Old Mass, New Mass… Could we not benefit from cutting out man-centered liturgical innovations from the Novus Ordo and integrating God-centered Catholic traditions as a remedy to this crisis?
By Daniel Sute
12 January 2022
In part 1 of this two part blog post, I explored the need for honoring the Holy Spirit inspired liturgical traditions of Holy Mother Church. In this blog post, I will suggest some practical steps that our Roman Catholic traditions could be better expressed within the rubrics of the Novus Ordo missal.
To many traditionalist Catholics, the Novus Ordo missal represents a scandalous breach with Catholic tradition. To be sure, such an impression is hard to dismiss when one considers that Fr. Annibale Bugnini, the secretary and chief organizer of the new missal, called the Novus Ordo a “great conquest of the Catholic Church.” Additionally, it cannot be doubted that certain elements of the modernized mass will always be difficult for traditionalists to swallow. The omission of the invocations of Mary, St. Michael, St. John the Baptist and Sts. Peter and Paul for the confiteor and the offertory prayers would seem impossible to justify from a traditional Catholic perspective. All the same, it should be acknowledged that the majority of untraditional innovations found in the typical celebration of the Novus Ordo are pastoral decisions.
There was a concerted effort after the Novus Ordo missal was promulgated to bend the Holy Sacrifice according to the sensibilities of modern man. In this campaign, Fr. Lucien Deiss, a contributor in the Consilium, once wrote that all pastors must take on the task of “confronting ‘head on’ every kind of formalism, rubricism, and traditionalism” which still existed in the celebration of the Novus Ordo (Spirit and Song of the New Liturgy, page 2). Guitar masses, clown masses, mime masses, and children’s masses all displayed, to varying degrees, an attitude that emphasized the individual believer’s subjective experience of the liturgy over and above the liturgy’s role as an act of oblation which was objectively pleasing to God. While the Church’s tradition never dismissed the role that the liturgy had in sanctifying the faithful, this function of the liturgy was never prioritized above the role of the liturgy as an act of worship of the Holy Trinity. The post-conciliar era saw a widespread reversal in these liturgical priorities. To most post-conciliar pastors, the liturgy was first and foremost to be enjoyable to the people, and maybe enjoyable to God as well. By the 1970s, the archives of liturgical literature provide us with statements such as “we cannot pretend that worship is for God rather than people,” an idea Fr. James Empereur wrote in the article “Where we are at in the Liturgy.”
The problem is, if a pastor emphasizes the worshipper too much in the act of worship, the act ceases to be worship at all. Worship must have the desire to please God at its center; if pleasing man becomes the priority, the liturgy is mere entertainment. On the contrary, if the laity experience the Mass as a series of actions and rituals which are clearly oriented to God, and not themselves, they’re far more likely to experience an encounter with God. If the style of music, art, and preaching are too obviously meant to tickle their own ears, they will find themselves not oriented towards God at Holy Mass, but oriented only towards themselves.
Most of us can relate to walking out of Mass and asking ourselves if the liturgy was pleasing to ourselves. The lack of times we considered if the liturgy was pleasing to God demonstrates how far we have fallen as a worshipping Church. How can we be surprised when Catholics apostatize in favor of non-denominational Churches that are objectively more entertaining than Catholic Mass?
Cutting out man-centered liturgical innovations from the celebration of the Novus Ordo and integrating God-centered Catholic traditions is the remedy to this crisis. The following are suggestions as to how Catholic tradition can be better honored within the rubrics of the Novus Ordo missal.
Don’t Skip the Entrance Antiphon
One might argue that the most important theme of Sacrosanctum Concillium was that the Scriptures deserved a more fitting place in the Holy Mass. God is pleased when we pray His Word back to Him in the Holy Mass. For this reason, Vatican II mandated that “the treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word.” How can this mandate be reconciled with the common practice by which the entrance antiphon is skipped? It can easily be read, or chanted, before the opening hymn and entrance procession of any Mass.
Pray an Opening Hymn that has a Theme of Sacrifice
For about 800 years, Holy Mass was opened by the priest and altar boys kneeling at the foot of the altar. There, they would recite Psalm 42 (traditional numbering) which had a priestly connotation as they would pray “I will go to the altar of God, the God who gives joy to my youth.” The liturgists of the 1960s deemed that the traditional prayers at the foot of the altar were more of a private devotion that should not be included in the Mass itself. Sadly, however, removing the priestly pre-mass prayers from the liturgy has taken away the pastoral benefit which the laity attained by observing the humility of the priest and servers, who knelt before the sanctuary before daring to step upon it to begin the Holy Mass.
Praying an opening hymn that focuses on themes of sacrifice, or at least has the word “altar” in it, would serve as an important spiritual preparation for the Holy Mass. Very few church-going laity perceive the Mass as a sacrificial offering of the flesh and blood of Christ to God the father; yet this is the central purpose of the Mass.
When the entrance procession reaches the foot of the altar, if the song is still being sung, it would be fitting that the priest, servers, and lectors kneel before the sanctuary for a verse or two before stepping onto the sanctuary and genuflecting before going to their respective liturgical positions. This act of kneeling before the sanctuary may be a bit of a stretch of the Novus Ordo’s rubrics, but such pastoral accommodations of the Mass’s rubrics are extremely common in the ordinary celebration of the Novus Ordo.
Call upon the Blessed Mother Mary, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul in the Introduction of the Penitential Rite
Priests enjoy a relative flexibility after the opening “The Lord be with you and with your spirit” dialogue. This is when the priest greets the faithful, says a bit about the theme of the readings, and prepares the people to call to mind their sins. Generally, priests introduce the penitential rite by stating the formula “Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” However, since the GIRMS permit the priest to adapt the wording of this formula for pastoral reasons, priests could easily pray: Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins to our Blessed Mother Mary, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and ask for their prayers, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
Many Catholics who are poorly catechized accept Protestant presuppositions that it is a waste of time to direct your prayer intentions to anyone but God alone. It would help Catholics gain a more natural sense of the role of intercessory saints and angels in prayer if they heard this traditional list of saints in their praying of the confiteor.
Use the Confiteor for the Penitential Act
The Novus Ordo missal gives priests three options for the penitential rite. One of them is the traditional confiteor, which dates back to the 11th century. If a pastor would like to show due reverence for tradition, he should opt for this penitential act rather than one of the penitential acts which were composed by the Consilium in the 1960s.
The third penitential act merges together the penitential rite and the Kyrie. It goes like this:
You were sent to heal the contrite of heart: Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. You came to call sinners: Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy. You are seated at the right hand of the father to intercede for us: Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
From a Traditional Catholic perspective, it is problematic to merge together the penitential act and the Kyrie prayer because the Kyrie prayer did not originally serve the purpose of solely asking for forgiveness of sins. The Kyrie litany was introduced into the Roman Mass in the 7th century by Gregory the Great. After Gregory had served as a diplomat in Constantinople, he had grown to appreciate the Byzantine “Great Litany” which included numerous prayer intentions, to which the laity would respond Kyrie Eleison.
Asking God to have mercy upon us is not solely asking for forgiveness for sins. The word “mercy” encompasses not just forgiveness but asking for help in one’s misery. Serving the poor is an act of mercy, for example, even while forgiveness is not an element of such service. The Latin word for mercy, misericordiae, combined the root words for “misery” and “heart” and it help the literal meaning of having compassion on the miserable. Thus, when pastors choose penitential act three and thus merge together the Kyrie and the Confiteor, the Kyrie is then not able to serve as an invocation of God’s help on all of our earthly misery but is only applied to the forgiveness of our sins.
Pray the Kyrie in Greek
When Gregory the Great brought the Kyrie from Constantinople into the Roman Rite, he did not translate the prayer into Latin. A variety of benefits exist to praying the Kyrie in Greek. For starters, it emphasizes the Catholicity of the Church which “breathes out of both [its Eastern and Western] lungs” as John Paull II said. (I am referring more so to our Eastern Rite Catholic brothers and sisters than those Eastern Christians who refuse to enter communion with Rome). Additionally, preserving some Greek in the liturgy connects the faithful with Christianity’s “first language”: the New Testament and most ancient Christian Churches originally worshipped in Greek. Finally, it is fitting that in the Mass, which is the renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ upon Mount Calvary, the Mass includes at least some words from the three languages that were nailed to the Cross itself: Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
Pray the Gloria in a Manner Consonant with the Church’s Musical Patrimony
The Gregorian chant settings of the Traditional Latin Mass often don’t translate well into the vernacular. In Latin, each syllable was generally adorned with one, if not more, musical notes, making it hard to translate these settings to vernacular songs. Now, this might be all the more reason to pray the Gloria in Latin. If pastors believe the length of this prayer warrants its being prayed in the vernacular, though, musical settings for the prayer should be chosen that are at least inspired by Traditional Catholic music. In the 20th century, no less than three popes (all named Pius) and an ecumenical council each affirmed the central place that should be given to Gregorian Chant in the Church’s liturgy. While the specific settings may not be usable for vernacular versions of the gloria, the setting used should still feel like it’s in the same genre as traditional Roman chant.
Use Latin for Easily Memorizable Prayers and Dialogues
In most Catholic Churches where adoration is held, pastors and laity alike perceive the need to sing Tantum Ergo Sacramentum and O Salutaris Hostia in Latin. The time of silence and the presence of the Eucharistic Lord is perceived as too Holy to be worshipped properly with the mundane vernacular tongue. How much holier is the Sacrifice of the Mass, where Jesus is not only worshipped, but offered by the hands of angels to God’s altar on high! The problem is, due to the banalization of the liturgy over the past fifty years, many Catholics have a mistaken sense that Adoration is more sacred than the Holy Mass.
This perception can be corrected by introducing simple Latin prayers into the liturgy. The word “sacred” means literally “set apart” for the service of God. This is the simple reason that having a language “set apart” for God’s service alone is advantageous in the worshipping act. We do not drink fruit punch out of the chalice consecrated for God’s service. We do not pour cereal into ciborium. We do, however, swear, gossip, and argue in the vernacular language. Giving the laity the sacred tool of Latin prayers helps them enter into the worshipping act. The Church perceived this advantage, even if it was not always consciously articulated, for over one thousand five hundred years. While the Church of later years has begun to emphasize the importance of conscientious participation in the liturgy, that does not mean that we need to utterly eradicate the Mass of its use of sacred Latin. The laity are not imbeciles: they can learn the meaning of a few simple prayers.
John XXIII published Veterum Sapientia immediately after the preparatory schema for Sacrosanctum Concillium was presented to him in order to draw the Church’s attention to the importance of retaining the Church’s sacred language. In this apostolic constitution, good pope John argued that Latin alone was a language that belonged to the whole universal Church, since it belonged to no one race of people. Bearing this in mind, John XXIII stated that Latin must continue to be given the primary place in the Church’s worship.
The Second Vatican Council agreed with John XXIII, writing that the Latin language must always be preserved, and that “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them”: (Sacrosanctum, 54). Similarly, Paul VI wrote in Sacrificium Laudis that “The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned”. John Paul II wrote in Dominicae Cenae that the Church had “special obligations towards Latin,” since it elicited “a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery.” Finally, Benedict XVI wrote in Sacramentum Caritatis that “the better-known prayers of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin.” Each of these quotations are instances of Magisterial teachings instructing the Church’s pastors to incorporate certain Latin prayers into the Holy Mass. The fact that so few Novus Ordo celebrations include any prayers in Latin is nothing short of implicit disobedience to the Second Vatican Council and each of these conciliar and post-conciliar popes, to say nothing of the popes who reigned before the Council.
Incorporating Latin (and Greek) into the Liturgy would be relatively simple for pastors and laity. Below is a list of prayers which the laity could easily adjust to praying in Latin, and in one case Greek:
The Lord be with you (Dominus Vobiscum) And with your spirit (Et cum spirituto)
Kyrie Eleison (Greek), Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison
The Word of the Lord (Verbum Domini) Thanks be to God (Doe Gratias)
The Gospel according to N Glory to you, Oh Lord (Gloria Tibi Domini)
The Gospel of the Lord (Evangelium Domini) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ (Laus Tibi, Christe)
Pater Noster, qui es in caelis, Sanctificetur nomen tuum; Adveniat regnum tuum; Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie; Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris; Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, Set liberal nos a malo. Qui tuum est regnum, et potestas, et gloria in secula.
Lamb of God
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi – miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi – miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi – dona nobis pacem.
The “Lord I am not worthy” prayer – Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: set tantum dic vero, et sanabitur anima mea.
Go, the Mass has ended (Ita Misaa est) Thanks be to God (Deo gratias)
Pray the Responsorial Psalm the Lectionary Provides
What is today known as the responsorial psalm was known as the “Gradual” in the Traditional Latin Mass. The early Roman liturgy once prayed a full responsorial psalm, but this became truncated to just a few verses as the Church began to chant the gradual, and thus did not have the time to solemnly chant the entire psalm. The Consilium believed that the advantages to having a longer psalm outweighed the advantages to having a musically beautiful singing of a smaller portion of the psalm.
Today, however, many parishes substitute the psalm of the lectionary for a psalm they are more familiar with putting to music. The practice of singing the same few psalms each Sunday liturgy instead of the given psalm of the liturgy defeats the purpose of the responsorial psalm in general, which was supposed to expand the laity’s exposure to scripture rather than provide them with a beautiful musical performance. Cantors can be trained in simple chant melodies that can be applied to any responsorial psalm so that the laity can hear the psalm of a given day.
Don’t Skip the Alleluia Verse
The reasoning for this is the same as the reasoning for the Don’t skip the Entrance Antiphon above.
Pray the Traditional Offertory Prayer during the Prayers of the Faithful
The GIRMs provide instructions for the intentions of the six intercessions of the prayers of the faithful, but many parishes stretch these guidelines to include a few more intentions when seemed pastorally appropriate. Often a priest will provide one or two more prayer intentions after the lector reads the six official prayer intentions. It would not, then be out of place with prevailing custom if the priest offered this prayer intention as the last intention of the prayers or the faithful:
Receive, O holy Trinity, the oblation about to be offered up by us to Thee in memory of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of blessed Mary, ever a virgin, of blessed John the Baptist, of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, of these, and of all the saints, that it may be available to their honor and to our salvation; and may they whose memory we celebrate on earth vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reintroducing this offertory prayer into the intercessory prayers would do much to conciliate traditionalist Catholics, who view the omission of this prayer from the offertory of the Novus Ordo as an inexplicable offense to our Church’s liturgical tradition.
Pray the Roman Canon
Throughout the 20th century Liturgical Movement, even the most daring of liturgists did not tend to suggest changes to the Roman Rite’s venerable Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon. The Second Vatican Council never called for this portion of the Mass to be reformed, nor did the Consilium, until its later years. How, them, did it come to be that three new Eucharistic prayers would be written in 1969, and five more would be written in the 1970s?
In the latter half of the 1960s, many Dutch priests began crafting and disseminating illicit Eucharistic prayers. It was decided that in response to the perceived “need” to introduce more variety to the Church’s Eucharistic prayer, three more anaphoras were to be constructed and published in the Novus Ordo missal. The Roman Canon would be retained as an option, though the many “through Christ our Lord” prayers and the invocation of the lists of saints would be made optional.
Today the Eucharistic Prayer II has become the most frequently heard Roman anaphora due to its brevity. The GIRMs themselves recommend this prayer only for weekday masses, an implicit acknowledgement that this prayer does not possess the dignity worthy of a Sunday or Solemnity celebration. If I as a married man consistently elected for the briefest expressions of love towards my wife, the genuineness of my love for her might well be doubted.
Eucharistic Prayer II is also problematic in that it only contains one vague reference to the Mass as a sacrifice. It says:
Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.
Thus, the only clause of this Eucharistic prayer which explicitly offers the consecrated victim to God the Father is placed between two other ideas about the Mass as a memorial and a service of thanksgiving. If a priest were to accidentally skip the line of the anaphora which implicitly refers to the sacrificial offering, it may be questioned whether or not the intentions of a given Mass would have been fulfilled. Each other Eucharistic prayer, by contrast, contains at least a few references to the Mass as a sacrifice. The Roman Canon does this more than any other Eucharistic prayer.
Apart from its specific merits, the Roman Canon is the only traditional anaphora of the Roman Rite. If not for dissident Dutch priests, it would have likely remained the only anaphora of the Roman Rite. It should be given pride of place to pastors who wish to celebrate the Roman Mass in a manner which pays due service to Catholic liturgical tradition.
Administer Communion in the Traditional Manner
There is no law demanding the laity approach the altar for communion in an assembly line fashion. In traditional Catholic churches, the faithful find a place along the altar rail and kneel down in preparation for the priest to come to them to give them Holy Communion. This posture fosters a sense of receptivity to the God who comes to us, and it also gives the layperson time to kneel for a moment in meditation before receiving Christ’s body and blood.
In the assembly line manner of receiving communion, the faithful are walking the entire time, giving them less of a chance to sit still and spiritually reflect on the Sacrament they are about to receive. They are also the ones approaching God, rather than waiting for God to approach them.
A Church does not need an altar rail to administer communion in the traditional manner. The laity can approach the foot of the sanctuary and line up adjacent to it. Since the Novus Ordo rubrics grant permission for standing communion in the hands, the laity can stand, and receive in the hands, while still lining up for communion in the traditional manner. However, this traditional manner of lining up would still encourage the faithful to consider kneeling as they wait and receive on the tongue.
Also, it goes without saying that the rubric which still mandates that patens should be held beneath the hands or tongue of each communicant need to be better enforced. Very few parishes use patens, even though this is still technically a requirement in the Roman Rite, for good reason.
Pray the Last Gospel
The proclaiming of the prologue to St. John’s Gospel at the end of each Mass was introduced during the Cathari Crisis. Since the Cathari heretics of the 12th and 13th century denied the literal incarnation of the Logos, priests began to proclaim the “word was made Flesh” Gospel in order to affirm that they were not Catharis as well as emphasize this important dogma. While we may not be experiencing a Cathari crisis today, the importance of the Incarnation is nonetheless an important element which was better appreciated by the practice of praying the Last Gospel after each Mass.
Officially, the Last Gospel has been suppressed as an element of the Roman Missal. However, many parishes pray devotional prayers at the end of each Mass. The St. Michael prayer, for example, has survived despite its official suppression in 1965. Simply put, the faithful have retained the practice on the unofficial level due to the widespread perceived need for calling upon St. Michael’s aid in the great spiritual battles being waged around us. (Read more about St. Michael and the other angels here.) Other post-Mass devotional prayers are frequently prayed as well. Some parishes pray the St. Francis prayer for peace after Mass, while others pray prayers for vocations or for the new evangelization. In Detroit right now, our archbishop has asked each parish to pray the “prayer for parish families” either before or after each Mass.
Why shouldn’t the last Gospel be proclaimed as a matter of an unofficial devotion to the Word being made flesh, and dwelling among us? Choosing to pray the prologue of John’s Gospel to conclude the Novus Ordo Mass would do much to accomplish an actual hermeneutic of continuity between the TLS and the Novus Ordo by choosing to honor this eight hundred some year-old tradition.
If a given pastor would deem it to be more expedient, they could proclaim the prologue to John’s Gospel before the Mass begins.
Ad Orientem: Much has been said about celebrating the Mass ad orientem, honoring the liturgical tradition of praying facing the east which dates back to the earliest days of the Church. I do not have much to contribute to that conversation here that has not already been said. While it is important that all priests recognize that Ad Orientem is not merely “saying mass with your back to the people,” priests who chose to continue to celebrate Mass facing the people may be said to have valid reasons for engaging in this common liturgical innovation. The Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo definitely emphasize the layperson’s conscientious participation in the liturgy, and wanting to celebrate the Mass more clearly in the layperson’s line of vision makes sense with that in mind.
Daniel Sute is an elementary teacher and catechist in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He is currently pursuing his Masters Degree in History at Fort Hays State University. Daniel is happily married to his wife as of July, 2020.