Two forms of the Rite of the Mass
by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke
[Note: The Archbishop writes on the MP and on NFP in this column; for space considerations and in the interests of getting the word out on his thoughts about the traditional Mass, I will only post the Summorum Pontificum-relevant parts. Full article here, and I will post on the other later in the coming week]
Introduction: Two different but related subjects
In writing to you this week, I want to address two different but related subjects of concern to us all. The first is the recent publication of new liturgical norms pertaining to the celebration of two forms of the Rite of the Mass, the form used by all until 1970 and the new form introduced by Pope Paul VI. The new norms, given by Pope Benedict XVI on July 7, have been the subject of much discussion in the media. For your better understanding of the new norms, I want to offer you my reflections on the norms and their implementation in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The second form is called the Novus Ordo or New Order of the Mass. It also retains the essential elements found in the Tridentine Rite but introduces a somewhat radical simplification of the rite. It is, however, one and the same Rite of the Mass.
With the norms promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, the Novus Ordo remains the ordinary form in which the Rite of the Mass is to be celebrated. The Order of the Mass in force before the changes introduced by the Novus Ordo is now the extraordinary form, which may be celebrated by any priest, without special permission, under the conditions set forth by the Holy Father. In establishing the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass, our Holy Father reminds us that, in fact, the use of the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII “was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted” (Letter of Pope Benedict XVI Accompanying the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, July 7, 2007, paragraph 6).
As he observes, there was a greater attachment to the former rite than perhaps was anticipated, especially among the faithful “with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier form of the liturgical celebration” (Ibid.). An interest in and attachment to the former Rite of the Mass also developed among the faithful in circumstances in which the reforms of the Novus Ordo were not implemented with fidelity but were falsely seen to permit or even require a creative interpretation on the part of the priest. Such circumstances, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear” (Ibid.). Our Holy Father reflects upon his own experience of the confusion and hurt which sometimes accompanied the implementation of the Novus Ordo.
Not infrequently, I meet young people who are attracted to the former Order of the Mass, even though they had no experience of it when they were growing up. What attracts them is the beauty and reverence, which the earlier form very much fosters. Such beauty and reverence should also be evident in the celebration of the Novus Ordo. Because the ordinary form is greatly simplified, the priest and those who assist him must be attentive to the divine action taking place and not give way to an informality and familiarity which is offensive to the nature of the Sacred Liturgy.
Through “Summorum Pontificum,” Pope Benedict XVI makes the former Order of the Mass more available to the faithful who are attached to it. At the same time, he maintains the Novus Ordo as the ordinary form of the celebration of the Mass. It is the expressed hope of our Holy Father that the use of the extraordinary form will support the faithful celebration of the Mass according to the Novus Ordo.
Implementation of the new norms in the archdiocese
Some of the faithful of the archdiocese have expressed the fears that the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Mass will be taken away and that the use of the extraordinary form of the Mass will be imposed upon them, while they, in fact, are attached to the ordinary form. Both fears are unfounded. The celebration of the extraordinary form in parishes must be requested by a group of the faithful and is to be scheduled in such a way as to permit the other faithful the use of the ordinary form. Priests, when they celebrate the Mass without a congregation, that is, when they are on vacation or away from a parochial assignment, may choose either form. Members of the faithful can, of course, assist at the Mass, no matter in which form it is celebrated.
At present, the Archdiocese of St. Louis has a most effective apostolate on behalf of the faithful who are attached to the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass, that is the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII. St. Francis de Sales Oratory is the center of the apostolate and serves well the faithful who desire the celebration of the Mass and of the other sacraments according to the rites which were in force in 1962. The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem also provide Sunday and holy day Masses at the Chapel of the Passionist Nuns in Ellisville. In addition, the Canons Regular, as befits their form of religious life, celebrate daily and publicly the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel of their Priory in Chesterfield.
If additional requests of the regular celebration of the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass are received, I will work with the parish priests in responding appropriately and generously to the requests. Also, courses of liturgical formation pertaining to the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII will be provided for priests who desire it. The seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will be provided the liturgical formation necessary to celebrate the Mass according to the extraordinary form. Their studies of Latin will also give attention to the texts of the extraordinary form.
Gratitude for the richness of the forms of the Sacred Liturgy
In concluding my brief reflections on “Summorum Pontificum,” I express, in the name of us all, deepest gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for providing so richly and well for the worthy and beautiful celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. With Pope Benedict XVI, I am certain that the richer possibilities for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments will lead us all to a deeper appreciation of the immeasurable love of God for us and to a deeper response of love, on our part.