Monday, 3 January 2011

Nova et Vetera

What fascinates me about being a Cath-o-blogger is that rarely can you be away a day from your computer than you find some highly interesting story on which to blog and post your own thoughts. Then, when you do finally go outside into the 'Big Wide World' you only find more about which to write.

Having managed to lift myself out of bed for evening Mass, after a night of failed sleep, less a 'Dark Night of the Soul' than an irritating night prolonged by cups of tea, recklessly drank earlier, I went to the pub in town after Mass in honour of the Epiphany* and there met a one or two other Catholics, who just happened to be in the area, one of whom took a particular exception to the Latin Mass.

What I found both sad and interesting, as a young (ish) enthusiast for the Latin Mass, was the sense of woundedness of those who oppose the Extraordinary Form. The crux of the opposition seemed to come not from the Latin Mass itself but because the Latin Mass was all that he had grown up with - and then suddenly - bang! - in came the Novus Ordo and everything changed!

Then, with Vatican II, the Church, in Her great wisdom, in effect, if not in deliberate intention, changed the Mass to become what we now know as the 'modern rite' and the chap I was speaking to had suddenly left the faith, seemingly for years.  It was only years later, after his faith in the Church and in God had been destroyed, the Church having abandoned the Latin Mass, that he came back to Mass after someone had explained the 'new rite' to him and he had learned that the 'new Mass' was more concerned with "audience participation" than, well, whatever the 'old rite' was about, which I tried to him explain as "participation" in terms of prayer united to the celebrant and the whole Church.

I argued at length about it with him and told him to his face that the whole idea of "audience participation" makes the Mass out to be some kind of 'game show', yet the real sense of deep hurt seemed for him not to be the idea that Pope Benedict XVI should have liberalised the Latin Mass, (which, just in case you are a Priest, please be assured that you are now perfectly within your rights to celebrate) but that he now sees as it something "exclusive", a "club" within the Church and that the changes of the 1960s were so brutal, so without precedent, so aggressively pushed through and so unexplained to the Laity, who were just asked to 'go along with it' no matter what they felt, that the Church could not be so wrong as to go back on itself. In other words, the laity have become so used to the Novus Ordu that any kind of reintroduction of an unabrogated, perfectly licit, pre-1962 Mass is a horror, because they were told, more or less, that that Mass was a thing of the past - if not, plain, bleeding, wrong! Poor lambs!

In other words, the idea of the Latin Mass making a re-emergence in the Church today, a full 50 years after it was more or less banished, can suggest not just a re-asserting of the Church's Authority, but also a rejection of that Authority that came before it, I mean after it - Vatican II! This is certainly one aspect of opposition against the Latin Mass that I had not considered, primarily because I am a lay man and a young (ish) convert.

In all sincerity, if, as a boy, I had altar served at it, I had grown up with it, then it got thrown out of the window only to let a 'new mass' in to the window and then 50 years later I got told the 'old one' was as good, if not better than the 'new one', I guess I would have difficulties understanding and respecting the Church's Authority, given by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself! It is a bit like a teacher walking into a classroom, being really 'down with the kids' and friendly, only to find that the kids don't respect him because he is too nice and doesn't have boundaries, only to find that when he tries to assert his authority next term they don't give a flying one what he says because he let everything get out of hand last term, so why should anything be any different this term? And, you know what? It doesn't matter how hard he shouts because now, even the old teacher can't handle them!

More than this man's anger against the still relatively sparse celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass around the United Kingdom as a whole, was his anger against the idea that, at such a tender age, as an altar server, the Church could have been wrong in Her alterations in the wake of Vatican II. That is a big problem for those Clergy who feel a particular preference for Mass in the Extraordinary Form, because many of them have, by the Grace of God alone, come to see the beauty of the ancient, whereas others are yet to see that what was taken away from them, robbed, if you like, away from them, was truly a treasure that is being offered once more, for they were - and I don't think I had appreciated this fully - indoctrinated to believe that the former things had passed away and that Our Lord Jesus Christ had made 'all things new'. Now, when He comes to make 'all things new' in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's liberalisation of the Traditional Latin Mass, for some reason, they don't understand!

* Epiphany is on the 12th day of Christmas. The Bishops of England and Wales, in their wisdom, changed it to today, Sunday, even though it should fall on the 12th day of Christmas. That's on the 6th of January - that's Thursday. Quite why it was brought forward to today, Sunday, has not been fully explained by the Bishops of England and Wales, but the Church, in Her wisdom, makes these decisions, and we abide by them because we are bound by holy obedience.


tubbs said...

IMO - It wasn't that the NO was so revolutionary, but that the accompaning attitude of irreverence, and of course the wretched musical drivel created (nay, CONCOCTED!) to celebrate the Mass was so bad. So many of us want to step into a Church and get something numinous, holy, otherwordly in the ceremony/liturgy/language of a sabbath day Mass. Historically, we have always had this blessed escape from the vulgar and mundane when we came before the altar on Sunday.
Enough, I'll shut up now; We all know that this subject is soooo beaten up.

Ben Trovato said...

Imagine the difficulty for priests, raised and trained to love and revere the traditional Latin Mass, then re-educated to hate it and love the changes, and now asked to accept that the traditional Mass had been all right all along. No wonder priests who want to celebrate the Extraordinary Form often find it is their brother priests and bishops who are most vehemently against it.

OF Fan said...

Look Tubbs, if you want toescape from the mundane then go to the cinema. The Church isn't a piece of light entertainment and no matter how much you like looking at fancy frocks while listening to a dead tongue (a dead tongue that has nothing to do with christ himself mind) you can't blame those of us who want to understand the mass. When the Latin mass was written it was written for the benefit of priests who spoke Latin. A vernacular mass was delivered when the mass was given tot he laity. There is no justification for sticking to this mass today - it's completely arbitrary. It is just a frozen snap-shot of a 12th century Latin translation of the words used in the vernacular mass! It's like arguing that a 10th century Spanish document that happens to have been used at the time ought never to be put into a form that can be understood by modern audiences. Do you read the bible in Latin? Or in its greek original? Or in Hebrew or Aramaic for the older parts? I doubt it, presumably you rely on the English words you understand to make sense of your faith. Why then insist on using Latin words to celebrate that faith?

anthony said...

I appreciate your efforts, Lawrence, of trying to charitably put yourself in the shoes of those who don't share your sentiments. Change for the better, improvement, takes time and patience.

pelerin said...

Ben Trovato has a good point. As a mere pew person who had great difficulty in accepting the changes, I don't think I even considered at the time how the Priests must have felt. Selfishly I focused on what I felt I had lost. The rug had been pulled from under me - how much more must the Priests have felt the loss?

In a conversation with a Priest in his early 70s two or three years ago, he surprised me by saying that he had celebrated the TLM for seven years before the NO but had no wish to 'go back.' Seven years must mean at least 2555 Masses....

tubbs has some good points too. The EF is seamless - we can immerse ouselves in prayer from the beginning to the end. Time seems to stand still. There are no interuptions. Every movement is ordered. However dignified the Priest celebrates the Novus Ordo, it is by nature disjointed. It does not flow seemlessly. It seems to be composed of many different sections with gaps in between - we wait for lay people to do the readings and then there is the great interuption of the Kiss of Peace.

The Bones said...

OF Fan, be charitable please. There are similar criticisms that could so easily be made of the NO.

OF Fan said...

Sorry to be prickly, but what significance is there to Latin? It was the language of Empire, now English is! Why not change. I can understand Orthodox believers who argue that the bible must be read in Greek - after all, it was written in greek, it contains word plays and subtleties that can (so they say) only be grasped in Greek. But unless you hold that the mass cannot, even in prinicple, be translated out of Latin or too much content is lost, then why celebrate it in Latin?

Also, priests who celebrate the Latin mass can speak and understand Latin, so for them this makes perfect sense. I don't, and I want to know what I am saying. I can't connect with words that have no meaning for me (since I don't understand them). how can I focus on God by listening to a series of words I don't follow?

Adulio said...

Please note that the change of obligation (not the feast - bishops cannot change the actual date of a feast as it is outside the remit of their authority) is mandated by the Conference of Bishop of the England and Wales. It is not the same as something having come out of the Holy See. The Pope will celebrate Epiphany on Jan 6th, just like all his predecessors have done for hundreds of years.

georgem said...

I think something else was going on with that old gent and it wasn't just about the OF or EF.
However, the fact is that there's a place for both. In God's house, etc.
Some prefer demonstrable active participation, some would rather participate in a contemplative way.
The OF in the vernacular can be, and often is, celebrated in a quiet and reverent manner, particularly on a weekday.
What I will say is that I am surprised that those who love the OF believe this to be a battle between the two forms.
It isn't. The Pope has made this quite clear. In his charity he has stipulated that the EF be made freely available to those who want it. I repeat: to those who want it. Many will not and will continue as before.
But I think it a mistake to believe the Mass was "given to the laity". The Mass is given to God, whichever form it takes.

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