Word not wordiness

1I have often attended Mass in different countries, in different languages that I could not understand very well.  I knew more or less what the priest was talking about, but the details were lost on me.  Still, it proved an interesting learning experience.  As a kind of passive sounding board, I was forcefully struck by how verbal, monotonous, and homogeneous the Novus Ordo Mass can be.  2The entire thing, from start to finish, was an almost uninterrupted flow of verbiage.  This new Mass devalues silence and overvalues sound – in particular, talk, the word of men – not the more elusive Word of God.  The ‘Liturgy of the Word’ far exceeds in proportion and dignity the Liturgy of the Eucharist: long homilies, people lining up to read poorly composed prayers of the faithful, no hope of meditation, far too much recitation and moving around, ugly hymns and hardly any silence. 

4To complete the picture, however, I was also blessed to be able to attend many Tridentine Masses around the world, and the experience was exactly the opposite: the prayers – oh, sublime sanity and simplicity! – were ever the same, regardless of the priest’s native language; there was a sense of homecoming, warm welcome, consolation; the ceremonies were not embarrassing parades of ego and sentimentality but ritual reenactments of the sacrifice of Calvary at which I, a lowly sinner, could assist with all the attentiveness of my soul, in the company of Holy Mary, St. John, and the whole company of angels and saints. 

6The Mass of All Times exhibits the paradox of a liturgy with more text but less verbosity than its modern counterpart.  By the books it has more prayers, there is more verbal substance to it, and yet, without a doubt, the overall impression is one of less wordiness, less ‘textiness’ than is felt to be the case with the new Mass.  The explanation of this paradox is easy enough.  As is the case with all traditional liturgies, regardless of rite, there are many prayers that the priest recites silently or semi-silently while other things are happening or being sung.  By contrast, the Novus Ordo, with the rationalism so characteristic of its novelties, stipulates that nearly everything must be spoken out loud, and what is worse, proclaimed to all the world – which can make the whole thing seem like a pious harangue, especially in a church with artificial amplification or a chatty celebrant or both.

1The prayers and ceremonies of the Traditional Mass are, in the best and fullest sense of the word, a natural response to the transcendent mystery of the Incarnation – that is why this Mass is such a perfect vehicle for the supernatural grace that presupposes nature even as it surpasses it.  The liturgy developed organically out of revelation and the graced human response to it, which is why, given due exposure and effort, everyone can understand the Ancient Rite, but no one can fathom it.  The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, is an aesthetic-intellectual construct of the worst sort – its aesthetics are as 2shapelessly ugly as most modern churches, and its ‘accessible content’, precisely on account of its verbosity and cerebrality, is boring and superficial.  Everyone can understand it – and see through it: Is this really all there is to the “mystery of faith” at the heart of the universe?

I truly believe that the Mass of All Times is the only realistic hope for the future of the Western Liturgy – indeed it is a condition for the very survival of Catholicism.  Emboldened by Pope Benedict’s legislation, blessed by rapid growth in adherents, the traditionalist movement is taking its rightful place at the vanguard of true reform and renewal, which consists above all in a jealous love for the Lord’s house, the place where His glory dwells (ps 69:9, John 2:17, ps 26:8), and fidelity to our glorious inheritance, our birthright in Christ Jesus.

12 Responses to “Word not wordiness”


  1. 1 Torkel July 1, 2009 at 22:14

    I’m a young catholic boy from Sweden where I don’t always go to Mass but recently in France I visited a Latin Mass out of curiosity because many persons on internet speak about it. The first thing I noticed is the alter like in your photos very different from the table in my churches. and the beautiful candles. Then what I really can not forget is the silence and the sacredness of the place. This really impressed me. In my churches people freely talk out loud, nobody prays silently, nobody genuflects and many times applaud like in a theatre.
    The people at the Latin Mass appeared to be showing respect and reverence as though they were in the presence of someone very important.
    It seemed to me a very different religion from mine. These people actually believe that God is present in that church.

  2. 2 David July 1, 2009 at 22:19

    What you may not know is that the Tridentine mass has only been celebrated for 500 years while the Novus Ordo, or what was supposed to be Novus Ordo until they threw guitars and stuff into it, was the original mass of the first century. I agree that some of the modern stuff needs to change, but to be able to understand the readings, the homily (most are only 10-15 minutes) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist and actually hear the celebrant is divine. I do miss the reverence, but if you realize that at mass you are approaching heaven, it doesn’t matter where you are physically.

  3. 3 bigjohn July 1, 2009 at 22:33

    Hey Torkel, if you’re catholic you too should believe there’s someone present in the church,c’mon guy, you’re worse than I am!
    I’m attracted to this blog and to yo’all and you’ve made me very curious. I’ve taken the decision to attend a Latin mass and check out for meself what Gabriella’s saying😉 Anyone out there can tell me where i can find a Latin mass in the Phoenix area?

  4. 4 Gabriella July 1, 2009 at 23:30

    David, certainly both the Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary form are valid – I don’t question this. However I do think that where one is physically does help🙂
    The Mass slowly developed throughout the ages in many ways – slowly being enriched with symbolism and beautiful prayers. For example, during the first centuries it had been a common custom for a number of priests to concelebrate; standing around their bishop, they joined in his prayers and consecrated the oblation with him. This is still common in the Eastern rites. In the West it had become rare by the thirteenth century: St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) discusses the question, “Whether several priests can consecrate one and the same host” (Summa Theol., III, Q. lxxxii, a. 2). He answers of course that they can, but quotes as an example only the case of ordination.
    The oldest information we have on the Mass, called the Leonine papers, exists in a seventh-century manuscript. Its composition is ascribed variously to the fifth, sixth, or seventh century (see Liturgical Books). It is a fragment, wanting the Canon, but, as far as it goes, represents the Mass we know (without the later Gallican additions). Many of its collects, secrets, post-communions, and prefaces are still in use. The Gelasian book was written in the sixth, seventh, or eighth century; it is partly Gallicanized and was composed in the Frankish Kingdom. There has been since the early Middle Ages unceasing change in the sense of additions of Masses for new feasts, the Missal now has a number of supplements that still grow (Liturgical Books), but liturgically these additions represent no real change. The new Masses were all built up exactly on the lines of the older ones.
    Now don’t you think that after so many centuries of additions (never changes) and improvements (always in light of Tradition) our beautiful liturgy, the same throughout the ages, has actually reached perfection? And don’t you think that such a treasure as the sacrifice of the Mass has always been guarded throughout the ages by the Holy Spirit? A Mass loved by ALL our saints. Tell me, can we really suddenly decide that something so sacred that has borne the Church many a fruit, for which many a martyr gave his life, is not suitable or appropriate for us modern men? Personally I feel defrauded😦

  5. 5 Grandmère Affectueuse July 2, 2009 at 05:30

    On est pas des fanatiques, on est pas des intégristes. Tout ce qu’on veut, c’est prier d’une manière qui est légitime, qui est permise par le pape. L’évêque n’aura pas le choix de reculer parce que le pape le permet. Une fois par mois, on ne pense pas que ça dérange beaucoup de monde!
    Si il y a des gens qui prient davantage dans une messe en latin tant mieux. Je trouve ça bien mais un prêtre capable de tenir une messe en latin, je pense c’est rare aujourd’hui!

  6. 6 Mannono July 2, 2009 at 15:11

    Hey big john,

    you’re lucky because the fssp has an apostolate in Phoenix. They are currently changing the priest there but the new priest will arrive there on the 6th July. go to http://www.phoenixlatinmass.org/ for more detail. The church is very beautiful. It is the flagship church of the diocese which they share with the Fraternity of Saint Peter. Know that there are three different “versions” of the tridentine mass, the low mass which is the simplest form is celebrated without singing, then there is the sung mass, and more solemn still, the solemn mass with a decon and subdeacon. I hope you will get to experience all three of them.

    As for David, it is a misconception that the tridentine mass was only celebrated from the council of trent. St. Pius V only made this Mass the official one, while abrogating any rite that was younger than 200 years. So the “Tridentine Mass” was the mass of all time that was given the status of the Roman Rite by St. Pius V. The mass, like Gabriella says, changes through time organically. That is how God wants it, and that way the Holy Spirit is its author. Unlike the Novus Ordo, we cannot look at a part of the mass and come up with the name of who made this and that change. It is not so with the Novus Ordo who was shaped by a few bishops, one of whom, might, have been a Free Mason.

  7. 7 Brian July 2, 2009 at 20:52

    Hello Big John –

    Whatever parish you belong to – you can request a “Latin Mass.” You should first have a few parishioners who also would like to attend a Latin Mass. If the priest or pastor says no, you can go speak to your Bishop. Pope Benedcit XVI said that the priest must provide for this Mass. If the priest does not speak Latin, he should find a priest or parish that will provide it for you.

    I believe that Pope Benedict wrote a document concerning this very issue. I am sure Gabriella would know the name of this document.

    God bless – good luck!

    rgds
    Brian

  8. 9 David July 3, 2009 at 00:07

    I’m sorry, Justin Martyr describes the mass, as do various others. The mass was said in the vernacular. They read the scriptures and then celebrated the Eucharist. This is what is done in the Ordinary form. Lots has been done to take out the reverence-guitars, kids in sneakers serving the altar, etc. Some of the hymns that have been written. There is much that takes away from the solemnity of the Ordinary form, but the liturgy is much the same as that of the first three centuries.

  9. 10 churchmouse July 3, 2009 at 12:20

    Thanks, Gabriella, for yet another fabulous post. I agree with everything, particularly the absence of silence and ad-libbed prayers. Nothing is more annoying than the Prayers for the Faithful: ‘and, uh, let’s, um, remember, especially in our prayers …’ (Oh, just read out of the book — it’s so much better written and much less tedious to listen to!)

    However, for those who came to the Church post-Vatican II, there is no knowledge of nor appreciation of the Latin Mass. I’m not placing blame, just stating fact.

    Priests and catechists who say that Novus Ordo is going back to the early Church are excellent marketeers. They **want** converts to think that Novus Ordo is the **correct** Mass. It’s a lot of spin and obfuscation designed to make converts think that people who like the Tridentine Mass are cranks.

    All the best
    Churchmouse

  10. 11 Mannono July 3, 2009 at 14:41

    Justin Martyr provides in his apologies the first account of how mass was celebrated. Not only do I find nothing supporting the novus ordo in what he says, but let us not forget though that he was writing to pagans. His apology was writen to the emperor Antoninus Pius as an explanation as to why christians should not be persecuted. Therefore he is bound to talk differently and stretching things a bit, for example he calls the senate, to whom his apology is also adressed, “sacred”. I don’t think that the roman senate being sacred is a christian doctrine. I have read his apology and nowhere does he mention the fact that the vernacular is used. That is probably because living in the 2nd century in the roman empire, the vernacular was in fact Latin. I especially recommend you to read chapter ten of his apology where he explains how God is to be served… through tradition.

  11. 12 Joe of St. Therese July 9, 2009 at 00:43

    Thanks for following my blog🙂, I figured I’d stop by and comment🙂

    The problem with the NO is that there’s so much ambiguity that you can literally celebrate any way that you want and it’s still valid.

    For example, you can do the introit, gradual, offertory, communion, post communion propers (as is the letter of the Law, and the way it’s supposed to be done) and it’s completely valid.

    Yet the same NO can have guitars drumsets, ab libbing texts everywhere, and heretical hymns and also be valid.

    I have some suggestions for the NO, which I’ll comment later on.


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