Does the older Mass from before Vatican II offer more perfect worship that the reformed Mass*?
The Liturgy of the Mass is always the perfect worship of God. The Holy Mass is always the action of the one and eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, who offers himself as the spotless lamb of sacrifice. No matter what language, Rite or Missal, the Mass is always the perfect offering because in it we, by Baptism, are gathered as one with Christ our head in offering ourselves along with the bread and wine, and we are offered through him and with him and in him to the Glory of God.
Our participation in the Holy Mass is as members of the Body of Christ, not as mere spectators. The Mass is about our giving praise and glory to God. It is not primarily about our reception of Holy Communion. We remember that in the Mass with human voice and human gesture we are gathered by Christ our head into his Paschal Mystery of his suffering, death, and resurrection. The Holy Mass is forever the work of God in bringing redemption to the world and making it possible for humanity to giving fitting praise and glory to God.
* Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Mass was celebrated according to the Roman Missal of 1962, which is sometimes called the “Mass of Pius V”, “the Traditional Latin Mass” or the “extraordinary form”. The rituals for the Holy Mass were modified after the Council and are found in the current Roman Missal, sometimes called the “Mass of Paul VI or John Paul II” or the “ordinary form”.
Is the Mass celebrated in English (or another language) really different from the Traditional Latin Mass?
We find ourselves living in “interesting times”. Most recently, attention has been drawn to what Pope Benedict called the “extraordinary form” of the Mass of the Latin Rite using the Missal of 1962. To some, the Traditional Latin Mass seems to be the most sublime worship possible and to others it seems to be a source of hazardous division. Ultimately, the Holy Mass is a reality that transcends rituals.
Amidst the questions (and arguing) over the rituals of the Holy Mass and the proper reception of Holy Communion, it might be a good time for us all to remember the reality of our Faith: in the Holy Mass, we, the baptized, are gathered together as the Body of Christ with Christ our head. Regardless of the language or Missal used in the celebration of the Mass, when we go to Mass we participate in the glorification of God and the sanctification of humanity.
In light of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodies, will we see an end of the Mass in Latin?
The Pope is not limiting the use of Latin in the Mass, he is calling for our Latin Rite of the Church to move to unity of ritual for the celebration of the Mass, as an expression of our common faith. He has asked we move toward unity in embracing the rituals that come out of the reform of the Liturgy commissioned by the bishops of the world in the Second Vatican Council. For almost 60 years, the Church has permitted the use of Latin or the vernacular (the language of the people: English, Spanish, etc.). Since few in our culture have any understanding of Latin, the use of the vernacular has been almost the exclusive choice in practice.
It should be noted that the Church encouraged the use of Latin in the Mass in both Vatican II’s “Constitution on the Liturgy” (Sacrosanctum concilium, 36 and 54) and Bishop Strickland’s “Constitution on Teaching” (Section 5, Article 40).
What is the unbroken Tradition of Mass celebration?
For almost 2,000 years the Church has gathered together for the prayers, the breaking of the bread, to listen to the instruction of the Apostles and live our life in common (Acts 2:42). The Holy Mass is never a reenactment of that holy night before Christ died. It is ever a sharing in that one and eternal sacrifice of Calvary. The Mass is the Paschal Mystery of the new and everlasting covenant. The Church recognizes that by its very nature the Holy Mass demands full conscious active participation in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.
In Sacramentum caritatis, Pope Benedict observed, “The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5, 9).” No matter the ritual, or the language, we join ourselves to Christ as both priest and victim.
Since the first Pentecost, Christians have striven to be united in proclaiming Jesus Christ as both Lord and Messiah. The gathering of the Church to partake in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has continued uninterrupted, and will continue until the Lord comes in Glory. The Church has endured much persecution and many changes down through the centuries. Always striving to follow Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. We join with that long line of believers in our ongoing response to the Lord’s command to his apostles the night before he died: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
In times of question and uncertainty, what can we do as individuals?
There will likely be much discussion and consternation of what rituals should be encouraged, as there has been much discussion about the proper reception of Holy Communion. Let us recall the great prayer of Jesus: “Father, may they be one as you and I are one, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21). May we strive to ever be united in approaching the Altar of Christ and offering our joys and sorrows through him to the Glory of God. Let us pray for our domestic and local Churches, that we may have wisdom, courage, and charity to be united as the early Christians. Let us pray for our bishop, and all the bishops, that they may be blessed with charity, wisdom, and prudence as they shepherd the family of God.
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