Thursday, February 4, 2010

On New Perspectives

Probably the most exciting part of my studies here and now is that my theological-liturgical understanding is in a state of constant flux. Not so much so that I have now ground to stand on, but that I am constantly learning and nuancing and reexamining.

I am now surrounded by people who know the liturgy thoroughly, love it deeply, and are rooted in tradition: and yet prefer the novus ordo.

This intrigues me (because it baffles me), especially because these are people whose scholarship I greatly respect.  I may or may not come to find myself in a similar position by the time I'm done here, but there is no doubt in my mind that I've got much to learn from this perspective during these two short years.

This weekend, for instance.  Denis suggested to me that people go through liturgical phases (admitting later that this theory was autobiographical in genesis):  First, they get fed up with the abuses at their local novus ordo parish, then they flee to their local traditional parish, but eventually they wise up and realize that there's a reason why people were trying to reform the Mass for so many centuries.

It was a challenging thought.  Certainly the EF Mass is far from perfect, but the OF Mass is at least as imperfect, albeit in different ways.

It took a few days of processing things, but I finally realized why Denis's above statement struck me as not quite right: because my life has followed a different path from his.  I did not flee to the EF Mass as a refuge from terrible novus ordos; I came to the EF Mass because I was attracted to its great beauty!  (All things considered, I've been extraordinarily fortunate in how few grave liturgical abuses I've been subjected to.)

So I have some problems to work through.  See, I trust Holy Mother Church when she says that there has been no rupture in the liturgy.  But I perceive (and feel) a rupture.  As I have learned and researched, I've been able to close some gaps, but others have opened further.  There are still a few elements of the novus ordo with which I am profoundly uncomfortable (less so in the experience of its liturgy than in the theological understanding thereof).

I am so blessed to have this opportunity to study the sacred liturgy.  And I will not stop until I understand this mysterious continuity between the rites.  And you lucky people get to come along for the ride.  Welcome.

Jesus, mitis et humilis corde, fac cor meum secundum cor tuum.


  1. Question: when did the church ever proclaim, authoritatively, that there was no rupture? Our Holy Father, as Cardinal Ratzinger, proclaimed that there was rupture. The architects of the NO claimed that it was a break from the past.

    I'm not arguing that there is no continuity (we still have the Kyrie (mostly), Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei (in one of the options), and the Roman Canon (optionally) mostly intact. Much of the mass can still be said ad orientem in Latin, with chant.

    The biggest sources of rupture that I percieve in the OF are the new calendar, the new offetory, and a lot of the options (EP 2, 3, and 4; various options for the penitential rite; optional versus populum orientation; etc.). I'd argue that, objectively, the change to the vernacular was nearly zero rupture at all -- though it could have been handled better (i.e., better translation, and restricting the use of the vernacular to the propers only, and only in low/dialog masses.)

    I'm just wondering where/how you arrived at this conclusion. I'm also open to changing my mind.

  2. Aaron, thank you so much for engaging with these recent posts of mine. One-sided discussions do my mind little good. :)

    Clearly, I've got a lot running through my brain at this point, and once finals are over (next week) I hope to be able to write out some of the six or so such posts sitting in my head. Responses to what you have raised above and elsewhere can be easily worked into these.

    My biggest bones of contention are the calendar, options (especially multiple EPs), and the lectionary. I suppose the offertory is a big deal as well, but it doesn't positively hurt (at least not yet). The lectionary does, though.

    Anyway: more to come!

  3. Just curious: what about the lectionary? Are you talking about the propers?

    The content of the offetory is vastly different between the new and the old; the new isn't offensive, but it's clearly trying to say something very different. I guess I notice more as a server.

  4. The selection of readings (Lent is a particularly painful example of the general trend, for there was a preexisting traditional cycle, which was all but ignored in the revision), and the cycles. I'll email you a link about it.

  5. Dear Claire,
    You and I followed similar paths in that respect. Even though I've definitely been "softening" toward the Novus Ordo over the past year, I don't think I will ever "go back." I don't think I can. Because I was never driven "away from" the Novus Ordo (except perhaps theoretically). My whole journey was TOWARD the Traditional Mass. Yes, in THEORY, I'm convinced that the Novus Ordo is (more or less) a travesty of history that I wish could be consigned to its dustpan. Practically, however, it isn't so bad. But the theory came later. The practice came first. The reason why I was so attracted to the Traditional Liturgy/calendar is its beauty, its power, its prayers.

    My theory might change, but I can't see my heart changing. I know the Novus Ordo through and through, and even if (by some miracle!) I came to believe that the Novus Ordo was a good idea and necessary, I don't believe I could ever love it as much as I love the traditional liturgy.

    But traditionalists do all they can to change that sometimes...

  6. My dear Claire, I can't read your posts without seeing the friend I love so behind them, so I will first say that I'm excited about the questions you're asking and the conclusions you're inevitably going to reach. Your journey will be a service to the Church.

    My love affair with the traditional liturgy began only recently and it is still fairly new. I am only beginning to come out of the honeymoon period in which everything is perfect. I no longer see the idyllic world of everyone focused on Our Lord and worshipping Him, but rather have come to understand that even that which I love first, the congregation's devotion, is flawed. As I was distracted most of Mass yesterday by the children goofing around in front of me, I was again reminded that the holy people that attend our parish our human as well, with everything that entails.

    Despite being so recent in my love, I hope I have a worthwhile perspective to offer in commenting. From the moment I knew that my heart called me to the TLM every week, I also knew that my vocation would eventually call me away. I feel strongly, and this has not changed, that the traditional liturgy is a gift that Our Lord has given me that is temporary. The beauty, the majesty, and the mystery were all to be temporary.

    I imagine that is where I understand Aaron's point most clearly, that I can't quite believe there is no rupture and I am entirely sure the Church disagrees with that perspective. Sure, most of the basics are there, but it is lacking.

    I charge that the OF loses the mystery and its design was done explicitly with that purpose. Granted, I may have read too much Fr. Z lately, but he can't put a spin on the actual words of Pope Paul as he spoke about the Novus Ordo. We were given this change so that we would come to better understand the sacrifice. We were given this change so that we would come to understand the liturgy. We were meant, as a whole, to understand.

    Well, where in our understanding is the mystery? What the Father in sending His Holy Spirit to transform bread and wine into the body,blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ is far less mysterious, far less beautiful, and far less majestic when the priest is engaging in a conversation with me about it behind the table altar with His back to the tabernacle. The parts may be there, but as our priests are given options, we change words like "consubstantial" into easier phrases like "one in being with," and we are shaking hands with perfect strangers with the goal of imparting peace we don't even understand to them, we are losing the spirit of the liturgy.

    I am sad to one day lose the spirit of the liturgy. The OF is beautiful, but it is not the EF. I want to completely offer myself to Our Lord as I am swept up into a liturgy that is designed to retain the mystery of the sweeping. I cannot fully understand with the mortal brain where He's taking me, but I offer myself anyway, knowing that He is concurrently bestowing upon me a much greater sacrifice.

    I pray that your journey will benefit the one I will take towards my vocation and provide me with solace in my loss.


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