In this examination, I would like to guide you through the New Rite of Mass, and compare it with the Traditional Mass. My reason for doing so is to help you answer the question, "is the New Mass beneficial?" You may say to yourself, "why is there even a question?" I thought this same way myself, not too many months ago. The answer is quite simple: because there are two approved rites to choose from, and so naturally, the choice must be made. It is a choice, however, that cannot be made quickly, or indiscriminately. We are talking about the most holy prayer, the most sacred act of worship, the most divine hour that you can set aside during the week. In that hour, you give to God the only offering He can be pleased with: the Sacred Body and Blood of His own beloved Son. So much hinges upon this period of 60 minutes. In this liturgical action, you make an act of thanksgiving, an atonement for your sins, a plea for grace, and a help for the holy souls in Purgatory. So much is at stake! Is it too much of a stretch, then, to say that in this hour, you must give God the absolute best that you have to give? More than at any other time during the week, this is the moment when you cannot afford to be apathetic, to say, "God will have to make due with what I can piece together." To put it another way, this Sunday may very well be the last time you come into the presence of God to offer sacrifice on this earth: will you give Him the sacrifice of the "best lamb" in all your flock, or simply the "best" of what you were willing to give?"
Granted, in either rite of the Mass, you will offer God His only-begotten Son, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. So perhaps the question is, in what manner will you present it to Him? When your King comes to dinner, you will offer Him the finest wine, but will you insist on giving it to Him in your finest crystal, or will you give it to Him in whatever goblet was convenient at the moment? This is the question that I will seek to answer regarding the two available rites of Mass: which one is the finest crystal, and which is (comparitively speaking, of course) the more ordinary goblet?
I want to state at the very outset that I will not be attacking the validity of the New Mass. A legitimate pope promulgated this rite, and as Vatican I clearly stated, we may not presume to judge the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, I will also make no comment on the motivations, piety, or wisdom of the pope who gave us this New Mass. Instead, I will focus upon the objective quality of the rite itself, and bid you to examine your own motives, piety, and wisdom in assisting this rite.
Further, it is no act of impiety or rebellion to state quite matter-of-factly that the New Mass constitutes a radical change in the Tradition of the Church. You will protest: how can I engage in such an act of "private judgment" of the Holy Pontiff? After all, does it not belong to the pope alone to judge what is Tradition and what is not? The latter question is an entirely separate issue which would require many pages of text, so I will not answer it here. What I will state is that it is not an act of rebellion for me to say that the New Mass is not as bathed in ancient Tradition as the Tridentine Rite, because the Holy Father made this judgment himself (in these, and in all citations to follow, emphasis has been added):
"The major innovation concerns the Eucharistic Prayer." (Missale Romanum, 5)Objectively speaking, Pope Paul VI has wholly answered any question as to which rite is superior. He calls the old rite the "language of angels," "something of priceless worth," and the "loftiest of our Church's values." If it is priceless, and if it is the loftiest, then there is nothing loftier, nothing worth more. Having established the answer, the rest of this writing will seek to provide examples that substantiate Pope Paul VI's admission.
"We ask ourselves, how could such a change be made? What effect will it have on those who attend Holy Mass? Answers will be given to these questions, and to others like them, arising from this innovation." (General Audience of Nov. 19, 1969, 2)
"We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new rite of Mass... a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries." (General Audience of Nov. 26, 1969, 1-2)
"So what is to be done on this special and historical occasion? First of all, we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing." (General Audience of Nov. 26, 1969, 5)
"It is here that the greatest newness is going to be noticed, the newness of language... We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance... We have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment. What can we put in the place of that language of the angels? We are giving up something of priceless worth... What is more precious than these loftiest of our Church's values?" (General Audience of Nov. 26, 1969, 8-9)
If there are many things that are troubling about these passages, do not feel alone. The Holy Father himself, years after the introduction of the New Mass, seeing the parish pews emptying at an incredible rate, watching a decline in vocations, and observing a general loss of faith among Catholics, admitted that "the smoke of Satan" had entered the Holy Sanctuary. Msgr. Klaus Gamber, whom Cardinal Ratzinger called "the one scholar who... truly represents the liturgical thinking of the center of the Church," termed the New Mass "the Destruction of the Roman Rite." Cardinal Ratzinger himself admitted, "I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part on the collapse of the liturgy." (La Mia Vita).
Already, we can sense that something is amiss, when the highest representatives of the Church willingly admit that there is something of a novel, innovative, and destructive element in the Novus Ordo Mass. What would cause these men to make such claims about the rubrics of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The august Sacrifice is meant to bring life and grace, not destruction and collapse. What might be the problem?
To answer that, we must look at the texts of the Novus Ordo themselves, and see wherein lies the difficulty. But before we embark upon that journey, a few things must be stated:
- First, the First Vatican Council defined the dogma of papal infallibility in such a narrow, particular manner as to exclude such things as liturgical texts. We must establish this immediately, lest we fall into the error that the texts of the New Mass are somehow Divinely inspired, free from all defect.
- Second, now that we have established that the liturgical rite may contain error, I wish to state that I will not be making any such assertion. Again, it is not for me to judge the Holy Father, and so I will not be attempting to analyze the texts for doctrinal error.
- Thirdly, although I will not charge the texts with any formal error, I will consider the possibility (as, I hope, will you) that the texts may be ambiguous, that is, insufficiently precise so as to exclude any possibility of misinterpretation on the part of the faithful. Please note the difference in saying that a text may lend itself to an erroneous interpretation of the Faith, and saying that a text may not explain the Faith clearly. The texts of the Tridentine Rite, like any text dealing with Divine Mysteries, may leave the faithful bewildered and pondering, and in need of further reflection and study. But this is not the same thing as saying that those same texts admit of interpretations contrary to the Deposit of Faith.
- Finally, since the advent of Missale Romanum and the Novus Ordo Missae, we have been introduced to another novelty: an entirely vernacular Mass. Since there are multiple translations of the rite into multiple languages, with nuances and variations for each vernacular translation, we will have to limit ourselves to the English translation, which, it must be stated, varies considerably from the actual Latin texts. That is to say that there are many translational discrepancies (some may rightly call them "errors"), so that we are forced to focus entirely on what must be called the "American Rite" of the Mass. Where it is expedient, I will make note of the translational differences.
One final preparatory consideration: is it even lawful for a faithful Catholic today who, for many and various reasons, has decided to forego attendance at the Novus Ordo Mass, to attend the Tridentine Rite? We may turn to a few papal documents in order to establish that it is, in fact, not only lawful, but even admirable, to wish to attend the Tridentine Mass:
"To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church." (Ecclesia Dei, 5)The latter of these documents, Quo Primum, was promulgated at the codification of the Tridentine Missal. It is clear, therefore, that this particular rite of the Roman Liturgy is the birth-right of all Roman Catholic priests and faithful, and no one may forbid this rite from being said or heard. Since the indult of Ecclesia Dei, the Tridentine Rite has become slightly more available, although, certainly not according to the generous application that was requested by Pope John Paul II. Those bishops who only grant the indult sparingly, or not even at all (the question of how something that can never be revoked must now be granted by explicit permission is beyond the scope of this writing), are disobeying not only the current reigning Pontiff, but also Pope St. Pius V, who promised that all dissenters would incur "the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul." In other words, the fate of those disobedient bishops is already planned, and we need not bother ourselves with complaining about them. The celebration of the Tridentine Rite can be found, if it is sought after. Whether it will be sought after with such determination depends on the rest of this presentation.
"In virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal [the Tridentine Missal] is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, religious, of whatever order or by whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that... this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force... no one whoseover is permitted to alter this letter or heedlessly to venture to go contrary to this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone, however, presume to commit such an act, he should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul." (Quo Primum, Pope St. Pius V, 1570)
Returning to the question of why the New Mass has had such objectively adverse effects over the past 40 years (dwindling attendance at Mass, decline in vocations, general loss of faith, etc.), we must look to the texts of the Novus Ordo Mass (NOM) themselves, and compare them to the texts of the Tridentine Rite (TR). I do not intend to investigate them letter-for-letter, but rather, a brief overview should suffice.
We begin with the opening rites:
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (NOM, Greeting Option A)Immediately, we notice a difference in the two rites. The NOM gives the priest three options to choose from, while the TR remains the same, week after week. To this point I will return momentarily.
"The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (NOM, Greeting Option B)
"The Lord be with you." (NOM, Greeting Option C)
"I will go in to the altar of God, to God, the joy of my youth." (TR, Preparation)
"As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christ's love, let us acknowledge our failures and ask the Lord for pardon and strength." (NOM, Penitential Rite Option A)The dissimilarities hardly need to be highlighted. Once again, the NOM offers three options to choose from, while the TR remains unchanged. If we combine the above two sets of text, we notice something difficult to swallow: the NOM is decidedly directed to the congregation, while the TR is directly entirely to God. The NOM offers a sort of "morning greeting" to the people, while the TR follows the venerable ancient practice of reciting a Psalm antiphonally with the server. The TR preparatory rite is powerful in its purpose of focusing the mind and heart on what the worshiper has come to do: "I will go in to the altar of God," "they have led me and brought me to Thy holy hill and Thy dwelling place." This is the language of sacrifice, of the people of God, journeying to the temple to encounter the awful presence of Almighty God. In short, it is majestic language that cannot but help direct the thoughts and dispositions of the worshiper to the Holy Object of worship. The NOM texts, at best, help break the ice between celebrant and congregation (and indeed, this seems to be its implied purpose, given how many priests cannot seem to resist adding their own personal touches to the texts, such as, "Good morning," or "how are we all doing today?").
"Coming together as God's family, with confidence let us ask the Father's forgiveness, for he is full of gentleness and compassion." ((NOM, Penitential Rite Option B)
"My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins." ((NOM, Penitential Rite Option C)
"Give judgment for me, O God, and decide my cause against an unholy people, from unjust and deceitful men deliver me. For thou, O God, art my strength, why hast Thou forsaken me? And why do I go about in sadness, while the enemy afflicts me? Send forth Thy light and Thy truth; for they have led me and brought me to Thy holy hill and Thy dwelling place. And I will go in to the altar of God, to God, the joy of my youth. I shall yet praise Thee upon the harp, O God, my God. Why art thou sad, my soul, and why dost thou trouble me? Trust in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance and my God. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen. I will go in to the altar of God, to God, the joy of my youth. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who hath made heaven and earth." (TR, Judica Me)
The ambiguity of the NOM texts can be seen as soon as we ask the question, "What is it we are entering into here?" Or the question, "Who is celebrating these mysteries?" The NOM is vague, only cluing us in to the fact that we are about to celebrate "sacred mysteries," and that we should "call to mind our sins" before we begin (note: the NOM only gives us this scant bit of information if the priest chooses to use option C). The TR, on the other hand, is clear: we are going up to an altar. What are altars used for? Only one thing: sacrifice. We are going to "Thy dwelling place." This bespeaks our entrance into the presence of God. Again, this sort of information can be wrung from the NOM texts, but it is not readily available on the surface.
And who is doing the celebrating here? It has always been a truth of the Catholic Faith that the priest, who has received the sacrament of Holy Orders, stands before God as our representative, to offer something that only his hands have been consecrated to offer. The faithful celebrate the mysteries and offer the sacrifice only insofar as they unite their prayers and intentions to the priest. This is made clear in the TR, where it is the priest who says "I will go in to the altar of God." The NOM obscures this truth, when it speaks in the collective: "As weus call to mind our sins." Who is celebrating? "We." It is not an explicit error to say "we," as I just mentioned, but it does obscure the objective difference between the priest and the people. It is entirely possible, and, as the objective evidence suggests, even likely that the people will come away with the thought that there is no difference between an ordained priest of God and the layman in the pew. This is, of course, a Protestant concept. prepare to celebrate... let
From here, the two texts continue on into the Confiteor, for no one in their right mind would ever enter into God's presence without first humbling himself and begging for purification:
"I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God." (NOM, Confession Form A)A pattern is beginning to emerge. The NOM seems to be overly preoccupied with multiple options, leaving the shape of the liturgy to the discretion, whim, or good will of each individual priest. The TR is fixed, so that the priest becomes servant to it, and not the other way around. Many people that I have spoken to in the past have complained of "liturgical abuses" in the NOM at their parish. It should be getting clearer why the NOM lends itself to, and perhaps even invites spontaneous changes and abuse: already we've seen three different options for each of the rites, which, if a different combination of texts was chosen each time, would yield a total of 27 variant liturgies! No wonder certain priests do not feel bound to follow the strict parameters of the rubrics!
"Lord, we have sinned against you: Lord, have mercy. Lord, show us your mercy and love, and grant us your salvation." (NOM, Confession Form B)
"You were sent to heal the contrite: Lord have mercy. You came to call sinners: Christ have mercy. You plead for us at the right hand of the Father: Lord have mercy." (NOM, Confession Form C)
"I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary, ever virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you, brethren ["father," when the servers recite], that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed: [he strikes his breast three times, saying] through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary, ever virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, and you, brethren ["father"], to pray to the Lord our God for me." (TR, Confiteor)
In "Form A" of the Confessions above, it should be noted that the English version of the liturgy leaves out the triple-repetition of "through my fault," that is found in the TR text. This repetition (the famous "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa") is indeed present in the Novus Ordo Latin text, but was somehow passed over in the ICEL translation. One can only speculate why it was removed. Perhaps they felt it redunant or repetitious (but then one may rightly ask why Pope Paul VI did not seem to feel this way about the Latin text, which does include the repetition). Perhaps they felt it too demeaning to the people (who could fail to contract a guilt complex after having to bow low, strike the breast three times, and say, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault," as the rubrics call for?). In any case, the ICEL version of the Mass is not entirely consonant with the official Latin text, so it can hardly be said that the American Church is truly celebrating the authentic Novus Ordo.
And how could we help but notice that blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, and the holy Apostles Peter and Paul have disappeared from the NOM text as well? What has happened to these heroes of the faith? Why did they need to be removed from the prayer? I will attempt an answer at this question after our examination.
Lastly, as a matter of rubrics, it should be noted that in the NOM the priest and people recite the confiteor together (if the priest chooses to even use that form, which most do not, preferring a shorter form), while in the TR, the priest recites his confiteor first, and then the altar servers recite theirs on behalf of the congregation. The effect of the TR rubric is subtle, yet persistent: it maintains that strict distinction between the priest, who is unique among the people gathered, by virtue of the indelible mark left on his soul, when he received the sacrament of Holy Orders, and the ordinary people on whose behalf he offers the sacrifice to God. This is part of Catholic doctrine, but the NOM liturgy further obscures this priest/people distinction, as it did in the Rite of Greeting.
After the confession of sins, the priest responds:
"May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life." (NOM, Penitential Rite)This is difficult to understand, but nonetheless, here it is: the NOM, for reasons unknown, has entirely done away with the Absolution portion of the prayer. It was well-known that this indulgence, complete with the sign of the cross, was able to forgive venial sins, and this is why the same confession and absolution are repeated later in the Mass, immediately before the people come up to receive Holy Communion. Why was this prayer removed? Why deprive the people of a prayer that could absolve venial sins? No one really knows. Perhaps it is a further attempt to downplay the unique role of the priest, who has the power to do something the people do not.
"May almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting. [Amen] May the Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution [he blesses the people with the sign of the cross], and full remission of our sins." (TR, Absolution)
Another slight difference in the rubrics exists here: in the NOM, the priest recites all the above prayers (or variations thereof) from the Sanctuary, beside or behind the altar, facing the people. In the TR, the priest is still standing at the foot of the stairs leading up to the altar, facing the altar with his back to the people. There are two things that are acheived by this rubric in the TR that are not acheived in the NOM: 1) the priest shows that his primary focus is on God, and on the altar where Christ will be made present, and 2) that no one may approach the altar, the tabernacle, and the Sanctuary before he has confessed his sins and been forgiven. Only at this point does the priest ascend the stairs to the altar, praying:
"Take away from us our sins, O Lord, that we may enter with pure minds into the holy of holies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. We beseech Thee, O Lord, by the merits of Thy saints, whose relics lie here [he bows low and kisses the altar, which contains the relics of some saint], and of all the saints: deign in Thy mercy to pardon me all my sins. Amen." (TR, Aufer a nobis)These prayers, along with their rubrics, have also been entirely eliminated from the NOM. Perhaps it was merely a practical thing, since many parishes no longer even use stone altars, complete with embedded, consecrated altar stones, which contain saintly relics. These parishes opt instead for a wooded table, thus making the prayer to the saints and their relics unnecessary. Perhaps it was because of the reference to the "holy of holies," which implies the presence of the Eucharistic tabernacle on the altar, as the focal point of the Sanctuary, which is also an "option" in the NOM parish. In any case, the prayers are gone, and this most certainly detracts from the mystery and majesty of the NOM.
"Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his [sic] people on earth..." (NOM, Gloria)It is a slight difference, but an important one. The NOM prayer wishes peace to "his people" without distinction. The TR prayer adds the condition that these people must be "of good will," that is, good intention. Could it be that this ever-subtle distinction makes all the difference in the world between a Catholic who believes that God grants His peace to all men, regardless of their behavior, and the Catholic who understands that men must be in a state of grace, with good will and intention, in order to enjoy true covenantal peace with God? The NOM text does not necessarily lead in either direction, but this was my argument from the beginning: it is, perhaps, too ambiguous on this point, such that it does not prevent the worshiper from walking away with the wrong idea. In either case, the TR prayer is more precise and correct, and oddly enough, the NOM Latin text does not read any differently. Yes, once again, it is in the English translation that the discrepancy appears. We must scratch our heads and wonder at the work of the ICEL, why they did not simply translate the texts word-for-word, but chose to alter and delete certain words and phrases. What was the intended effect? Does this alteration lead to a better understanding of the Faith, or does it muddy the waters?
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will..." (TR, Gloria)
This is not the only disparity between the NOM Latin text and the ICEL permutation thereof. The Gloria continues on, in the Latin, to heap praises upon God, one after the other. It is glorious, when it is realized in its complete and unaltered form. Unfortunately, no American who celebrates the entirely vernacular English Mass will ever get to hear this prayer in all its sublime beauty. Here, then, is the proper English translation of the Latin text, compared to the ICEL version, with the differences highlighted:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty, O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father: who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us: who takes away the sins of the world, receive our prayer: who sits at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou alone art holy, Thou alone art Lord, Thou alone, O Jesus Christ, art most high. Together with the Holy Ghost, in the glory of God the Father. Amen." (Latin text)
"Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for Your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. You are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the most High: Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen." (ICEL translation)
From here, the liturgies are quite similar, except for a few minor differences here and there:
"The Lord be with you. [And also with you.]" (NOM, Dialogue)Once again, the discrepancy between the texts only exists in the ICEL translation. The Latin translation of the NOM should read, "And with thy spirit," not "And also with you." If memory serves, all of the other vernacular translations (French, Italian, German, Spanish, etc.) have "And with thy spirit." Do the American bishops have some reservation about using the word "spirit?" A later examination may cause you to speculate.
"The Lord be with you. [And with thy spirit.]" (TR, Dialogue)
"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty... and in one Lord, Jesus Christ... one in being with the Father..." (NOM, Creed)Yet again, we see a variation in the ICEL translation of the text, while the two Latin versions are identical. One may rightly ponder the question: when it is clear that the Latin says one thing (Credo can only mean "I believe," while only credemus can mean "we believe"), what is the purpose in altering the text so that it says another thing? What might warrant a purposeful mis-translation (I say "purposeful," not to judge motive, but because learning the difference between the verb conjugation endings -o and -mus is something a student does in the first weeks of study - certainly the translators of the liturgical texts were beyond a first-year level of Latin comprehension)? Again, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because the translators wished to erase the distinction between individual belief and corporate belief? Who can know? Why change the word "consubstantial" to "one in being?" It's anyone's guess. What is certain is that the TR contains the more ancient and doctrinally correct terms, while the NOM (that is, the ICEL version of the NOM) uses novel terms that may lend to distortion.
"I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty... and in one Lord, Jesus Christ... consubstantial with the Father..." (TR, Credo)
At this point, we enter into the Sacrifice of the Mass itself, and it is here that we find the most astounding differences. Compare for yourself, and ask yourself which rite contains the more precise Catholic doctrines:
"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life." (NOM, Preparation of the Bread)The scales are hardly balanced. On the one hand, the NOM prayers, basing themselves off a Jewish meal-blessing, refer explicitly to "bread," "wine," and the involvement of "human hands." On the other hand, the TR prayers mention a "spotless host," "numberless sins, offenses, and negligences," a sacrifice for "living and dead," and a means of obtaining "our salvation." Which is the least ambiguous set of prayers here? Which prayers most precisely indicate what is about to happen on the altar, namely, a Holy Sacrifice in atonement for sins?
"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink." (NOM, Preparation of the Wine)
"Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, thy unworthy servant offer unto Thee, my living and true God, to atone for my numberless sins, offenses, and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation unto life everlasting. Amen." (TR, Offering of the Bread)
"We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Thy mercy that it may arise before Thy divine majesty with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and for that of all the world. Amen." (TR, Offering of the Wine)
The ambiguity may be recognized again when one asks the simple question: according to the above prayers, what action is being performed? What are the principle elements involved in the action? What is to be the objective and goal of the action performed? In the NOM, it is unclear what action is being performed: is it merely a preparation for a community meal? That may certainly be extracted from the text, especially given that the prayer is partly a Jewish meal blessing. What are the principle elements? Clearly, they are bread and wine (and to a lesser extent, the work of human hands). What is the objective and goal? That they become "the bread of life" and "our spiritual drink." The emphasis seems to be on the element of food, an eating and drinking that, in some fashion, takes on a spiritual meaning. But what meaning? And in what manner? It remains unclear.
In the TR, it cannot be avoided: the action to be performed is the sacrifice of a "host" (notice, it is not "bread," as it is in the NOM), and not just a "host," but a "spotless host." Even before the consecration, the priest is referring to the bread as though it were the Lord's Sacred Body, for only the Lamb of God could be called "spotless" in this context. The priest is also offering the sacrifice of "the chalice of salvation" (notice, it is not "wine," as it is in the NOM). For what purpose and objective? Without faltering, he says, "to atone," and "for our salvation." Atone for what? Again, with no ambiguity, he says it is to atone for "my numberless sins, offenses, and negligences." And here, the TR outshines the NOM in a truly glorious fashion, for it also reminds us that this sacrifice is "for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation." The NOM does not even hint at the Purgatorial aspects of this sacrifice.
The TR rite goes on with other lengthy prayers which were severly shortened or altogether removed from the NOM, such as the "In Spiritu Humilitatis" ("In humble spirit..."), the "Veni sanctificator" ("Come, Thou Sanctifier..."), and the "Lavabo inter innocentes" ("I will wash my hands among the innocent..."). We do not need to delve into these texts here, but I would encourage you to look them up later on your own, if you are further interested in what prayers are missing from the NOM liturgy.
Both liturgies move toward the "Orate, fratres" ("Pray, brethren..."), but not before the TR makes one last prayer to the Holy Trinity, a prayer which is not in the NOM (cited below). The "Orate, fratres" is shown here:
"Pray brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." (NOM, Invitation to Prayer)Once again, the scales are somewhat lopsided. The NOM prayer seems to have forgotten the beloved saints again, and having left them out, it cannot plead for their most helpful intercession at this Sacrifice. The TR prayer, on the other hand, is richly Catholic, with its mention of the Trinity, the blessed Mary, St. John, St. Peter and St. Paul, the intercession of the same saints, and the treasury of merit. All very peculiarly Catholic teachings, all very conspicuously absent from the NOM liturgy.
"Accept, most holy Trinity, this offering which we are making to Thee in remembrance of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord; and in honor of the blessed Mary, ever virgin, blessed John the Baptist, the holy apostles, Peter and Paul, and of these, and of all the saints; that it may add to their honor and aid our salvation; and may they deign to intercede in heaven for us who honor their memory here on earth. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may become acceptable to God the Father almighty." (TR, Prayer to the Holy Trinity, and Orate, Fratres)
I cannot help but point out again that the ICEL has rendered the prayer "that our sacrifice may be acceptable," where the Latin text of the NOM has "my sacrifice and yours." It is a small difference, but it seems to be establishing a greater pattern of differences, which, taken together, are anything but small. Instead of maintaining the distinction between priest and people ("my sacrifice" first, and after that, "yours"), it lumps the ordained and the laity together in the communal "ours." This pattern is too prominent to dismiss altogether.
We move quickly ahead, then, to the Preface before the "Eucharistic Prayer" (known as the "Canon of the Mass" in the TR rite, since it never changes). Here we must note again the propensity of the Novus Ordo towards endless variations and options. In the TR, there are 15 prefaces, to be used on special feasts (for example, there is a Preface of the Blessed Virgin, to be used on all Marian feast days, as well as a Preface of the Apostles, to be used on all apostolic feasts), whereas in the NOM, at last count there were over 80 different prefaces to choose from. The standard, default Preface for the TR rite is a beautiful Preface that is only found on Trinity Sunday in the NOM rite, and so, with the special note that this beautiful prayer can only be heard once a year in the NOM, we will compare these two prayers:
"Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. We joyfully proclaim our faith in the mystery of your Godhead. You have revealed your glory as the glory also of your Son and of the Holy Spirit: three Persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored in your everlasting glory. And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise..." (NOM, Preface for Trinity Sunday)It is a tragedy this beautiful prayer can only be heard once a year in the NOM cycle, and even worse a tragedy that the prayer has been modified in substance. No longer does the prayer discuss the theology of the "person" and "nature" of the Trinity, nor does it refer to the various heirarchy of angels: "angels," "archangels," "cherubim," and "seraphim" have somehow melded together as "all the choirs of angels." It is a loss of Catholic heritage, too, because Catholics today, for the most part, are not even aware that there are different ranks of angels, much less what are the names of the principle divisions. With this general loss of knowledge has come the specific loss and decline in devotion to the angels. Out of sight, out of mind, or, as Catholic wisdom puts it, lex orandi, lex credendi: what you pray is what you will eventually believe (and, by extension, what you don't pray is what you will eventually forget to believe).
"It is meet indeed and just, right and helpful unto salvation, always and everywhere to give thanks to Thee, holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God, who with Thine only-begotten Son and the Holy Ghost art one God, one Lord; not in the unity of a single person, but in the trinity of a single nature. For that which we believe on Thy revelation concerning Thy glory, the same we believe of Thy Son, that same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or discrimination. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, we shall adore distinction in persons, oneness in being, and equality in majesty. This the angels and archangels, the cherubim, too, and the seraphim do praise: day by day they cease not to cry out, saying with one voice..." (TR, The Sunday Preface)
Before moving to the consecration itself, it must again be pointed out that the TR rite has only one "Canon of the Mass." The same prayer is used every day, every week, every month, every year. This is what "canon" means: a rule that is fixed, firm, and dependable. In the NOM liturgy, there was a time when there were four "Eucharistic Prayers" to choose from. That quickly grew to nine, and has now grown to over fifteen in the United States. There are special, ethnicized prayers for other countries, and any country may appeal to the Vatican for approval of new prayers at any time. Thus, we have the situation in the Church now where the "canon" is anything but fixed and universal. Rather, the "canon" has become something that is nearly inseparable from ethnicity. Of these original four "Eucharistic Prayer" options, in my experience, it is "Eucharist Prayer 2" that is chosen 98% of the time, perhaps because of its brevity. It is hard to even compare the two forms of consecration prayers in the NOM and TR, so different are they from each other. But compare we will, and see which of the two is more rich in Catholic theology:
"Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body + and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ." (NOM, Invocation of the Holy Spirit)These, then, are a few of the many prayers which no longer exist in the NOM liturgy. I reprint them here, only so that you might see their exquisite beauty, their unimpeachable orthodoxy, and their utter catholicity, that you might yearn to hear these prayers repeated at every Mass without exception. What plentious and wonderous graces would be poured out upon the world, if at every Mass the saints and apostles were called upon by name to protect and intercede for us here on earth?
"Therefore, most gracious Father, we humbly beg of Thee and entreat Thee, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, to deem acceptable and bless these + gifts, these + offerings, these + holy and unspotted oblations, which we offer unto Thee in the first instance for Thy holy and Catholic Church, that Thou wouldst deign to give her peace and protection, to unite and guide her the whole world over; together with Thy servant, N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop, and all true believers, who cherish the catholic and apostolic faith."
"Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids, N. N., and of all here present, whose faith is known to Thee, and likewise their devotion, on whose behalf we offer unto Thee, or who themselves offer unto Thee, this sacrifice of praise for themselves and all their own, for the good of their souls, for their hope of salvation and deliverance from all harm, and who pay Thee the homage which they owe Thee, eternal God, living and true."
"In the unity of holy fellowship we observe the memory, first of all, of the glorious and ever-virgin Mary, mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ; next that of Thy blessed apostles and martyrs, [he goes on to name all the apostles], of Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy saints, by whose merits and prayers grant that we may be always fortified by the help of Thy protection..." (TR, Te Igitur, Memento Domine, and Communicantes)
Aside from the mention of the treasury of merit, the intercession of the saints, and "holy and unspotted oblations," which again make absolutely clear that this is a living Sacrifice made in atonement for sin, there is also the three-fold sign of the cross used in the TR, which has been reduced to one in the NOM. That's the only sign of the cross you'll see during the NOM Eucharistic Prayer, while there are many, many more to follow in the TR liturgy, always in groupings of three (for the Trinity), one (for the Godhead), or five (for the five wounds of Christ).
"Before he [sic] was given up to death, a death he freely accepted, he took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you." (NOM, The Lord's Supper)Here we enter into one of the most difficult questions: why so many changes - indeed, why any changes - to this most sacred part of the liturgy? It has long been a Tradition of the Church that proper matter (in this case, bread and wine) and proper form (the words of consecration) are absolutely necessary for a valid sacrament. Much has been instructed by popes and councils about what exactly constitutes the valid form and matter of the Eucharist, and because of this so very essential issue, no one has dared to touch the Canon of the Mass for over a thousand years, let alone the actual formula for consecration. Yet, in the NOM, not only was the Canon changed (and three extra "Eucharistic Prayers" added), but the form of consecration itself was changed.
"When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me." (NOM, The Lord's Supper)
"Graciously accept, then, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this service of our worship and that of all Thy household. Provide that our days be spent in Thy peace, save us from everlasting damnation, and cause us to be numbered in the flock Thou hast chosen... Do Thou, O God, deign to bless + what we offer, and make it approved, + effective, + right, and wholly pleasing in every way, that it may be, for our good, the Body + and Blood + of Thy dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." (TR, Hanc Igitur and Quam Oblationem)
"Who, the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands and having lifted up His eyes to heaven, to Thee God, His almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, blessed it +, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: take ye all and eat of this, FOR THIS IS MY BODY." (TR, Consecration of the Bread)
"In like manner, after He had supped, taking also into His holy and venerable hands this goodly Chalice, again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed + it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take ye all and drink of this. FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT: THE MYSTERY OF FAITH: WHICH SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR MANY UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. As often as you shall do these things, in memory of Me shall you do them." (TR, Consecration of the Wine)
It is in the formula of the consecration of the wine that we see the most striking (and the most disturbing) variance between the NOM Latin text and the ICEL translation (with so many differences already noted, one might conclude that it is no "translation" at all, but more of a "paraphrase"). The formula of the consecration of the wine, according to NOM Latin text, is exactly that which was decreed by the ecumenical council of Florence:
"In the consecration of the body the Church uses this form of the words: 'For this is my body'; but in the consecration of the blood, it uses the following form of the words: 'For this is the chalice of my blood, the new and eternal testament, the mystery of faith, which will be poured forth for you and many for the remission of sins.'" (Council of Florence, Denzinger 715)However, the ICEL has deemed it appropriate, for reasons never enumerated, to render the Latin text as "this is the cup of my blood... It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven." Is this too little a distinction to even bother noticing? Can not "all" be interpreted in the restrictive sense, so that "many" and "all" can really be interpreted as meaning the same thing? Indeed, this is possible, and the words must be interpreted in the restrictive sense in this context, if one is to maintain a proper Catholic theology. However, the words themselves do not force this interpretation on the hearer. In fact, they suggest and lend themselves to the wrong interpretation. Here is what the Catechism of the Council of Trent says regarding the difference between "many" and "all" in the context of the Last Supper (keep in mind that this catechism is 500 years old, was promulgated by St. Pope Pius V, and written in large part by St. Charles Borromeo - in other words, this catechism is the product of the work of two saints):
"For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not to all, but to many of the human race... With reason, therefore, were the words 'for all' not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)Here we have the catechism telling us in clear terms that there was a very specific reason Our Lord did not use the words "for all" in the context of the First Eucharist: because the Eucharist pertains not to the universal offer of salvation, but only to those who receive the fruit of salvation (which is the Eucharist itself). Naturally, we may ask the question: if there was a good reason why Our Lord avoided the words "for all," then why did the ICEL not also follow His Divine lead? We find this same distinction in the writings of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, in his work on the same Holy Eucharist we are discussing:
"The words 'for you and for many' are used to distinguish the virtue of the blood of Christ from its fruits; for the blood of our Savior is of sufficient value to save all men, but its fruits are applicable only to a certain number and not to all, and this is their own fault... This is the explanation of St. Thomas, as quoted by Benedict XIV." (Treatise on the Holy Eucharist)It would appear that we have a recognized Tradition in the Church, which appears in Trent's catechism, St. Alphonsus' writings, and (according to St. Alphonsus), also in St. Thomas and Pope Benedict XIV. How did the ICEL miss this long-standing and time-honored understanding? How did they miss the clear fact that even the NOM itself has the words "pro vobis et pro multis" in the place of the formula? Again, even a casual linguist who enjoys Latin as a hobby can see the meaning of the word "multis," from which we get words like "multiple," and "multitude." It is clearly not the same as the word "omnis," from which we get "omniscient," and "omnipresent." One means "many" and one means "all" - it's that simple.
Much ink has been spilled over this one word, for this mistranslation has become the lynch-pin which many Traditionalists choose to pull on the "invalid" grenade: that is, many claim that the English version of the Mass is invalid (fails to transubstantiate the wine into the Blood of Christ) because this translation constitutes a grave defect in the form of the sacrament (and all Catholic theologians will tell you that a defect in the formula of a sacrament renders the sacrament invalid). Such a discussion is a proverbial "black hole," for in even asking the question of whether the ICEL translation invalidates the consecration, one must get into all sorts of side discussions such as: is the text of the Mass protected by God from error? If so, does this protection extend beyond the Latin original of the text? Is the ICEL protected from error? If not, can we really believe that God would deprive millions of unsuspecting faithful Catholics of His sacramental presence, all because of a prudential mistake on the part of the ICEL? Such discussions are endless, and are way beyond the scope of this writing. I would not have bothered raising the issue, if not for the fact that it underscores my point: there are ambiguities, some of a most scandalous nature, in the text of the NOM.
It seems an odd thing, these days, to see mention of "everlasting damnation" in the Mass, such as we do in the TR's Hanc Igitur. I don't think the phrase "everlasting damnation" appears anywhere in any of the missal books for the NOM. Strange. But what is more disturbing is the removal of the words "MYSTERY OF FAITH" from the consecration. We see that in the NOM those words have been moved to another, more ambiguous place in the Mass, namely, after the consecration:
"Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." (NOM, Memorial Acclamation A)So, that is what happened to the missing "MYSTERY OF FAITH," which once belonged as a part of the consecration formula. While it is hard to understand why the phrase needed to be relocated, it is certain that this change creates much confusion and occasion for error. For example, what is the subtle message that is sent to the faithful in the pew, when you say that the "mystery of faith" is that "we eat this bread" and "drink this cup," until "you come in glory?" Does this not strongly suggest that the Body and Blood now on the altar are really still just bread and wine, and that Jesus hasn't already come in glory upon the altar? This is certainly a confusing order of prayers! The confusion continues, when we consider that none of the above four options is a faithful representation of the NOM Latin text, which reads, "We proclaim your death, Lord, and we confess your resurrection, until you come." One can only shake one's head in bewilderment at the refusal of the ICEL to simply give us a word-for-word translation.
"Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory." (NOM, Memorial Acclamation B)
"Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory." (NOM, Memorial Acclamation C)
"Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. You are the savior of the world." (NOM, Memorial Acclamation D)
Having gone through many more prayers, and many more signs of the cross (eleven, in fact), the TR liturgy reaches the point of the communion of the faithful. Unlike the NOM, in the TR, the priest prays his own silent prayers, including a personal, three-fold, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you..." and then receives communion. It is only after this, and after yet another Confiteor by the servers (on behalf of the people) that he gives an absolution, turns to the faith, and shows them the host:
"This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. [Priest and people together say] Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the world and I shall be healed. [He gives communion to the people, saying] The body of Christ... the blood of Christ." (NOM, Reception of Communion)I had mentioned earlier that there was reason to suspect that the translators of the Latin texts had an aversion to using the word "spirit" in reference to human beings. I think that suspicion is confirmed here, where the NOM Latin text (which matches the TR text exactly) leaves out the word "soul" altogether in this prayer. Surely this cannot be a simple oversight! The word "anima" is clearly there, in the Latin. Why would it be left out? And why reduce the prayer from a threefold repetition to only one repetition? Why remove the priest's separate recitation of the prayer and combine his prayer with the people's? Why in the TR rite does he pray that the Body of Christ preserve our souls unto everlasting life, when in the NOM he only presents the host, saying "The body of Christ?" There seems to be an insistence on downplaying the existence of the immortal soul of a man in these English texts. This suspicion is only intensified when one considers some of the more recent English translations of the Scripture, such as the New American Bible, and the ICEL translation that is used in the NOM readings. Perhaps this will be a subject for further elaboration in another writing, but for now suffice it to say that the word "soul" has been eliminated in many places in these Scriptural translations.
"Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world. [He and the servers say on behalf of the people] Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed [repeat 3 times]. [He gives communion to the people, saying] May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen." (TR, Communion)
Here, in the communion rite, more than ever it is clear just how objectively inferior the prayers of the NOM are to the TR liturgy! Given the choice, who wouldn't opt to pray that their "soul" be healed, and that their reception of the Body of Christ preserve them unto everlasting life? Isn't that precisely why we're there in the first place? What spiritual graces are withheld in the NOM because the prayers do not ask for what we really need? For indeed, as the priest administers the Sacred Body, he prays nothing at all, but rather, merely announces that "this is the Body of Christ." Kyrie, eleison!
"Lord, may I receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and forever." (NOM, Post-Communion Prayer)What a difference! What the NOM calls "gifts" the TR explicitly calls "Thy Body" and "Thy Blood." Where the NOM asks for generic "healing and strength," the TR explicitly asks "healing for eternity," and "that no trace of sin be found in me." Once again we see how precise are the TR prayers, and how ambiguous are the NOM prayers. The latter prayer, the Placeat Tibi, has been removed from the NOM. I could think of no better way to conclude the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass than to address the Trinity one last time, and ask forgiveness for sins. What is made explicit once again is that this is a true Sacrifice being offered as an atonement. This is not so clear in the NOM.
"What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what is given to us in time, be our healing for eternity. May Thy Body, O Lord, which I have eaten, and Thy Blood, which I have drink, cleave unto my very soul, and grant that no trace of sin be found in me, whom these pure and holy mysteries have renewed." (TR, Ablutions)
"May the tribute of my worship be pleasing to Thee, most holy Trinity, and grant that the sacrifice which I, all unworthy, have offered in the presence of Thy majesty, may be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy obtain forgiveness for me and all for whom I have offered it." (TR, Placeat Tibi)
Finally, the dismissal prayer and blessing is given, and the two rites differ very little here. Where they do differ is in how they end. After the final blessing and hymn, the NOM attendant must often try to struggle to pray amidst much noisy clamoring, the hustle and bustle of people socializing with each other. Why shouldn't they? After all, more than likely the tabernacle isn't even present in the Sanctuary, and there are no stern statues staring down at them to suggest a museum-like atmosphere (why is it that more silent respect is shown in museums than in parishes?). However, in the TR liturgy, such post-Mass meditation is built into the very rubrics. After a reading of John 1:1-14 (a meditation on the Incarnation), the priest and people kneel and recite three Hail Marys, one Hail, Holy Queen, one prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and three invokations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What better way to end the Mass? But alas, these closing prayers have been removed from the NOM missal, so anyone wishing to keep this devotion will have to do so on their own.
And so we return to the original question: is the New Mass beneficial? Allow me to call upon the words of St. Paul: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial." (1 Cor. 6:12) Are you allowed to attend to New Mass? Absolutely. Are you obliged to attend the New Mass? Not at all. So, given the freedom to choose, should you attend the New Mass? What is lawful for you in this case may not be the most beneficial thing for you. There are several considerations: how is the ambiguity of the New Mass affecting your faith over a long period of time? If you have children, do you take for granted your own ingrained understanding of the faith, a grounding in the faith which they do not yet possess? And if they do not possess it, what sort of theology are they gathering from the New Mass? You may want to ask them sometime! Ask them what the Mass is, and see if the word "sacrifice" is hit upon, rather than the word "meal." See if they understand that the Mass actually atones for our personal sins against God, and that it benefits the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Again, without even so much as attempting to judge whether Pope Paul VI was right to promulgate the New Mass (such is not ours to judge), without rashly suggesting that the New Mass is an inherently evil thing, we may certainly arrive at the conclusion that it is inadequate. We may remain faithful Catholics and still conclude that it is inferior, when compared to a rite which is much more precise in its presentation of doctrine, and much richer in its over catholicity. What do I mean? I promised earlier to address the question of why the names of specific saints have been removed from so many prayers, of why the doctrine of Purgatory is so scarce, of why the Eucharistic tabernacle is relocated in so many parishes, of why the sacrificial and atoning nature of the Mass is not emphasized more. The answer is very simple, and it comes from the Second Vatican Council itself:
"This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1)Among many other reasons, the Second Vatican Council requested a reform of the liturgy that would "foster... union among all who believe in Christ." In other words, ecumenism and the desire to not offend Protestants was one of the considerations that went into the composition of the NOM. No wonder the saints, choirs of angels, Purgatory, Eucharistic tabernacle, distinction between a sacramentally ordained priest and ordinary laity, and sacrifical aspects of the Mass have been muted. The New Mass is intended, in part, to make Protestants feel at home. We should not be surprised, then, to see those doctrines that are uniquely and explicitly Catholic being obscured by vague expressions, while not being denied or rejected outright. Some may say that there are benefits to this approach, and they would be right. But with the benefits necessarily come the costs, and in this case, the cost is a liturgy that is not as rigorous or effective a Teacher of the faithful. If Protestant concepts have been embedded subtly into the liturgy - no, this is too positive a statement, and what I really mean is the negative: Protestant concepts are not explicitly condemned or ruled out by wholly Catholic concepts - then we should not be surprised to see many of the faithful starting to think, pray, and believe like Protestants. In the most extreme cases (although not at all infrequent), after the faithful begin to think, act, and pray like Protestants, and after they hear their bishops (in their ill attempts at "ecumenism") say that the Spirit is just as active in the Protestant "faith communities," they actually become Protestants, and leave Holy Mother Church. One must reasonably conclude that this watered-down liturgy, with its tendency toward stripped-bare minimalism, vague sanctioning of Protestant errors, and objectively lamentable results (here I refer to the number of Catholics leaving the Church for Protestant "communities," the low turn-out at weekly Mass, and an overall decline in knowledge of the faith), should not only be distasteful to us, but is certainly not pleasing to God either. Did not the previous popes warn us that the liturgy was like a Catechist, a Mother that instructs her children?
"And the liturgy is undoubtedly a sacred thing; for, through it we are brought to God and are joined with Him; we bear witness to our faith, and we are obligated to it by a most serious duty because of the benefits and helps received, of which we are always in need. Hence a kind of intimate relationship between dogma and sacred liturgy, and likewise between Christian worship and the sanctification of the people." (Pope Pius XI, Divini Cultus, Denzinger 2200)
"The worship she [the Church] offers to God, all good and great, is a continuous profession of Catholic faith and a continous exercise of hope and charity... In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly... it is indeed the sign and badge, as it were, of the Christian... Similarly during the discussion of a doubtful or controversial truth, the Church and the Holy Fathers have not failed to look to the age-old and age-honored sacred rites for enlightenment... since the liturgy is also a profession of eternal truths, and subject, as such, to the supreme teaching authority of the Church, it can supply proofs and testimony, quite clearly, of no little value, towards the determination of a particular point of Christian doctrine." (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 47-48)
But there are other considerations above and beyond the mere texts of the NOM liturgy itself. There are the practices which have come along with it, and can scarcely be separated from it. Among them are the practices of introducing newer "hymns," Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, and communion in the hand. These are all subjects that could require seperate consideration and treatment of their own, and so I will very briefly treat of the last: communion in the hand.
We have been speaking of things thus far which are "lawful," but perhaps not "beneficial." In the case of communion in the hand, we treat of a subject which is neither lawful nor beneficial. That is, the practice has never been officially approved by the Vatican. It was in 1969 that the practice first appeared, not as a suggestion on paper in Rome, but as a novel practice in local parishes in Holland. Like the texts of the NOM, this practice too has certain undeniable Protestant roots. When the question of communion in the hand was finally raised at the Vatican, Pope Paul VI responded himself:
"Indeed, in certain communities and in certain places this practice has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See... the care and the ministry of the Body and Blood of Christ was specially committed to sacred ministers or to men specially designated for this purpose... This method of distributing holy communion [on the tongue] must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist."This was the last official word on the matter. How was it that the practice came to be so nearly universal, when it was clearly condemned only 40 years ago? How was it that a practice which "ensures that holy communion is distributed with proper respect," and "removes the danger of profanation," was cast aside so quickly? The answer may shock you: Pope Paul VI made provision for those parishes that had already become accustomed to the practice of communion in the hand (i.e., the parishes in Holland), and this loophole soon became a black hole for all people. It was the quintessential "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile." Here, then, is the provisionary clause, along with it's long-since forgotten conditions:
"Further, the practice which must be considered traditional ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species, in which "in a unique way, Christ, God and man, is present whole and entire, substantially and continually."(Eucharisticum Mysterium) Lastly, it ensures that diligent carefulness about the fragments of consecrated breadMystagogic Catechesis)" which the Church has always recommended: "What you have allowed to drop, think of it as though you had lost one of your own members."(St. Cyril of Jerusalem,
"From the returns it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline should not be changed, and that if it were, the change would be offensive to the sentiments and the spiritual culture of these bishops and of many of the faithful. Therefore, taking into account the remarks and the advice of those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed to rule over" the Churches,(11) in view of the gravity of the matter and the force of the arguments put forward, the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering holy communion to the faithful." (Pope Paul VI, Memoriale Domini)
"Where a contrary usage, that of placing holy communion on the hand, prevails, the Holy See - wishing to help them fulfill their task, often difficult as it is nowadays - lays on those conferences the task of weighing carefully whatever special circumstances may exist there, taking care to avoid any risk of lack of respect or of false opinions with regard to the Blessed Eucharist, and to avoid any other ill effects that may follow."This is the provision. It was made for those parishes "where a contrary usage prevails," and it was made for the bishops of those areas, "to help them fulfill their task." The bishops were to carefully consider each particular case and the circumstances involved, presumably to decide whether or not to extend Pope Paul VI's provision to that particular parish. These are a few of the conditions and regulations, most of which have been ignored in local parishes:
"The new method of administering communion should not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional usage..."Recalling that this provision was only extended to those parishes which had already become used to the practice of communion in the hand, it can hardly be said that all the parishes in the United States are acting licitly in allowing the practice, since it was not an established practice in the United States when Pope Paul VI wrote his instruction. Rather, as was to be expected, local parishes just simply began doing it on their own, misinterpreting Pope Paul VI's provision in their own favor. While it has certainly become common practice, and while it has never been explicitly condemned, it can hardly be said that this de facto practice of United States parishes constitutes a licit act. Just because "il papa" hasn't come down on us yet doesn't mean we got proper permission.
"The fact that the lay person is now able to receive holy communion in the hand should not suggest to him that this is ordinary bread, or just any sacred object... His respectful attitude should be proportionate to what he is doing."
"The communicant ought to consume the host before returning to his place."
"No matter which method is adopted, one will be careful not to allow any fragment of the host to fall..."
We must also consider the dangers of such a practice in our day and age. Pope Paul VI's instruction outlined several dangers, and these dangers were the very reasons he forbade the practice: loss of respect for the sacrament, profanation of the sacrament, carelessness with regard to the fragments of the sacrament, the implication to the faithful that the sacrament is ordinary bread, or just another "sacred object" (like a Rosary, crucifix, etc.). These are all still very real concerns and dangers! The Council of Trent declared:
"For Christ, whole and entire, exists under the species of bread and under any part whatsoever of that species." (Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chap. 3)All of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is contained in even the smallest fragment of the consecrated host. What then becomes of His Sacred Body and Blood, when fragments are left in one's hand, to be dusted off onto the floor? Communion in the hand also gives no assurance that the host will be used for what it was intended (namely, to be eaten), and not pocketed by Satanists and carried away for future profanation (this has actually been reported in many places, that the Body of Christ has been stolen away for use in black ceremonies). And if recent polls are correct, then Pope Paul VI was right to insist that communion in the hand not result in a loss of faith or respect for the Eucharist: it is reported that more than 2/3 of Catholics today do not believe in the Real Presence. Who can blame them? After all, or so goes the logic, if I can touch it with my hands, how can it be the holiest object on earth?
Further, receiving communion on the tongue is a practice that has been recommended to us by Tradition for many centuries:
"Out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 3:82:3)To these statements can be added the explicit letter of Pope Paul VI, cited above, expressly forbidding the laity from receiving the Eucharist in their hands. If nothing else, all faithful Catholics, who wish to promote greater love and reverence for Christ in the Most August Sacrament, should commit themselves to promoting and restoring the traditional practice of communion on the tongue - first by example and practice, and then by instruction.
"Now as to the reception of the sacrament, it was always the custom in the Church of God that laymen should receive the Communion from priests; but that priests when celebrating should communicate themselves; which custom, as coming down from an apostolical tradition, ought with justice and reason to be retained." (Council of Trent, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chap. 8)
"But one must not forget the primary office of priests... as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species... they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then distribute the sacred species... How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary! To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained." (Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, 11)
Much more could be said, but this will suffice. I have no doubt given you much to think about, and this was certainly my intention. As you prepare to offer your acceptable sacrifice to the Almighty this Sunday, and as you consider that it may well be your last Mass on this earth, what will you offer your King? Will you offer Him the best of your flock, or the best you can come up with at the moment? Will it be wine in a gold chalice, or in an ordinary goblet?
One need not bother with questions of obligation or permission in regards to the New Mass. One only need compare the mystery and majesty of the two rites, and decide which is the superior, and which is the inferior. And, having decided, one must make the choice to give God that which is superior, at all times, regardless of the cost.
Pope St. Pius V, pray for us.
Read an update on this essay: Revisiting the Issue of the Novus Ordo Mass© 2003-2007 LumenGentleman Catholic Studies
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