29 November 2009

Happy 40th, Novus Ordo Missae

...and many more! Wait... hmmm...

40 years ago today, the Novus Ordo Missae officially came into being in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (3 April 1969) specified the First Sunday of Advent of that year as the date on which these things would go into effect.

Especially interesting is what the pope said in a general audience in the days just before the First Sunday of Advent, in an address now entitled Changes in Mass for Greater Apostolate. It's interesting to reflect upon his words with the benefit of 40 years of hindsight. He begins:

Our Dear Sons and Daughters,

We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new rite of the Mass. This new rite will be introduced into our celebration of the holy Sacrifice starting from Sunday next which is the first of Advent, November 30.

A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries. This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled. It seemed to bring the prayer of our forefathers and our saints to our lips and to give us the comfort of feeling faithful to our spiritual past, which we kept alive to pass it on to the generations ahead... [read the rest]


12 comments:

ckgaler said...

Hmmmmm. . .

Since I was received into the Church in '75 (age 19 at the time), the Novus Ordo is all I've ever known. And, at the time, at any rate, a Mass said in a language I couldn't understand would have been a rather significant barrier to overcome.

And just between you and me (don't tell the others) - as much as I've loved the handful of Latin masses I've been to in the ensuing 34 years, referring to Latin as 'divine' seems a trifle overblown. A firm basis in long-standing tradition, certainly, but does that make it 'divine' (the tongue of angels?) Our Orthodox 'separated brethren' might take some exception to that notion, to say nothing of most Christians of the first 2-3 centuries. . .

Or do I misunderstand something?

John said...

Of course there are counter-examples, and in your case I am particularly glad of it, but on the whole I think the tendency of the NO has been the opposite, i.e. to brake down barriers that kept people in the Church, and in the pews, and in the confessionals.

And referring to Latin as divine is certainly overblown, although I suppose it was just a bit of rhetoric in deliberately overstating the case against himself. But then, I wasn't citing the good pope's words here as something with which I agree. Besides, if any languages are divine, they would be Hebrew and/or Greek, considering the languages of the inspired word of God.

Pope Pius XI's description, repeated and expounded by Pope John XXIII, is much more measured and reasonable: "For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time... of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular." (Veterum sapientia, 1962)

ckgaler said...

Hmmmmm, again. . .

Do we really need (or want, for that matter) barriers to keep people in the Church? If the life of the Church herself (or, more to the point, the life of the Holy Spirit active in the faithful) isn't sufficient to that purpose, aren't we missing something pretty fundamental?

If people aren't in the Church (pews, confessional, etc) because they want to be, then we're on borrowed time. . .

John said...

I hope that I wasn't misunderstood to mean that the TLM could or should have erected some kind of physical barrier, which really kept people in the Church against their wills.

I was referring to the internal fortification of the will itself by grace (i.e. the life of the Holy Spirit active in the faithful).

In other words, my claim could be boiled down to this, that the NO in itself, i.e. all other things being equal, communicates grace and truth less effectively than the TLM.

I know that that is a bit of a bold claim, and perhaps one that would need more than a combox to explain much less substantiate, but what the hell, there you have it :)

big daddy said...

Well, of course it's good to want to be where God is worshipped in spirit and in truth. My experience, obviously different from yours since I grew up in the Church, is that the past forty years have been an experiment in how to get people to "want" to be here, and a lot less on making the Church be the place where people know they should be. It's debatable, I suppose, the extent to which liturgical Latin evokes that sense of duty. Does Father bend every effort to make Mass something I will want, or does he bend every effort to make Mass worthy of God's glory, and trust that people will respond?

ckgaler said...

No, no, I wasn't thinking of a physical barrier. . .

In fact, I pretty well understood you to be saying exactly what you 'boiled it down' to. And that's more or less what I'm taking issue with (admittedly out of my own limited experience of the difference)

I agree w/ Big Daddy (I usually do) as re the effects of 'liturgical innovationism', and it is certainly true that God is the focus of the Mass (whichever rite is used), and any other focus radically misses the point. The 'debatable' point he admits is more-or-less the one I'm arguing.

Not that I need to be 'sold' or 'entertained', or whatever, on the goodness of being at Mass. But at some point, my presence at Mass boils down to an act of my own will (hopefully as inspired and animated by the Holy Spirit; or is the statement herein being qualified just plain Pelagian in-and-of-itself?). And I'm not sure that TLM/NO or Latin/vernacular are the critical parameters. But heck, they could be bigger deals than I think they are. . .

big daddy said...

It's just that the NO is so much of a lesser deal ...

Will said...

John, thanks for sharing this.

Interesting comments, but I suppose I took something different from the Pope's words.

Paul VI is certainly not remembered or known as a lover of either tradition or Latin. Given his words here, it's surprising to me how strong of an endorsement he provides for Latin. Additionally, if anything, his words show how poorly the Novus Ordo was implemented, how dramatically it has been abused, and how poorly the bishops have led here in the United States. What percentage of American Catholic parishes live up to the Pope's comment regarding singing, in Latin, the ordinaries and the Creed and Our Father? One percent? Less?

Perhaps the larger question is whether the widespread failure of implementing the Novus Ordo is simply a failure of implementation, or if it is something endemic to the Norvus Ordo. In other words, if a plan is so poorly implemented, at one point to we stop blaming the implementation and throw out the plan?

Lest I be reported to the Committee for Un-Catholic Activities, a caveat: I have gone to the Novus Ordo nearly every Sunday of my life. My comments are academic and should not be construed in any way as expressing doubt as to the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass or the Second Vatican Council.

John said...

ckg,

If we agree that liturgical innovation(ism) has adverse effects, then it's only one step further to see the NO itself as one mammoth liturgical innovation (Pope Paul VI refers to it as such repeatedly) with an inbuilt tendency to encourage further innovation.

Re: God as the focus of the Mass, this should be true whichever rite is used, and speaking strictly on a theological level of the essence of the Mass as the representation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, etc., it is true whichever rite is used. But in the TLM that internal truth was given vivid exterior expression, while the exterior dimensions of the NO give the opposite impression.

In this regard it is natural to think first of the use of the vernacular and celebration versus populum, but it's important to remember that the normative form of the NO is also in Latin and versus Deum.

Thus a real criticism of the NO as such must go deeper, to the texts and rubrics of the Mass.

big daddy said...

Well, the "normative" form of the Novus Ordo is very different from anyone's experience of it. In that regard, I think it possible still to place a lot (all) of the blame on the implementation. It's hard to imagine the older form of the Mass being offered to the accompaniment of guitars and tambourines and in really crappy English, but if all the bastard interpretations of Sacrosanctum Concilium had been applied to it, we'd have pretty much the same objections. As it was, we had in the latter half of the sixties 1) a serious case of tinkeritis combined with 2) a serious case of lax discipline combined with 3) a brand new form to play with. That has turned out to be a pretty destructive combination.

ckgaler said...

"Re: God as the focus of the Mass, this should be true whichever rite is used. . ."

My point exactly.

Again, my own experience (unlike others my age - or (ahem) older) is pretty much exclusively with the Novus Ordo, so perhaps I don't know what I'm missing. But I have never, not to the slightest degree, felt like the NO was impairing my ability to draw near to God in the Mass. And that, after all, is the whole point. . .

I understand what you and BD are saying (and largely sympathize/agree with it), but my own duty as a Christian is to worship God, in whatever form I am availed of. . .

Not meaning to be all hard-nosed, or unduly pick a quarrel. But I just don't view the NO (in-and-of-itself; saying nothing of 'tinkeritis') as a hindrance to fitting worship of God. . .

ckgaler said...

And there is a valid distinction, isn't there, between 'liturgical innovation' and 'liturgical innovationism'? Any given liturgical innovation might be completely appropriate, and constructive of fitting worship, whereas the -ism would refer to a more comprehensive (dare I say 'ideological'?) approach to innovation as an end in itself. . .