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.
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?