Recently at the Tridentine Latin Mass, I experienced something so beautiful.
After the consecration and elevation of the Host, I bowed my head in reverence and prayer and then when the server rang the following bell, I lifted my head.
I saw the robe of the priest held up, slightly curved behind the priest. The chalice was raised and as it was, it seemed that it was lifted by our prayers just as much as the priest’s prayer and arm.
It was as though we the congregation were as one beneath the curved robe, inviting our prayers underneath to lift the consecrated chalice in offering to the Lord. It was incredible and I hope I have managed to suggest something of this beauty here.
Later I found a passage in The Heart of the Mass, an anonymous pre-Vatican II book which addresses the Mystery of the Mass with all the reverence it is due. The passage had a significant correspondence with what I felt that morning:
“There is no sin so heinous that it cannot be forgiven, no stain so dark that it cannot be purged away, no debt so enormous that it cannot be remitted through the power of the Precious Blood. Let us, therefore, unite with the priest and offer It to God after the consecration with all of our fervour” (My italics).
Roger and I have now left the ex-patriate New Age “colony” in Southern Spain. We are presently staying in Madrid, where we can again attend the Traditional Mass in Latin.
It is bliss. My soul feels so nourished. My senses are lifted and my spirit enflamed. This Mass is truly what the Holy Father has named it: ‘Extraodinary’.
And is that not what Holy Mass is meant to be? Not ordinary, but extraordinary?
The contrasts between the two different rites are powerfully with me. For I have experienced both within such a short period of time.
I have been at Spanish Masses in the Ordinary Rite, which regularly use so-called Catholic renditions of pop songs, such as ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel or ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ by Bob Dylan. This seems to me to obscure the Holy in the Mass, making it very ordinary.
Only the other day, I was at a Novus Ordo Mass on a Spanish feast day to the Blessed Virgin where a song to Our Lady was sung to the 60´s tune of ‘Those Were the Days’, by Mary Hopkin.
To come from this environment, to the Old Rite, where Our Lady is honoured with the Salve Regina is very striking indeed.
I am reminded of a passage from a book Breaking Faith I read years ago by a “progressive” Catholic, that stresses my point very well.
The author, John Cornwell, is writing about his first experience of the post-Vatican II Mass, after many years, after breaking with the faith, before the council. In other words, he is coming backafter a very long interval: he had not experienced Holy Mass since before the Second Vatican Council, when the Tridentine Rite was the norm. This is what he says…
“When I began to go to church again after breaking faith twenty years earlier, I felt personally and belatedly the full force of a despondency shared by many at the deterioration and adulteration of traditional Catholic worship.
The first service I attended was Mass on Christmas morning… At the moment of the Consecration. the choir broke into a schmaltzy ‘Happy Birthday to You…Happy Birthday, dear Jesus’. I had to go outside to catch my breath. I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to make it.
It wasn’t just a feeling of nostalgia for the sense of mystery, the rhythm and repetitions that hallowed the rest of the day; it was the sheer ugliness, the uncouth jauntiness, the dumbed-down popularism of what had become of Catholic worship.”
Cornwell’s comparison between the two rites speak volumes. To appeal to popularism, the Mass has become ‘ugly’ and ‘uncouth’, to use Cornwell’s words.
Whereas, the pre-Vatican II Mass held a ‘sense of mystery…that hallowed the rest of the day’.
This is very much what I have experienced. Whilst I feel in many ways, I suffer the new rite, I feel deeply nourished by the old rite. A nourishment that lasts into the following day.
I find that the more ordinary Holy Mass becomes, the more it is like the rest of our day. It does not so much impact our day, as simply merge with it.
The more Extrordinary is Holy Mass, the more , again as John Cornwell put it, our day will be ‘hallowed’.
I am not someone who simply hankers for the past. I am a person who is searching for that which is a remedy to the poisons our secularised culture are administering. I am searching for that which ‘saves’ us, saves our souls.
Whilst I believe that the consecration is valid in both Mass forms, the Novus Ordo and the Tridentine, I experience the prayers and the gestures as producing such different results. The modern Mass has become far too ordinary, far too like that from which we need saving.
Surely if our days are hallowed by attending Holy Mass in the Extrordinary form, our lives will not only be enriched. But Holy Mother Church will be honoured and working for our souls which will be further eased along the path to salvation.
Afterword: After this piece was written, Roger and I discovered a video clip which seems to illustrate much of what I am trying to say here. It is from a 1969 Elvis Presley film called Change of Habit. 1969 was the year the Novus Ordo was promulgated and the film clearly refers to the changeover. When I saw this video, it brought back memories of a small rural Mass where the accompanying music was electrified and at the end of Mass, in his priestly robes, the father made his way from the Sanctuary and Altar down the aisle between the congregation, jigging and dancing to the electrified sound. It was a horror – one that was truly sad.
What do you think of this … ?
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