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Wednesday, 8 November 2006

How would the old Mass help? III

Mixing of Rites
One common comment that I hear, especially from priests, regarding the old rite, is “I don’t agree with the mixing of rites.” I beg to differ. I do agree with the mixing of rites: but only in one direction.

I do not think it is a sensible thing to attempt to enforce upon the SSPX or the FSSP or the ICSP any of the liturgical reforms that have taken place in the wake of Vatican II. The principle is now firmly established that the Classical Roman Rite was not abolished, and it would be difficult to persuade any devotees of the old rite to accept even minor changes introduced during the 60s. There is a live debate in scholarly circles about the wisdom of some of the reforms introduced even before Vatican II, notably in the Breviary and in Holy Week. It makes sense to leave well alone as far as the old Mass is concerned.

However the Novus Ordo does not have any such privileged position. I was interested to read recently that Cardinal Estevez wished to modify the 3rd edition of the Pauline Missale Romanum to allow the use of the old Offertory Prayers. He was thwarted in this but it remains a sensible suggestion. In fact, I know of several priests who use the old prayers when saying the Offertory silently. Some people might wish to say that this is an abuse. I would argue that since these prayers have a venerable antiquity, it would be better simply to allow them officially and to absolve these good and faithful priests of any scruples.

Similarly, Cardinal Ratzinger himself advocated allowing the use of both priestly prayers before Communion, and the recitation of the Canon in silence. Mixing of rites? I would not be worried about this kind of mixing. Would it be such a terrible thing if priests were allowed to genuflect more during the Mass, to make more ceremonial gestures of blessing, to say the Leonine Prayers after Mass, or to recite the Last Gospel? Some of these things could be introduced without officially breaking the rubrics of the Novus Ordo (there is nothing to say that a priest cannot silently recite the Aufer a nobis as he goes up to the altar, and there is nothing to prevent a priest saying some prayers with the people after Mass.) However, official encouragement would again give the initiative to priests who are fully loyal to the Holy See and enable them to provide more devotional food for the faithful.

The Novus Ordo was produced in a hurry less than 40 years ago. It should not be considered immune from “contamination” with elements of the old rite. A “mixed rite” with vernacular readings but many ceremonial elements from the Roman tradition would be welcomed by many faithful priests. That sort of mixing – the introduction of traditional elements into the new rite – would be a great help, especially if it were officially sanctioned, removing any scruples from orthodox clergy who only celebrate the new rite.

However, this will probably only come about if the old rite (without changes) is liberalised and celebrated more freely. Such freedom will immensely help the reverent celebration of the new rite and will reinforce those who have remained resolutely loyal to the Church during difficult times.
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