was coming.

    Lastly Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, who served as head of the Holy Office under three Popes, wrote shortly after the promulgation of the NO that it “represents a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Holy Mass as it was formulated in the Council of Trent,” and that there are “implicit denials of Christ’s Real Presence and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.”

    Much could be said beyond what the limit of a combox allows, but while one may for some mysterious reason prefer the banal on the spot product, one cannot honestly claim that it is the result of a development or a wonderful return to some pretended golden age of antiquity.

  • T. Shaw says:

    I read that St.Teresa saw angels about the Altar when the bread and wine were Transubstantiated into Christ’s Body and Blood. Sorry that I cannot see them. I am lacking. I know the angels are there.

    Are we allowed to take notes at Mass?

    At 7:30 Mass last Sunday, Father McCartney explained (he read the two versions: translation and re-write) how the other Catholic national languages basically translated the pre-VatII Mass prayers. OTOH, the English Mass was a re-write serially deleting the Eternal words and replacing with (my words not Father’s) secular/worldly, feel-good pabulum.

    Even an idiot such as myself can translate “Et cum spiritu tuo” into “And also with your spirit.”

    I don’t know much about philosophy or theology. If modernism was once a heresy, sure it ain’t no more.

  • RR says:

    We went over it this past Sunday and it doesn’t feel that different. While it’s been a part of the Penitential Rite in other languages, English participants are supposed to do the triple breast strike for the first time. Let’s see if it’ll catch on or if it’ll be ignored like the profound bow during the Profession of Faith and the bow of the head before receiving Communion.

  • Agellius says:

    “The OF has fallen into the trap of trying to ward off boredom throughout the Mass by getting the congregation “involved.” But, even that becomes “boring” and can only be reversed if there is continuous change in the liturgy. So, liturgists keep inventing new gimmicks and tricks for people to perform and remain actively engaged during the Holy Mass.”

    Excellently expressed! The whole post is right-on.

    I agree that liturgical reform per se need not be resisted. The problem with the OF, IMHO, was the way it was seemingly slapped together, the spirit of the times in which it was introduced, and the abruptness with which the EF was abandoned, all of which contributed to the notion that everything old and traditional in the Church was being jettisoned. And that notion is what has had such terrible consequences.

  • Darwin says:

    Let’s see if it’ll catch on or if it’ll be ignored like the profound bow during the Profession of Faith and the bow of the head before receiving Communion.

    Though I’ve been surprised at how much these have caught on over the last 15 years. It’s gotten to where nearly everyone in the parishes I’ve been to in the last 2-3 years does these.

    Catholics can change — it’s just a bit of a slow evolution.

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