Addressing previous debate on opposing rites of the Catholic Mass

Erik Bishop, Crier Staff

Last year, two dear friends of mine wrote opinions on which forms of the Mass they saw as the way forward. One argued that the Mass as it was done before the Second Vatican Council was more reverent and beautiful, with less room for liturgical abuse. The second argued that the Mass according to the rubrics that came out of the Second Vatican Council was the way to the future. Here, we have two opposite views, but are they necessarily opposed? Do we need one or the other? Does that really create unity, or is this a rigidity that will put numerous Catholics into a painful position? What does this say to people who are in the position where I was four years ago, going through the process of joining the Church? I remain convinced that if we accept both the Tridentine Mass and the current Mass, as they are, along with other liturgies in the Catholic Church, as divinely inspired leges orandi, or laws of prayer, and follow all rubrics faithfully, we can come to know the unity in Christ that we need to set the world on fire with God’s love.

In the Catholic Church right now, there is a growing number of Catholics who prefer the traditional Latin Mass, often called the TLM. This is the most commonly used term to refer to the Mass as it was offered universally in the Roman Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Some of the main differences are in reality not different at all from the Novus Ordo Mass, according to the rubrics. For instance, a Novus Ordo can be offered in Latin, facing ad orientem, and with communion offered exclusively kneeling and on the tongue. What is particularly different is the lectionary and the prayers. The lectionary and propers are said on a one-year calendar instead of three years, and each Mass gets an introit, collect, epistle reading, gradual(usually a psalm verse), alleluia, gospel, secret (prayer quietly said during the offertory), communion antiphon, and post communion prayer. During a Low Mass, the priest recites all of this as he does the rest of the Mass. (To be clear, low Masses are read Masses, not inaudible ones). During a High Mass, or sung Mass with the inclusion of other options like the lighting of all the altar candles, the introit, gradual, alleluia, and communion are all chanted by a cantor, schola, or choir in the ancient and beautiful style of Gregorian Chant. The rubric came about from the Council of Trent to resolve the issues of liturgical abuses of what was generally the same rite. In other words, hand copied missals were deviating too much from each other among Roman Rite parishes, so the Tridentine Rite centralized it.

The Mass as it is mainly offered, is most commonly referred to as the Novus Ordo, literally “new order” in Latin, because it is the current way of praying it. It is “new” insofar as it was promulgated in the mid-Twentieth Century and not after the Reformation. Again, the greatest differences happen between the lectionaries and the prayers said. The three-year calendar has for all Masses an entrance antiphon(or introit), a collect, a first reading, a responsorial psalm, a second reading only on Sundays and major feast days, an alleluia antiphon(or gospel acclamation), a gospel, an offertory prayer, a communion antiphon, and a prayer after communion. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, concerning singing, says that if nothing else, the gospel acclamation must be sung. The Mass, as a whole, can be said or sung, as the criteria for a low Mass or high Mass do not apply in this case.

However, Catholics tend to forget that even within the circle of the Latin ritual family, there are more than two forms of the Mass. There are the Gallican rites, outside our predominantly used Roman rites, which include the Mozarabic and Ambrosian rites. Then, within the Roman rites, there are also the Anglican use and the Zaire use. This variation exists among other branches of the Catholic Church. For instance, within the Byzantine ritual family, the Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great are both used frequently. A certain part of the Roman Catholic population tends to suggest that only one form of the Mass should be used, but this is inconsistent with so much of the way the Catholic world operates today. Catholics are not just Latin Massers or Novus Ordo-attending.

So instead of continuing to restrict a single portion of the Catholic population and inspire schism, why do we not start celebrating our liturgical diversity and make it a point of unity to glorify God, regardless of our rite?