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I was born, I'm currently living, and will eventually die. After that I face my judgment, and we'll talk then.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apologia pro Novus Ordo Missae part 3

This is the final part of my defense of the Novus Ordo, now known as the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (thanks BXVI!). The previous two parts, available here and here respectively, dealt with popular misconceptions and near heretical thoughts in dealing with the Mass post-Vatican II. This third and final part also deals with misconceptions, but this error is rarer than the previous points discussed. Due to a shortage of time, I did not cover this discussion in my Apologetics junior year (almost 2 years ago now), but I knew I had to at least learn about the controversy when I found several discussions of it when looking for discussions about the Novus Ordo online. The discussion centers around Antiquarianism, and the arguments here have some pretty good points. Is this the proof needed to condemn the Novus Ordo Missae?

Antiquarianism is the claim that ancient rituals are more suitable for worship and the liturgy by the very fact that they are old. It is widely held to be a heresy, defined as such by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei. An ultra-traditionalist usually argues that the changes in the liturgy that are contained in the Novus Ordo are clear examples of this heresy. They cite a passage from Mediator Dei that seems to describe many of the changes brought about in the Novus Ordo:

One would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored
to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the
liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in
Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's
body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and
reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to
regulations issued by the Holy See. (62)

It seems clear that the document is attacking directly what the Novus Ordo has brought about. How often does one go to a modern Catholic church and see an altar that looks more like a table than the folding tables in the parish hall? When was the last time black was readily used during funerals or on All Soul’s Day? Has anyone not entered a church with a resurrected Jesus coming off of the cross or another church seemingly devoid of all religious images? How close to polyphonic music is the music in a modern gospel Mass or your typical folk Mass? These changes seem to have taken place, despite the expressed statements against it of a previous pope.

However when one reads the rest of the encyclical, one notices that Pius XII is condemning something different than the changes mentioned above. Pius XII is rather condemning the act making such changes without the approval of the Holy See. Pope Pius clearly says in that same encyclical that what he is condemning is the abuse of one’s authority. He says in another place that, “It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification” (58). He states later in that Paragraph, “Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters” (Ibid.). Clearly it is a matter of authority. If the Holy See, the Pope with a Pontifical council, decides that it is ok for the liturgy to be in the vernacular, it is different than if Fr. X, a random pastor at a random parish, decides to put everything in the vernacular. This also works in reverse. If Fr. S, a more traditionally minded priest than Fr. X, becomes pastor and decides to pray some prayers of the Mass, but changes them to the prayers in older missals, without any Episcopal approval. The condemnation is a double edged sword, hitting both ultra-traditionalist and ultra-liberals in one foul swipe.
Any reasonable Catholic, ultra-traditionalist or otherwise, would say that many of the changes in the Novus Ordo were approved by the Holy See, if not by explicit consent at least silently. Those changes were brought about by the Holy See using the legitimate authority such an office holds. Also, the changes themselves, it seems, were made, or rather brought back, not simply because they were older and therefore better, but because some theological learning could be gained by their inclusion in the Mass. There was a clear design in the Fathers’ mind when the Ordinary form was being promulgated. What might have little significance before was brought into the light. What was overemphasized before was lessened. Thus, some changes, indeed some integral to the structure of the Novus Ordo Missae, are not examples of Antiquarianism despite their similarity to that which is referred to in Mediator Dei.

Thank you for reading these posts. For those who are in support of the Ordinary Form, I hope you have learned more about the Mass and have gone away with a deeper love of this Holy Sacrifice. For those who came to bash the Novus Ordo, I hope you have been convinced of the error of your ways. Either way, let me know if you would like any more information, if I made any mistakes, or if you just want to say hi. Thank you again.

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