Why I Prefer The Traditional Form of Mass

Il-Santo-Sacrificio-della-Messa-121 This is an excellent argument by Fr. Gary Dickson for just some of the reasons he sees the overriding superiority in the Traditional Latin Mass. As Father points out, there are other factors that could be added to the list too, but many of these were traditions that were never in fact abrogated for the Novus Ordo in the first place, e.g. celebrating ‘ad orientem’, and yet it appears they were nonetheless done away with right from the start!  We shall need an entire new post to discuss all those ‘never abrogated’ parts of the Mass that for some inexplicable reason disappeared just the same when the NO came in.

I would add to the list of reasons, the richness of the many Offertory prayers in the TLM that have sadly been omitted and greatly reduced in the NO Mass in this important build up to the Consecration. (Father does also give a mention to this in the comment section.) And even though this is not strictly part of the Holy TLM, I would also add as just one more reason in favour of the TLM – the reading of The Last Gospel from St. John and the lovely prayers after Low Mass.  

From Catholic Collar and Tie

Today I am going to outline what it is that I prefer about the Traditional Form of Mass. I do not attempt to speak from a scholarly point of view in this post since I am not a liturgist; nor do I intend to deal with the altar-facing orientation, the use of Latin, Gregorian Chant or reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, since the New Form of Mass remains officially celebrated altar-facing, in Latin, with Gregorian Chant having pride of place in terms of music and the norm for reception being on the tongue. Indeed, complaints about ad-orientem, Latin, Chant and reception of Holy Communion on the tongue are contrary to the decrees of Vatican II and the Missal of the New Form of the liturgy. Here goes for a few brief thoughts then…

The Prayers at the foot of the altar are, for me, an important overture to the celebration of Mass. They allow the celebrant to acknowledge his sinfulness before he steps into the Holy of Holies; the sanctuary. When celebrating the New Form of Mass we enter into the Holy of Holies as if by right, not by grace; without so much as a by-your-leave. I find this presumptuous.

The genuflections are more frequent; they occur before and after each time the celebrant touches the Sacred Victim (Host, from the Latin ‘Hostia’, meaning Victim). In the New Form they are reduced to two: after having placed the Victim back on the altar, and once before the consuming of the Sacred Victim.

The Signs of the Cross over the bread and wine before the consecration are reminders of how blessed is the act in which we engage (the Self-Sacrifice of the Risen Victim; the Lamb standing as though slain cf. Rev.5v6). After the Consecration the signs of the cross identify the Sacred Victim and remind us of the Cross on which He died.

Kissing of the altar before each occasion when the celebrant turns from it to face the people and call them to prayer, reminds us that the altar is the symbol of Christ the Cornerstone and Rock of Ages. These kisses are frequent, and their duplication not excessive: frequent exchange of kisses between husband and wife both demonstrates and builds love.

The silent Canon is non-negotiable. The silence of this moment wreaks of solemnity and awe, recalling the injunction of the prophet Habakkuk: “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before him” (2v20).

Singing while the priest recites texts is a symphony before God, not a duplication. It is akin to a quartet where three of the four provide the echo and backing to the soloist and the text sung by him. While four-part harmonies by the quartet may sound very grand and display the unity of the quartet, the use of a soloist retains the unity of the performance, adds variation and displays both distinction and diversity within their unity.

The One-Year Cycle is common sense. The current three-year cycle, intended to cover more of Christ’s teaching, has the anomaly of celebrating three times in the course of that teaching the Lord’s Birth, Passion and Resurrection. Can the Lord’s teaching not be well covered in one year? Are duplications of it by use of each synoptic Gospel really necessary? I think not. Far better to hold to the natural one-year cycle -which the whole secular world (and indeed the Church in its calendar) follows in day to day life.

Richer use of Scripture. A question I ask myself is: “Why, when we were told that we needed more scripture, were the psalms at the foot of the altar and the Lavabo, and the text on burning coals from Isaiah, all cut down to paltry one-liner antiphons?” The use of the Old Testament in the readings is indeed sparse in the Traditional Form, but occurs at major moments in the retelling of Salvation History so as to demonstrate the link between the Old and New Testaments. What we have in the New Form is so many readings and at such length that on asking congregants what the readings were about after Mass they often cannot remember: they have been given so much they have missed even the essential elements of the texts. The use of scripture in the Traditional Form is succinct, and more likely to be accessed by its hearers.

The Traditional Calendar allows one to commemorate more than one saint at a time, whereas reducing this to one saint per day in the New Form means many saints are left uncelebrated because there aren’t enough days in the year to accommodate them all. Yes there are many missed from the Traditional Form too, but more are included. Why make the best the enemy of the good? All in all then, I see the Traditional Form as far richer and more useful and practical. Those who prefer the New Form of Mass may celebrate in the stripped and minimalist Rite if they wish; I will hold to the promotion of the fullness of the Sacrificial meal with all its trimmings. If each Mass is indeed the full Christ event (a Christmas Day and an Easter Day) shouldn’t we want all the Christmas and Easter trimmings?

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15 Responses to Why I Prefer The Traditional Form of Mass

  1. John says:

    I really like this. It is clear, concise informative, uplifting and leaves to my mind little room for anyone to find fault with this form of the Mass !

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  2. JabbaPapa says:

    To be fair though, this is a comparison between the TLM at its best, and the NO at its most banal — and whilst I realise not everyone has had the chance to attend even just one properly reverential and traditionally-minded NO Mass, as there are many places in Christendom where these simply do not exist, I do feel the need to point out :

    The Prayers at the foot of the altar occur at every Sunday Mass at our parish, rather than being absent from the NO as suggested.

    The genuflections are not reduced to two at our parish.

    The Signs of the Cross over the bread and wine before the consecration occur at every Sunday Mass at our parish, rather than being absent from the NO as suggested.

    Kissing of the altar before each occasion when the celebrant turns from it to face the people and call them to prayer is not what I have seen at the TLMs that I have attended.

    The silent Canon has been silent in the vast majority of NO Masses that I have attended.

    Singing while the priest recites texts is rare even at the TLM, in my experience — I’d be more likelier to agree with a comment bemoaning the decline of Gregorian chant at the Mass in general, TLM and NO alike.

    I have no preference either way regarding the one-year and three-year cycles — what I worry about myself is the tendency of some clergy to infuse some cyclicalism of pagan origin into the Christian festivals.

    I tend to agree with the comments about use of Scripture.

    As for “stripped and minimalist“, that phrase is an apt description of every TLM I have attended so far — and a richly traditional NO full Mass with Gregorian chant, reverence, and a full and youthful congregation, Deacon, Acolyte, and Choir, will be as superior to a stripped-down poorly-attended “quickie” Low Mass TLM as the author claims the TLM to be superior to the NO.

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  3. JabbaPapa says:

    Though, to be fair, again, the “quickie” Low Mass TLM is generally preferable to its NO counterpart.

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  4. kathleen says:

    Thanks Jabba – I find your comment on your own experience very interesting. Also, I think you are lucky in your parish; my own experience of the NO is something far more ‘light’ and totally different to the TLM… except when I am in the city and can travel to the few churches where I find the NO celebrated in a reverent and dignified way.

    The “richer use of Scripture” in the TLM is no small attribute in its favour in my opinion. And all the rich and beautiful prayers in the missal that one reads (rather than hears) sink into one’s heart and head far more deeply.

    Yes, I agree with what you say about “singing while the priest recites texts” being rare – it is so I believe.

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  5. JabbaPapa says:

    We are certainly lucky at our parish — I arrived to our Novus Ordo Mass a little late this morning, but the first thing I heard when entering the church was : “Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor, Lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor” … our Congregation filled our church to the brim, as usual, including around 60 children.

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  6. Madeleine says:

    I agree with you but don’t let “Mary Victrix” read this; he will have a counter…

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  7. kathleen says:

    Thanks Madeleine; yes, I’m sure he will! 😉

    Jabba @ 18:38 yesterday:

    That does not sound like a Novus Ordo Mass, not even one celebrated in Latin (though a Latin NO in my part of the world is practically non-existent)… and if the rest of the Mass you attended followed on those lines, it does not surprise me in the least that the church was packed and full of young people. 🙂

    In my previous comment I did not make myself very clear by my use of the word “except” when describing the dignified NO Masses I can find if I search the city high and low. However well celebrated the NO Mass may be (and some admittedly are) its very structure and emphasis, plus liturgy, together with its community spirit that automatically results in lots of noise and bustle before, during and after Mass, just cannot compare to the sublime, serene and silent, totally God-centred adoration of the Traditional Latin Mass of the Ages.

    Fr. Faber described it so perfectly: “the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven.”

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  8. Ponder Anew says:

    Does anyone besides me have pre-Mass announcements from the ambo in their parish? Of course mine is a NO Mass. The announcements address newcomers with greetings, cell phone use, children’s room, etc etc. While I gather it is likely not grave matter, the announcements (usually done by the Lector ) have the overall effect of blending right in with the Liturgy of the Word, thereby reducing the Word’s prominence in the Mass.

    I dislike it. Any other thoughts out there?

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  9. kathleen says:

    @ Ponder Anew

    Oh yes, we have all that hustle and bustle, announcements etc. in our local NO parish too, which only serve as more and more distractions from the important! 😉
    No solemnity, no peace and quiet where we can try to kneel, recollect our thoughts and prepare ourselves for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Even bringing up the subject tactfully in parish meetings to see if something could be done (to try to tone down the noise and lack of restraint in the Church before and after Mass) is met with total incomprehension!

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  10. johnhenrycn says:

    Like Ponder Anew (nice name, btw), I belong to a NO parish. There are announcements read out there too, by one of our priests, but not until just before the final dismissal. And, I’m happy and grateful to say, there is very little chit-chat going on before the start of the Mass – not even smiles and nods to people when they enter the same pew – so even we Novus Ordians can comport themselves in a manner befitting the occasion. One thing that makes me uncomfortable is the Sign of Peace (do they have that in the TLM?), and I do my best to confine my sign to a smile, a slight nod and the word “peace”. I do wish people would stop wanting to shake hands, or making the *V* sign to people two pews away.

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  11. Tom Fisher says:

    Does anyone besides me have pre-Mass announcements from the ambo in their parish? Of course mine is a NO Mass. The announcements address newcomers with greetings, cell phone use, children’s room, etc etc. While I gather it is likely not grave matter, the announcements (usually done by the Lector ) have the overall effect of blending right in with the Liturgy of the Word, thereby reducing the Word’s prominence in the Mass.

    I dislike it. Any other thoughts out there?

    We have a welcome announcement in my parish (I’ve done it a few times!) We do this prior to the priest et al processing in. It is very brief and soberly delivered. “Welcome to the parish of X on this the X Sunday of ordinary time, our celebrant today is Fr. X, newcomers to the parish are warmly invited to join us for tea and coffee after Mass. Please stand for our opening hymn X”. The person who does the welcome is not the same person as whoever does that day’s OT reading and epistle. — In our parish I do not believe that it blends in at all with the Liturgy of the Word (which occurs several minutes later).

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  12. Tom Fisher says:

    I just realised I wrote ‘him’ instead of ‘hymn’ in the above. Sorry as dashing that off in a hurry! Maybe a lovely moderator can fix?

    [From ‘a lovely moderator’: Done! 😉 ]

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  13. Ponder Anew says:

    Thanks to you all for commenting. TomFisher: I must say I admire the way your parish handles this, namely by having 2 different people give the announcements and another functions as Lector. That way, the Liturgy of the Word is read by a different sounding voice with a different tone, rhythm, etc., so the readings definitely stand out more from more general bulletins.

    Otherwise, I would like any announcements to be given from say, the choir loft so the sanctuary is silent before the presider arrives before mass. But maybe I am just particular, but nowadays Novus “Ordians” (clever, John Henry 🙂 ) need to stay on our P’s and Q’s?.

    thanks again, and hope you all are having a holy, blessed advent

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  14. Tom Fisher says:

    Otherwise, I would like any announcements to be given from say, the choir loft so the sanctuary is silent before the presider arrives before mass

    Hi Ponder Anew, — yes — I didn’t think to say, we also don’t deliver the welcome I referred to from the same lectern that is used for the readings and homily. The welcome, and any other ‘mundane’ announcements are made from a pulpit / lectern by one of the columns in the body of the church (sorry I’m not very good at describing the layout clearly). And I absolutely agree that it is good to have the readings delivered by a different person, for just the reasons you mention.

    I’m not sure what the regular CP&S contributors would think if they visited us one Sunday, but we do our best!

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  15. kathleen says:

    “I’m not sure what the regular CP&S contributors would think if they visited us one Sunday, but we do our best!”

    I’m sure you do Tom, and God will see that and bless you for it. Sounds a lot better than our local NO church… since a new liberal parish priest took over some months ago when our dear old more traditional PP retired!
    That’s all any of us can do – our very best, within our frail and limited human confines, to bring the fullness and beauty of Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Bride to others in our fallen world.

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