Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., celebrates a solemn high Mass in the extraordinary form at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington April 24, 2010. It was the first time in 50 years that a Mass was held at the shrine according to the 1962 missal. (CNS photo/Matthew Barrick)
Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio
Summorum Pontificum (SP), in which he gave broader scope to the earlier
permissions of Pope John Paul II regarding the celebration of Holy Mass
according to the Missale Romanum of
1962. In the Pope’s accompanying letter to the bishops of the Catholic world,
he expressed the conviction that the availability of the older rite (now to be
called the “extraordinary form”) would be “mutually enriching” for the extraordinary
form and for the “ordinary” form of the Mass. It would appear that the Pontiff
was looking toward an organic process, whereby a “new and improved” form of the
Roman Mass would result. Many priests and liturgists have identified various
elements of the extraordinary form (EF) which would be helpful in shoring up
the “sacrality” of the ordinary form (OF). When the conversation turns to how
the OF could provide a positive influence on the EF, it is not uncommon to hear
serious doubts raised that this could be the case. That response puts me in
mind of the famous rhetorical (and probably sarcastic) question of Tertullian
when pressed to consider the value of philosophy to theology: “What has Athens
to do with Jerusalem?”
promulgation of SP, when I celebrate according to the EF, thoughts about useful
adaptations surface. I suspect that many of these thoughts of mine were
likewise in the minds of the Fathers of Vatican II, whose very first document
was their Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC). That document provided a theological
framework for liturgical renewal, born of the liturgical movement spanning
almost a century in the lead-up to Vatican II. In addition to the theological
basis, the bishops also identified areas where modification and development
were needed; it should be noted that SC obtained near-unanimous approval
(including that of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre). To be sure, much of what
emerged in 1970 (and beyond) was not in the least envisioned by the Council
that said, how might the EF benefit from some of the healthier aspects of the
Adoption of the revised lectionary
people do not realize that prior to Vatican II, not only did we have only a
one-year Sunday cycle of readings, but we did not have any lectionary for
weekdays at all! As a result, either the Sunday readings were repeated or those
from the “commons” of the saints were employed. Hence, SC clearly calls for an
expansion of the lectionary, putting it in the context of providing the People
of God with a greater exposure to the Word of God.
proclamation of most of the New Testament and vast segments of the Old
Testament in the current lectionary is one of the most positive achievements of
the post-conciliar liturgical reformso much so that most mainline Protestant
denominations have adopted our lectionary.
Incorporation of additional Mass formularies
Missal of 1970 (and subsequent editions) contains a rich collection of
euchological texts, culled from the vast liturgical storehouse of the Church.
Many of the orations have pedigrees dating to the fourth century. Pope Benedict
in SP actually suggested the possibility of integrating those prayers into the
1962 Missal, highlighting in particular the array of beautiful prefaces that
comprise the OF Missal (in contrast to the very limited number in the EF
Expand possibilities for solemnity
has clearly defined categories for the celebration of Mass: Low Mass, Missa Cantata, Solemn Mass. The
normative form is the Solemn Mass, wherein a full complement of ministers
functions, along with incense and chant. The Low Mass (which, in the United
States, unfortunately, was the most familiar and common liturgical experience)
had none of those components. The Missa Cantata
is an attempt to have at least some of the solemnity, even without all the
does not have such mutually exclusive categories, thus allowing for as much
solemnity to be incorporated as possible. And so, even at a daily Mass with a
single priest-celebrant, one can chant any and all the prayers and use incense.
Regrettably, that opening is not taken advantage of very ofteneven on Sundays.
However, it would be a good element to add to the liturgical menu of the EF.
Elimination of duplicate recitations
Masses of the EF, the celebrant is required to recite quietly texts which are
chanted by the choir and/or congregation (e.g., Introit, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus). In the celebration of Holy Mass, the
priest moves in and out of various modes: at times, he prays as one of the
faithful; at other times, he prays in
persona Christi Capitis (“in the person of Christ the Head”). When he
operates in the former mode, there is no theological reason for him not to pray
the text in union with the whole assembly. Those who attend the EF will know
the awkwardness of the current rubrical practice, especially when a text calls
for a gesture on the part of the priest (e.g., the Sign of the Cross to end the
Gloria or the genuflection during the
Credo) which is not “in sync” with
what is being sung because the schola/congregation have not gotten there yet.
Restoration of Offertory Procession and
Prayer of the Faithful
these rituals were specifically identified by SC as elements to be restored.
The emphasis here is on “restored”; unlike some other rites introduced into the
post-Vatican II liturgy, these two have a venerable tradition to them. Indeed,
the intercessory prayers of the Good Friday liturgy are a witness to the
antiquity of the Prayer of the Faithful. Justin Martyr is an even more ancient
witness to the offertory procession.
Re-order the dismissal rite
dismissal rite is anti-climactic, inasmuch as the priest dismisses the
congregation and then bestows the blessing, followed by the Last Gospel. The OF
has a more logical conclusion, in that the “Ite,
missa est” is truly the last word. Perhaps the Last Gospel could be
retained as an optional text, given its historical value.
Move the “fractio”
OF, the “breaking of the bread” occurs during the Agnus Dei, which is the quintessential hymn to the “Lamb who was
slain.” The action and the text for this rite in the EF do not correspond to
each other as well.
Make clear that the homily is a true part of
the Sacred Liturgy
maniple and donning the biretta during the homily (along with the opening and
closing Sign of the Cross) declare that the homily does not form part of the
Mass; indeed, that is an “interrupter.” On the contrary, the homily is an
essential part of the Sacred Liturgy. Furthermore, if it is not such, then any
baptized Christian should be able to deliver it!
Maintain the integrity of the Sanctus
polyphonic Masses are sung, it is not unusual for the Benedictus to be separated from the rest of the Sanctus, being sung after the
Consecration. This is an obvious accommodation to the problem of a musical
offering that so overshadows the liturgy itself that it cannot be performed
without creating an undue delay in the celebration. If a musical composition
would have that effect, it certainly comes under the condemnation of Pope Pius
X’s Tra le Sollecitudini. Beyond
that, if it is being used as a “filler” for the silence after the Consecration,
it flies in the face of the whole rationale for an inaudible Canon, evoking a
deeper sense of mystery.
Adopt the rubrics of the OF for the Communion
If the Pater Noster is the prayer of the family
of the Church to her heavenly Father, why should not the entire congregation
pray it together? Of course, Pope Benedict’s norms in SP already allow for
that, however, I have rarely seen the option taken. It would also make sense to
have the other prayers of the Communion Rite recited audibly or chanted aloud
(as in the OF), with the priest’s private preparation prayers done sotto voce (again, as in the OF).
Face the people when addressing the people;
face God when addressing God.
used this formula to justify celebrating Mass ad orientem in the OF, that is, to face liturgical east from the
Liturgy of the Eucharist forward. The converse is also true: when proclaiming
the Scripture readings, face those to whom those texts are addressed. Whatever
the historical origins of facing east for the Epistle and facing north for the
Gospel at Solemn Mass, they are not truly communicative of the significance of
the rite being celebrated.
Unite the calendars of the OF and EF
EF to be unable to commemorate the saints canonized since 1962 is an
impoverishmenta point also raised by Pope Benedict in SP. Certain calendar
changes were good (e.g., making the Solemnity of Christ the King the last
Sunday of the liturgical year), while others were destructive of long-standing
traditions (e.g., Epiphany, Ascension). Regardless of what one thinks of either
calendar (and no calendar will ever be perfect), operating with a dual-calendar
system bespeaks division, the very antithesis of what good liturgy should be.
Modify the rubrics
for the modification of signs and symbols that are duplicative or arcane. One
thinks immediately of the multiple Signs of the Cross during the Canon. Just as
the OF admits of a certain laxity, the EF can lean toward an unhealthy rigidity
or rubricism. In medio stat virtus! (“Virtue
stands in the middle”).
Rename the two principal parts of the Mass
continue to call the first part of the Mass the “Mass of the Catechumens” is a
form of the antiquarianism pilloried by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei. We have not been dismissing catechumens (or
penitents) for centuries (except in silly parishes where baptized Christians
preparing for reception into full communion are “dismissed”). The
post-conciliar nomenclature is quite accurate: Liturgy of the Word/Liturgy of
These are my recommendations
for “mutual enrichment” as gifts of the ordinary form to the extraordinary form.
I hope this helps answer the contemporary liturgical version of Tertullian’s