Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 16, 2007
Latin Mass opens door for reconciliation
Many Catholics may find it unsettling that Pope Benedict has widened the possibility for use of the Latin Tridentine Mass, decades after a sweeping reform of the liturgy that used the vernacular language, encouraged the participation of the faithful and included a major overhaul of the prayers of the Mass. Are we now going backwards?
The short answer is "no." There is no undermining of the authority of the Second Vatican Council or its understanding of the liturgy. The current Roman Missal, published after the council, continues to be the "ordinary" form for the Mass. The 1962 missal is now considered the "extraordinary" form of the Mass.
Canadian Catholics will find little, if anything, changed by the new papal decree. The expanded permission for use of the 1962 missal is aimed at those priests and laity who have a particular attachment to this form and who benefit from it spiritually. Few Canadians are in this category.
In Edmonton, for example, the Mass using the 1962 missal has been celebrated for roughly 15 years and attendance has been far from overwhelming.
So, why bother to increase access to the old liturgy?
The main reason is that Pope Benedict is hoping to convince Catholics estranged from the Church by the reforms of Vatican II that they should to return to full union. In some countries, the numbers are more significant than in Canada. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston notes in his blog for June 29 that in Brazil, an entire diocese of 30,000 people has already been reconciled to the Church.
Pope Benedict did not say this, but it should be said that the disappearance of the Tridentine rite from Catholic life was an over-enthusiastic reaction to the development of the new Roman Missal. It was an injustice to those whose attachment to the older form was not merely emotional, but spiritual.
For hundreds of years, the Tridentine Mass has been a valid celebration of Our Lord's passion, death and resurrection. It brought the saints and the faithful into intimate communion with Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict's July 7 apostolic letter was the clear recognition of the Tridentine rite - never formally dropped as a permitted form of celebrating the Mass - as a valid form of Eucharistic liturgy. It is a tacit acknowledgement that the disappearance of the old Mass imposed an unwarranted spiritual suffering on those who greatly revered that form of liturgy.
One criticism of the expanded permission for use of the Tridentine liturgy has been that it revives the old prayer in the Good Friday liturgy for "the conversion of the Jews." The prayer called for the Lord to remove "the veil from their hearts."
This prayer is at odds with Vatican II's teaching that God did not take back the gifts he bestowed on the Jewish people, including the establishment of an everlasting covenant.
Yet Pope Benedict says his permission for wider use of the Tridentine rite does not apply to the Paschal Triduum. The old prayer calling for the conversion of the Jews should never be prayed in a Roman Catholic liturgy.
The new permission for expanded use of the old liturgy has garnered significant media attention - attention that will likely be lacking when another event affecting the liturgy occurs. The promulgation of the 2002 General Instruction on the Roman Missal and the new English translation of the liturgy sometime in the next couple of years will change some of the prayers and affect the postures in the most widely used Roman Catholic liturgy.
The Second Vatican Council broadened and deepened the Church's understanding of the liturgy. It led to new rites that express that understanding and that give glory to God. Declaring the 1962 missal to be an extraordinary form of the Mass will not diminish the renewed liturgy.
- Glen Argan
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