RITES AND WRONGS - THE WAY AHEAD
I have had the privilege of attending Holy Mass over many years in both Forms, and to have served both Forms. The Celebrants have varied from a Pope to several Cardinals, numerous Bishops, very many Priests, Religious and Diocesan, old and young , saintly and otherwise, sighted and blind, in grand Cathedrals , at a Racecourse , a Sports Oval, in many churches, chapels, a crypt, and in a number of School Halls, in Rome, around Europe and England and the United States,and here in Australia in City, Town and country churches. So over 72 years I have a bit of experience .
I have been distressed by some of the celebrations in BOTH Forms. But more often in the Ordinary Form and very rarely in the Extraordinary
Form. Partly this disparity is because of the "Looney Tunes"period we had to endure just after the Council , when the Novus Ordo ( Ordinary Form) was introduced. Largely these problems were perpetrated by Clerics who have since left the Priesthood with their own Adam or Eve or some of the Parish funds. They were weird times! But it must be said that in part it was due to elements that are integral to the Ordinary Form:
|Ordinary Form - H.E.Cardinal Pell Celebrant|
. the Ordinary Form makes the Priest the one who is selecting its many options, so many options, that the average member of the congregation can't tell whether the "option"is legitimate or a Priest invention.
.the Ordinary Form has been attended by the invention of Liturgy Committees. These little groups , usually with no proper training, and super abundant enthusiasm for "niceness"have in many/most places been responsible for inventions which vary from offensive to vulgar. The problem is that Priests abdicate their role as the steward of the Liturgy in the Parish and do nothing to have the Liturgy Committee members properly instructed in Liturgical requirements. So that the Committee comes to perceive its role as invention rather than service of the law and norms.
. the Ordinary Form has also been attended by the explosion of banality and diversity in Church Music, from the guitar, to the Piano, from Merry -go-round to Israeli dancing inspiration, to good ole down home American schmaltz and whining country and western,down to Protestant Hymns that are not infrequently inappropriate to Holy Mass or even heretical.
So it is not hard to see why the preponderance of abuses and bad experiences came from that direction.
In the case of the Extraordinary Form, both before and after the Council, the problems where there were any always centred on one thing : SPEED.
EXCESSIVE SPEED. And that in two areas :
. Speed in the recitation of the Prayers and in the Readings . This was made possible by the lack of options and the single reading cycle making for total familiarity. In the case of the Last Gospel the few abusers were at their worst. Not only did they reach the sort of speed that express suburban trains do on straight sections of track, but they read or recited without giving any sense of meaning to the Latin.Everything was a monotone which appeared to have no possibility of emphasis, pause or inflection. ( the same phenomenon can sadly still be noted in the vernacular!)
Physical speed in the making of the many ritual gestures : worst of all in the making of the multiple Signs of the Cross; in the case of one visiting Celebrant since the Council, observed from the rear , his elbow at those Signs of the Cross appeared to go backwards and forwards at the speed of the pistons of a steam locomotive at speed! And the same offenders would reduce genuflections to a bob up and down, and the Orate Fratres turn to a virtual pirouette.
Fortunately, these abuses in the Extraordinary Form were rare, Why? The entire structure of the Extraordinary Form set up an atmosphere of sober consideration of what was being done. From the vesting prayers, to the prayers in the Sacristy, to the usually brief but steady procession to the Foot of the Altar. STOP. Think what you are about to do. "Introibo ad Altare Dei"and so on .Precise rules for every detail asserted the sacred, exceptional character of each action . No need at all to "entertain/engage"the congregation. No. The Priest was /is leading them in making this sacred Sacrifice to God Most High. Silences.. no need for endless talk.Periodically the Priest would remind the congregation of the need for their active participation in mind and heart and spirit : "Dominus vobiscum"- "The Lord be with you" And so on to Holy Communion, kneeling at the Altar Rails , reception on the tongue - the SACRED MOMENT of receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacred Species touched only by the Anointed hands of the Priest. SACRED,EXCEPTIONAL EVENTS.At every turn , one was reminded of the sacred character of what was being done.
The Extraordinary Form was in essence sacred ritual. The Ordinary Form has tended to be produced very often as a would-be sacred stage show. Not nearly always. It can be and very often is a truly sacred celebration . But the structure and options and appurtenant social structures tend toward more regular, systematic reduction of the sense of the sacred.
To-day we have the benefit of Summorum Pontificum, approaching its 5th Anniversary on the 7th July, it literally freed the Extraordinary Form from its shackles. It is now only inhibited by the Paranoia of certain Bishops abusing their administrative power by threatening Priests who celebrate the Extraordinary Form, with administrative disadvantages "Perhaps Father would like a stint at Wyong/Woop Woop or wherever?"and by the lack of trained Priests. Yet the number of young Priests who are seeking training / training themselves is mushrooming - even in the most surprising places.
It seems clear that the Holy Father's hope that there would ultimately be a cross fertilisation of the two Forms will be realised. The Ordinary Form gaining in the sense of the sacred absorbed from the Extraordinary Form, and the Extraordinary Form, from the top down, gaining perhaps, the type of reform Sacrosanctum Concilium envisaged. We should all pray for such a result for the good of the whole Church