The Extraordinary Form Revisited - 2021-06-17
In my previous post on the Traditional Latin Mass much of my intention was apologetic, and fueled by an indignation at seeing how this form of celebrating the Divine Liturgy was (and still is) treated almost like a second-class celebration. It is true that many of those who assist can be very off-putting in their views, but this is no reason to dismiss such a beautiful and reverent celebration, much less treat it as inferior. However, unfortunately I got defensive and responded in kind, disparaging the Ordinary Form, resentful of the differences of how it is celebrated, and always tried finding (seemingly) objective reasons as to why the Ordinary Form was inferior, not realizing that what's important about the Mass, regardless of how it is celebrated, is that it brings people closer to Jesus Christ, and different people find this easier through different forms. And although I would like for the Extraordinary Form to be respected in this manner, I must be the first to respect the Ordinary Form in this manner.
This is not to say that I have changed my mind that the Extraordinary Form, when done well, is still objectively more reverent than the Ordinary Form. I also believe it is an objective fact that you are more likely to find liturgical abuse and even grave heresy in parishes that celebrate the Ordinary Form. But we shouldn't judge by its worst elements, we should simply correct them. After all, are there not all kinds of people who attend the Extraordinary Form who seem to slide closer every day to schism? It's important that we learn not to throw out the baby with the bath water. If there are heretical, schismatic, or abusive elements within any community of Christ's Church, the Christian thing to do isn't to push them away, but to fraternally correct them and bring them closer to Christ.
Therefore, I would like to revisit my true reasons for appreciating the Traditional Latin Mass. They are subjective, they may not apply to everyone, but it is what brings me peace, and what feeds my faith and love for our Lord. My reasons are twofold: that it is different from the world, and that it does not change. These two reasons, are ultimately intertwined.
If you assist a Tridentine Mass, the main thing you'll notice is that it has nothing to do with the world outside. It breaks completely with the culture of the world. Mass is said in a dead language (Latin), there are many parts (most notably the Consecration) which are said in a low voice, so the congregation hears nothing but silence (and the ringing of bells), it's filled with all these gestures, symbols, and movements, etc. All this adds an element of mysticism to the Mass, which greatly helps me in contemplating the supernatural aspect of the Mass, which just isn't the same for me if the Mass looks and sounds the same as everything else out in the world, in my daily life. The Traditional Latin Mass truly gives me the feeling that I am partaking in something that is not of this world, that Heaven is truly touching down upon the Earth in that very moment.
Perhaps the reason why the Extraordinary Form is so mystical and distinct from the world is because it has remained mostly the same for 400 years, having been established first by Pope Saint Pius V in 1570. It doesn't change, it doesn't adapt to modern trends, it doesn't try to be hip and cool. It simply is what it is, and remains constant. The peace I get from this is that, while the entire world around me is changing, revolutionizing, or even at times falling apart, I always have this one place where I know nothing will ever change. I can find Christ there, who is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8) While in the Ordinary Form the celebration of the Mass changes, not only from country to country, not only from city to city, not only from parish to parish, but even simply from priest to priest; the Extraordinary Form of the Mass I can be assured that it will be celebrated exactly the same, no matter where in the world I may attend it. The only thing that will change is the language of the readings and the homily.
As I've mentioned before, these are completely subjective criteria. You don't have to be convinced of it, as I'm not trying to convince you. But what I am trying to communicate is that the Extraordinary Form can truly bring people to Christ Jesus, and has. It can truly help some people to grow in love and charity. I regret having fostered such a disdain for the Ordinary Form in the past, and I pray that one day those of us with strong devotions to either form can learn to respect each other, and not disparage that which brings each of us closer to God, but instead be united as the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church with Christ Jesus as our Head. I pray that those of us with devotion to the Extraordinary Form can learn to respect and see the fruits of the developments of the Ordinary Form; and I pray that those of the Ordinary Form can learn to respect and see the peace which the Extraordinary Form can give. May God help us to be united as brothers, and celebrate these differences, instead of quarrelling and forming disunity in Christ's Church.
- "Why the Traditional Latin Mass" Blog Post