Monday, April 20, 2009

Ordinary and Extraordinary reflections

Now a week and a day has passed since my second exposure to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Time, and the experience yesterday of the Ordinary Form again has given me a bit more to reflect on, and the difference is even more striking.

Casting aside the obvious differences between the forms, such as language and posture, the MOST striking difference is one of continuity. Not continuity with the past, but continuity within the rite itself. With the Novus Ordo, there is a great deal of fussing about and going from one "step" to another. It isn't one celebration of the mass so much as a sequential compilation of parts. And no matter how hard I try, I often cannot get past the "when will this end" feeling of experiencing a seemigly endless torrent of disjointed and unrelated prayers. The trasition - in fact and in spirit - from one step to another is gone completely.

With the Old Mass, the experience is one of a continuum that leads slowly and inexorably to the sacrifice itself. Leaving one hearing the bells of the Consecration and trembling at the thought. It is a moving and beautiful experience that one can FEEL without actually being personally outwardly involved at all, but inwardly and on a level that defies description. In a very real sense, I felt that I didn't attend mass, but my SOUL did. It was as if my body carried my soul into the church and my chest opened up like a tabernacle, exposing my soul so it could participate in the sacrifice, only to close back securely at the end and say, in effect "you can go now". Leaving me to step out of that church filled with God's Grace.

It is the difference between a breathtakingly beautiful cathedral and the materials of the same cathedral, stacked up, crated and shrink-wrapped, ready to assemble. Imagine this: Could you take apart St. Peters, neatly stack all of the countless stones, glass pieces, tiles, frescoes, woodwork, and all of the other bits and pieces, look at those neat stacks and honestly - HONESTLY - say it was the same thing????

Monday, April 13, 2009


By the grace of God, Easter Sunday was the second time of my adult life that I was priveledged to experience Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite...

And OH how I loved it! In spite of my longing for and predjudice in favor of the old mass, I was honestly unprepared for the way I was "drawn in" to the mass spiritually. In spite of not completely being able to keep up at times, I still felt like I was drawn in to the mass, almost organically. I suppose that is the way it is supposed to be, after all. The mass we describe as "according to the Missal of 1962" is actually the result of cenuries of evolution, all leading to a rite that could "draws in, organically" the generations who lived and died long before the idea of a "personal missal" which they could use to follow along. I found that my curiosity and desire to learn was the only reason to really follow along with the missal at all! I felt a part of the mass - the mystery - in a way I never have since I was a small child. I could go on, but it was beautiful and timeless and awe-inspiring and more words won't do any more to describe it.

As the saying goes - you had to be there.

As I said, this was my second "adult" TLM. My first TLM, last year at Our Lady of Grace in Greensboro (whre my daughter attends school) was a "special mass" which was attended by a massive crowd and while amazing (as I reported) it was not nearly as close or as intimate as what I experienced yesterday. Yesterday's mass was one of the regular bi-weekly masses which are offered at St. Benedict the Moor Church in Winston-Salem, NC. The building itself was small, intimate, and pretty. I cannot imagine a more perfect venue to experience the Mass of Ages "up close and personal". In fact, thanks to the enthusiasm of my daughter (who practically ran up the aisle), I was seated in the very first pew! This led to some embarassment at the very beginning of the mass, though, as my desire to show her the Missal and where we were in the mass (she loves to read along) led to a momentary distraction, leaving me (and her) standing when we should have been sitting - IN THE FRONT PEW.

But nonetheless I can honestly say: Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen The Mass, and it works.