When Two Forms Become One

Pictured left is the Latin Mass English Booklet Missal, first produced by Coalition Ecclesia Dei in 1990. St Mary Magdalen's Church have these at the back of the Church whenever the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is celebrated to help the Laity to do pray at Mass, or rather, as the quote in the booklet from Pope Pius X says, "Do not pray at the Mass, but pray the Mass."

This quote is at the heart of an issue that Fr Ray Blake has raised in his blogpost, 'What do you do in the Eucharistic Prayer?'.

I half wonder whether this question would have been even asked by Priests prior to the Second Vatican Council, but then, what our now gloriously reigning Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, is interested in is the careful, delicate knitting together of a garment which was rent so carelessly in the wake of the 1960s with some seriously damaging consequences.

I must confess that it was only after I began attending the Traditional Latin Mass at St Mary Magdalen's that I begun to even think of praying the Eucharist Prayer during the Novus Ordo Mass as well. Attending the "old Mass" led me into praying the Eucharistic Prayer during the "new Mass", although it has to be said, what with the still relatively recent liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass, it is easy to get confused which is the "old" one and which is the "new" one. Out with the old and in with the new, I say, but anyway...

Before attending the Traditional Latin Mass I didn't know what to do, or rather what to pray during the Eucharistic Prayer. There was a kind of mental block or perhaps a rather blithe ignorance of prayer during the 'quiet bit' of Mass because it is a prolongued period of the Mass during which we, the Laity, are silent. It was like an impasse, almost the impotence to pray, because I just thought that was the Priest's "bit" of the Mass and, on reflection, the Novus Ordo does often feel like the Priest has his "bits" and we have our "bits" of the Mass and that could account for why the 'discontinuity' has occurred. That could also account for why the 'We Are Church' brigade are so brazen - because the Laity really do actually feel that they have been clericised. Perhaps that really is the seed from which springs the campaign for women's ordination. I don't know. Regardless, while I am sure that many Catholics pray the Eucharistic Prayer without any experience of the TLM, I can say with my hand on my heart that attending the Extraordinary Form has encouraged me to pray the Eucharistic Prayer during the Novus Ordo. So, thank you, Pope Benedict!

Nowadays, during the Novus Ordo, I pray the Eucharistic Prayer about a second or two behind the Priest, praying silently or very quietly, what he prays. Why has this change occurred? Well, I think that this is mostly down to the fact that the Latin-English Booklet Missal publishes the Canon of the Mass, and indeed the entire Mass, in Latin and English and because it so clearly encourages the Laity to "pray the Mass", rather than to "do the Mass", or to "pray bits"  or "do our bits" of the Mass.

It is because the Latin-English Missal teaches us the truth that the whole of the Mass is prayer that I found myself wanting to pray the Eucharistic Prayer in the modern rite. The one fed into the other. Now it feels almost as if, in that silent period of the Mass, that because God would not want to 'leave us as orphans', we should pray it and we should desire to pray it. It makes more and more sense to me now to do that, not in union so much with the Priest, since only the Priest can stand 'in persona Christi', but in communion with the Priest and the whole Church - which we understand to be Militant, Suffering and Triumphant - as the Priest prays, on the Church's behalf, the Liturgy of Heaven.

The Traditional Latin Mass is able to communicate that even though we are endeavouring to pray the same prayers as him, the Priest is the one doing the 'hard work', since he is standing in the place of Christ, whereas all we have to 'do' is pray the Mass, as if we are, if you like, standing in the place of St Mary Magdalen. That said, even when I find myself struggling to follow and pray the Traditional Latin Mass faithfully because, frankly, I am a slack individual, I still always feel that the pressure is taken off the Laity during Mass and that the awesome burden of responsibility for the Mass belongs to the Priest - a responsibility that I assume the Priest renders thankfully back to God! - but this is something that isn't imparted well by the Novus Ordo at all.

As St John Vianney said, if the Priest knew what he really was his head would implode, or explode, or something terrible and Mass in the Extraordinary Form makes that truth more visible to the Faithful. When the Priest turns around and says, "Oremus," it is as if he is saying, "Right now, I need your prayers! This is kind of a big deal!" I also believe that the Traditional Latin Mass is able to communicate a great deal more about the Catholic Faith than any homily, lecture or, indeed, book or blog. That is just one reason why I would recommend anyone, whether they are Catholic or not, to attend it if they are fortunate enough to be able to do so.

When we are at Mass, we are here...
The Latin-English Booklet Missal, which you can read in a rather useful 'pdf' format here, makes it pretty much clear that the Mass should be prayed whole and entire, that the Mass is the highest prayer of the Church, the pinnacle of prayer and that the Mass is not something the Laity 'do', but something we pray. The Priest is the one, if you like, doing the 'do-ing' and we are the ones doing the 'be-ing in the Presence of God' because we are to be present at Calvary, at the Foot of the Cross. Christ's supreme sacrifice is being manifested once more on the Altar, so that all present can adore Him and so that those in a State of Grace may receive His Precious Body and Blood.

The Liturgy of the Traditional Latin Mass genuinely respects the holy and therefore genuinely inspires holiness, in aspiration, at least. It manages to communicate, even 'through a glass darkly', the incomprehensible, the Mystery of what is taking place before our eyes in a way that the "new Mass" fails to do and quite comprehensively so. I guess that is the main reason why many traddies think the whole thing was the work of demonically-inspired Freemasons.

During the Canon, the Priest prays for the intercession of various Saints of the Church that we may be defended from our spiritual enemies, saved from final damnation and be counted among the elect and I just get the sense at that point in the Traditional Rite that these are the prayers, in Latin, that those who have gone before us, for centuries, at least a few of whom are even named in the Canon, those who were counted worthy by God to be raised to the Altar, themselves prayed! Yes, the English translation is quite accurate, I guess, but why would we want to divorce ourselves from the spirituality of those to whom we pray for assistance? Why on Earth would we think ourselves wiser than them and 'do' something different to them? I know we've had quite a lot of men and women raised to the Altar since the 1960s, a wonderful thing, but, come on! Seriously! Don't you want to pray exactly what St Anthony of Padua and St Catherine of Sienna!? Something will always get lost in translation!

In summary, the Traditional Latin Mass makes you want to pray, because it encourages it, facilitates it. It was written to dispose us towards Heaven, to raise our hearts and minds to God. The Latin Mass even makes you want to pray more at the Novus Ordo Mass, though I will acknowledge that in some parishes, the liturgies of which I am glad I do not have to attend, that itself can be extraordinarily (if you excuse the pun) difficult!

Anyway, not to detract in any way from the what has been a relatively sober, serious and considered post, I would just like to share with you this incredible song, performed by the incredibly gifted, raw, passionate and yet tenderly soulful, Elkie Brooks. My friend 'Mister Paul' introduced me to her relatively recently (on YouTube, that is, rather than at a party). You could say that, for me, Elkie Brooks has been liberated after years of being hidden away! What a treasure!

Now that I'm one of Elkie's faithful I defy anyone to be grumpy after this song and it goes without saying that even though you will, quite rightly, never hear it in a Catholic Church, it still pisses all over anything Paul Inwood has ever produced. Still, they're different genres I guess. You can't compare like with like. Elkie Brooks: An awe-inspiring and truly astonishing talent...and she's British! Yes, Britain's still got real talent and her tour dates are here. More importantly, you can purchase Coalition Ecclesia Dei's Latin-English Booklet Missal here.


anthony said…
Nice post.

Can you please tell me the purpose of the "Last Gospel"? I've searched on the Internet for some explanation, but so far all I've found are some stuff saying that it is a summary of the good news. Fine. But that doesn't explain why we need to have it after Mass. Why do we need to recapitulate the story of salvation after Mass?
Sixupman said…
Rhetorical question:

Why is it that the words of the TLM never pall however oft repeated?

Whereas attending the NOM, where I can never be sure the Celebrant is using his own words appear to be so mundane and almost meaningless.
I don't know but there is something eucharistic about that passage. It sounds like an affirmation of the Faith that Christ came (and comes during Mass) to empower us to become the adopted sons and daughters of God.

But I'm just guessing. Anyone?
To Catholic theologian, scholar, whatever your name is:

Your messages are getting shorter.

Glad you've taken the hint!
Mavis O'Reilly said…
There is no purpose to the Last Gospel, it is a 'useless accredition' - originally a private prayer of thanksgiving.
I really wish more dioceses were open to making the Extraordinary Mass more available. I hear time and time again from people who wish to attend but the nearest church offering it is very far away. In my area, the nearest church offering the Extraordinary form is 2 hours away.