Recently, we had the Extraordinary Form Mass, the traditional Latin Mass, celebrated here at Most Blessed Sacrament parish where I am the pastor. While both forms of the Mass are the same in what essentially happens, therefore one is not greater than the other, there is a difference in how it happens.
Delving into the Mass
From the traditional Latin Mass we can learn much about the nature of the Mass that can help us appreciate what the Mass is when offered in the Ordinary Form. Here are some of the things I observed during the Latin Mass. The first is that the priest leads the people as both face east in prayer. Our parish plans to look at that in future reflections.
Another thing I noticed is there are more moments of silence. The priest says many of the prayers in a low voice or even inaudibly. The faithful’s participation is more interior than exterior. To participate the faithful need to know what is happening during the Mass. We can certainly apply this to the Ordinary Form Mass as well. Even though most of the prayers are spoken out loud, how much the better will be the faithful’s participation if aware of the meaning of all the signs and gestures and of the words that are spoken.
Drawn to the Altar
I also observed a greater closeness of the priest with the altar in the Latin Mass. The altar is a symbol of the Lord Himself. As I celebrate the Mass I feel a special closeness with the Altar and this has continued to grow over time. It is hard to express in words, but as a priest I feel drawn to the altar. You may notice that at the Mass in the Ordinary Form, the priest reverences the altar by kissing it at the beginning and end of Mass and also we bow to the altar during the Mass. We may also incense the altar. In the Extraordinary Form, the priest also leans on the altar while saying the words of consecration. It is reminiscent of St. John leaning on the chest of Our Lord during the Last Supper. It is a beautiful symbol of the closeness with the Lord in that moment.
There is also something beautiful about ascending the three steps up to the altar. In the Scriptures God is so often met on a mountain. The crucifixion was on the Hill of Calvary. The priest going up to the altar of God, reminds us he is going to meet God and offer sacrifice for us.
Communion: The High Point of the Mass
One of the most notable differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms is the rite of Communion. Communion is the high point of the Mass and the Extraordinary Form really emphasizes the sacredness of this moment. Each communicant comes forward and kneels (if physically able) and the priest and assisting server comes to each one. The server places the patten under the communicant’s chin and the priest makes the sign of the cross over the communicant with the Sacred Host and says, in Latin,
May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul for life everlasting. Amen.
The priest then places the Sacred Host on the communicant’s tongue. How beautiful and truly moving is this manner of receiving Holy Communion! Sadly, I believe, the Ordinary Form, with its communion line, quick prayer, and option to receive in the hand fails to help the faithful grow in devotion to and belief in the real presence of Christ and also fails to express that this is the high point of the Mass. While I believe someday we will return to the Communion Rite of the Extraordinary Form, there are a few things we can do in the Ordinary Form right now to help make this better. We can slow down and take our time receiving Holy Communion. We can make a good and deliberate act of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament. We can make an act of faith before receiving and pray after Mass a prayer of thanksgiving. We’ll look more closely at this in future reflections as well.
Overall I hope the experience of the Extraordinary Form Mass in our parish will help us to understand and appreciate the Mass more and lead to a deeper love for this, the Lord’s greatest gift to us and our most fitting act of worship. – Peace, Father Adam
Guest Post: This is a guest post by Father Adam Sedar, pastor at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Bally, Pennsylvania. The text is from a recent bulletin article Father Adam created for his parishioners and agreed to share on this blog. Father Adam’s insights into the Mass are timely especially with increased interest in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
Photo Credits: Most Blessed Sacrament Church photos by ShrineTower
Extraordinary Form Mass at Church of St. – Michel photo; by Saint – Michel College, Fribourg, Switzerland
Most Blessed Sacrament is a standout Church in the area, so impressive to visit and welcoming to all. The church is located in a small town, named after Fr. Augustine Bally, S.J., a Catholic pastor. The area has German roots going back to the early 18th century.
Fr. Adam shared his views on the EF and OF Mass with his parishioners and was kind enough to guest post on this site. I look forward to more of his insights on the Mass.
Dave Small said:
Thank you – Great Post!
I very much agree with Father that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is wonderful, and it should be more available to Catholics. One of the big problems of today is that Catholics are not aware that we are participating in the sacrifice of the New Covenant. I think having the Extraordinary Form available to people will help them understand the Mass as sacrifice. It would, I think, also help them appreciate the holiness of the Mass.
So I totally agree with Father on everything, but I think it will take a long time, and be very difficult, for the TLM to have a good effect on people. They just aren’t ready for it. The TLM is harder to understand. It takes more work. When you’re used to the TLM, you know you have to work to be part of it, to “assist” at Mass, as the Baltimore Catechism said. The Novus Ordo is just more obvious. What you can see is right there. Maybe because of that the deeper part of the Mass is harder to see.
I expect that it will take a long time, but I think eventually the Church will have only one form of the Mass, and it will look more like the TLM than the Novus Ordo. Seems to me the sooner we have many people who understand the TLM the sooner that day will come.
I think Father is certainly right that receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling is one of the best things about the TLM. I think eventually that will be common again for the Novus Ordo.
I see no positive trend. People who would benefit from the TLM don’t know enough to ask for it. A group that promotes the TLM said with elaborate music had a Mass at a parish near me, and it was fairly well attended, but I think most of the people there didn’t really get it. I think it will take more familiarity before good things start to happen. If a parish had one TLM on a Sunday, and maybe another during the week, it would be easier for people to get comfortable with the TLM, and benefit from it.
Father Adam Sedar said:
I think you are right in that this is going to take some time. But we didn’t get where we are overnight either, so prayer and patience is needed. I hope that we will see one form of the Mass in my lifetime. Before then we may see more places adopt the offering of Mass ad orientum and maybe even kneeling for Holy Communion. I think we are at least moving in the right direction and many more of our younger priests and seminarians are understanding of the direction we need to take. What is of course needed is also good teaching and preaching. So stay positive and engaged and know you are not alone in your hope for a truly renewed liturgy. Know too how many of us priests need the encouragement from the lay faithful and that it means a great deal.
Peace- Father Adam
Father, Thanks very much for your response, and thanks for your work introducing the Extraordinary Form to people. And thank you for this excellent article.
Sometimes I get discouraged, but there really are good things happening everywhere, they’re just not very visible. We depend on our priests, because we’re Catholics. Whenever at church they pray for vocations, I also pray in thanksgiving for the holy priests we have now. It seems to me miraculous that we have as many good priests as we do. It seems to me that there’s a barrier between priests and people that we didn’t have in earlier days. Modern times seems to put up barriers between people.
Anyway I’m very glad you wrote this, and I’m very glad Shrinetower saw it and brought it to us.
Modern times do put up barriers between people! Well said. Sure hope we can see through them and knock down any barriers that may exist.