Sunday, September 16, 2018

Traditional Latin Mass vs. Novus Ordo, Part 4: The key differences

Previous parts in this series:
Part 1: A brief history
Part 2: First half of the Novus Ordo Mass
Part 3: The rest of the Novus Ordo Mass

The Novus Ordo Mass represents a striking departure from liturgical tradition. It has very little in common with the traditional Latin Mass. Rather, it represents a novel innovation in sacred liturgy. Whereas the traditional Latin Mass has remained mostly the same since at least the sixth century, the Novus Ordo Mass was created completely from scratch in 1969. It has no antiquity.

One goal of the Novus Ordo, stated in the introduction to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, is to imitate the ancient form of the Mass offered by the apostles. There are two problems with this. First of all, the idea that we should eschew the organic development of the liturgy, guided by the Holy Spirit, and simply revert to ancient practices has been condemned many times, including by Pope Pius XII. Second, the Novus Ordo Mass utterly fails to imitate any ancient practice. The practice of the early Church was closer to either the traditional Latin Mass or an Eastern Catholic liturgy than to the Novus Ordo Mass. Thus, an appeal to antiquity is not a valid argument for the Novus Ordo Mass.

In fact, the Novus Ordo Mass is very similar to Protestant liturgies. I can relate personally to this. When I converted to Catholicism from the Episcopal Church, I had no interest in the Novus Ordo, because it was indistinguishable from the Protestant liturgy I was leaving behind. The reformers who created the Novus Ordo Mass deliberately made it similar to Protestant worship. This Protestant influence is in addition to the Modernist influence discussed in part 1 of this series. This is a very bad thing. The infallible and sacred Catholic faith must be an impenetrable fortress, supporting the Church against all forms of evil, especially heresies such as Protestantism and Modernism. To this end, it is absolutely essential for the Catholic liturgy to reflect the Catholic faith, not the Protestant and Modernist heresies.

Most of the differences between the traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo can be attributed to three major issues. All three of them bring the Mass closer to Protestant traditions than to Catholic traditions. First, the Novus Ordo has a considerable horizontal focus, as opposed to the vertical focus of the traditional Latin Mass. That is, the greater focus is on the people rather than on God. One of the goals of the Second Vatican Council was greater “active participation” in the Mass. This has resulted in the liturgy giving much more attention to the congregation. In the traditional Latin Mass, the rubrics barely acknowledge the existence of a congregation. In the Novus Ordo, the congregation is a central part of the liturgy. In fact, if there is no congregation, parts of the Mass such as the greeting “Dominus vobiscum” and the final blessing are omitted. When the traditional Latin Mass is offered without a congregation, even if there is no server, everything is still included, because the Mass is always offered on behalf of the entire Church, living and dead. When the priest says, “Dominus vobiscum,” he is greeting the entire Church, not just those present. In addition, the horizontal focus in the Novus Ordo results in far more extensive roles for the laity, such as lectors, servers, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, all roles that were traditionally reserved to the ordained.

The second major difference between the traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo is a drastic de-emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is fundamentally a sacrifice. It is our continuation of the Passover sacrifice that God commanded of the Jews (Exodus 12:1-11), our participation in the sacrifice of the Cross, and our own sacrifice of our contrite and devout hearts to God. The traditional Latin Mass is unmistakably a sacrifice. The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, barely mentions a sacrifice. The Offertory has been removed and replaced with a Preparation of the Gifts, which uses Jewish table prayers. The newly composed Eucharistic Prayers have little mention of a sacrifice. The Novus Ordo Mass instead resembles the Protestant way of celebrating the Eucharist, not as a sacrifice, but as a communal meal. It is true that the Mass represents the heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb, but it is completely wrong to deemphasize the concept of a sacrifice in favor of the wedding banquet.

Finally, there is far less reverence given to the Blessed Sacrament in the Novus Ordo Mass. The Blessed Sacrament is God. In the traditional Latin Mass, it is treated as God. The priest goes so far as to keep his thumbs and forefingers joined to prevent any particle of the Blessed Sacrament from being desecrated. In the Novus Ordo, almost all of the special acts of reverence shown to the Blessed Sacrament are removed.

On a less fundamental level, it is worth pointing out that the rubrics of the Novus Ordo Mass are much more vague and provide many more options than those of the traditional Latin Mass. The concept of options and freedom in this sense is entirely foreign to the Catholic liturgical tradition. It allows for creativity and innovation in the liturgy, which Vatican II explicitly condemned, and it opens the door for many liturgical abuses that I will describe in part 5 of this series.

Here is a list of the specific differences between the traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass. As you can see, most of them represent a shift from a vertical to a horizontal focus, a de-emphasis on the sacrifice, or a de-emphasis on the Blessed Sacrament.

Traditional Latin Mass Novus Ordo Mass
Always offered in Latin, the sacred language of the Church.
Usually offered in the vernacular, the language of the people.
The priest faces ad orientem, toward the east and toward the tabernacle and crucifix. The priest and people both face the same direction since they are both offering a sacrifice to God. The priest usually faces versus populum, toward the people across the altar, turning his back to the tabernacle and crucifix.
The priest wears the amice as the symbol of the helmet of salvation, the cincture as the symbol of chastity, and the maniple as a symbol of his servitude to God. It is unclear whether or not the amice and cincture are required. The maniple is suppressed.
The Mass is divided between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful. The Mass is divided between the Introductory Rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Concluding Rites.
The priest and ministers say the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar before ascending to the altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice. The priest and ministers ascend immediately to the altar before saying any prayers.
Mass begins with Psalm 42, addressed to God. Mass begins with a greeting to the people.
The Confiteor is never omitted.
The Confiteor is merely one of three options for the Penitential Act, which may be omitted altogether and replaced by the Asperges.
The priest and people say the Confiteor separately to represent their distinct positions before God. The priest and people say the Penitential Act together.
The Confiteor calls upon the entire court of heaven. The invocation of saints is almost entirely removed from the Confiteor.
Two prayers of absolution after the Confiteor. The second prayer is removed.
Only the priest kisses the altar. The priest and deacon both kiss the altar.
The priest says the prayers Aufer a nobis and Oramus te as he ascends and kisses the altar. Both of these prayers are removed.
Introit mandatory and prescribed for each day.
Entrance Chant may be replaced by any other liturgical chant.
Kyrie has nine lines, representing the Trinity and the nine choirs of angels. Kyrie has six lines.
Feasts of saints or other occasions may be commemorated at the collects. Only one collect is sung. There are no commemorations.
The Epistle is sung by the subdeacon or by the priest himself. The Epistle is usually read by a lay person.
The Gradual is sung between the readings. A responsorial psalm is sung between the readings.
During Septuagesima and Lent, the Alleluia verse is replaced with a Tract. During Lent (there is no Septuagesima), the verse is sung without the alleluia.
If there is a sequence, it is sung after the Alleluia verse. If there is a sequence, it is sung before the Alleluia verse.
A sermon may be preached, but it is not part of the liturgy. A sermon (called the “Homily”) is part of the liturgy and is required on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
When prescribed, the Nicene Creed is sung after the Gospel and sermon. When prescribed, either the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed may be sung after the Gospel and sermon.
There is no Prayer of the Faithful. The Prayer of the Faithful, composed by the priest or parish, takes place after the Gospel, sermon, and Credo.
The priest offers the bread and wine to God at the Offertory. There is no Offertory, just a Preparation of the Gifts.
The priest greets the people with “Dominus vobiscum” at the beginning of the Offertory. The priest does not greet the people at the beginning of the Preparation of the Gifts.
The chalice is veiled until the Offertory. The chalice veil is optional.
The priest says Offertory prayers that offer the bread and wine as a propitiatory sacrifice to God. The priest says Jewish table prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts.
There are many prayers at the Offertory, following the structure of a eucharistic prayer. There are only a few prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts.
The priest incenses the host and chalice by making three Signs of the Cross and then three circles with the thurible. The priest incenses the host and chalice with three simple swings or with a single Sign of the Cross with the thurible.
The priest says Psalm 25:6-11, with Gloria Patri, when he washes his hands. The priest says only Psalm 50:4, without Gloria Patri, when he washes his hands.
The secrets are said silently. The Prayer over the Offerings is sung aloud.
The paten is held by the subdeacon at the foot of the altar or otherwise hidden underneath the corporal. The host remains on the paten for the entire liturgy.
The people kneel at the beginning of the Sanctus. The people kneel at the end of the Sanctus.
The priest always says the Canon of the Mass. The priest has many different Eucharistic Prayers to choose from.
The priest makes twenty-five Signs of the Cross over the Host and Chalice during the Canon. The priest makes only one Sign of the Cross over the Host and Chalice during the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Canon of the Mass is said silently. The Eucharistic Prayer is said aloud.
After consecrating the Host, the priest keeps his thumbs and forefingers joined to prevent any particle of the Host from being desecrated. There is no mention of this practice in the rubrics.
The embolism Libera nos after the Our Father is longer and invokes the saints. The embolism is much shorter and makes no mention of saints.
The conclusion to the Our Father, “For the kingdom...” usually used by Protestants, is not used. The conclusion “For the kingdom...” is sung after the embolism.
The kiss of peace is exchanged solemnly amongst the sacred ministers. The entire congregation exchanges the sign of peace.
The priest says three beautiful and ancient prayers silently before Communion. The priest says the first of these aloud and then chooses between the other two.
The priest and people receive Communion separately. The priest receives Communion at the same time as the people.
The server says or the deacon sings the Confiteor before Communion. The Confiteor before Communion is suppressed.
The priest invites the faithful to Communion by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world!” The priest adds, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
The centurion's prayer, Domine non sum dignus, is said three times. The centurion's prayer is said only once.
Only a priest can distribute Communion. Lay people distribute Communion as “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.”
The people receive Communion only under the species of bread. The people may receive Communion under both species.
The people always receive the Sacred Host on the tongue, never in the hands. The people may receive the Sacred Host in the hands, which allows for a much higher risk of sacrilege.
The dismissal is followed by the prayer Placeat tibi and the final blessing. The final blessing is given before the dismissal. The Placeat tibi is suppressed.
John 1:1-14 is read as the Last Gospel at the end of every Mass. The Last Gospel is suppressed.

Although some of these changes may seem trivial or unimportant, almost all of them take away from the beauty of the Mass by accepting Protestant and Modernist influence, making the focus horizontal rather than vertical, making the Mass seem less like a sacrifice, and not treating the Blessed Sacrament as God. As you can see, the Novus Ordo is an inferior form of the Mass that does not emphasize the wholeness of the Catholic faith.

To end this article on a lighter note, there are a few changes in the Novus Ordo Mass that I actually like. The first is in the Confiteor. The traditional Confiteor says, “quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opere,” meaning, “that I have greatly sinned in thought, word, and deed.” The Confiteor in the Novus Ordo says, “cogitatione, verbo, opere, et omissione,” meaning “in thought, word, deed, and omission,” or, as it is currently rendered in English, “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” This is a good change, because omission is a major category of sin.

Next, the rubrics of the Novus Ordo direct the priest to pause for a moment after singing, “Oremus,” before the Collect, so that the people can form their intentions and offer them to God. There is no reason this cannot be done in the traditional Latin Mass, but it is not mentioned in the rubrics, so it is rarely done.

Also, in the Novus Ordo, the Orate fratres (“Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours...”) is sung aloud. This makes much more sense than the traditional practice, which is to mumble the first two words and say the rest silently. The old practice is a medieval anomaly that adds no beauty to the Mass. Since these words are addressed to the people, it makes sense for them to be sung aloud.

Finally, when the priest invites the faithful to Communion in the Novus Ordo, in addition to the words of St. John the Baptist, he says, “Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt” (“Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”) This beautiful verse taken from Apocalypse 19:9 compares the Holy Mass to the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb.

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