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????