Liturgy Survey

Inspired by a post over at Disputations, I have decided to conduct Stony Creek Digest’s first survey. The topic concerns the liturgy, and the realization that the words and gestures of the Novus Ordo depart significantly from those of the ancient liturgy (best represented today by the 1962 missal). This radical incongruity really forces us to evaluate the situation and make some kind of decision about it – however tentative. The conflict centers around the question of whether the objective meanings embedded in the competing rites are mutually exclusive, and if so, to what extent should we care? Here are the options as I see them:

1. The words and gestures of the ancient and modern liturgies are mutually exclusive, and the ancient liturgy was right.

2. The words and gestures of the ancient and modern liturgies are mutually exclusive, and the modern liturgy is right.

3. The words and gestures of the ancient and modern liturgies are mutually exclusive, but it doesn’t matter very much so I don’t take a position.

4. The words and gestures of the ancient and modern liturgies might be mutually exclusive, but I’m not competent to decide the question.

5. The words and gestures of the ancient and modern liturgies are *not* mutually exclusive, so there just isn’t a conflict.

Different kinds of Catholics have come to different conclusions. For my part, option #1 seems like a slam-dunk. What do you think?

16 thoughts on “Liturgy Survey

  1. Hmm. I’m struggling with the given choices. While my strongest inclination is toward #1, I don’t like the term “mutually exclusive.” Depending on what you really mean by that, it would seem that by indicating mutual exclusivity you invoke the principle of non-contradiction.

    Therefore, if one is valid and mutually exclusive of the other, then the other is not valid. I don’t buy that. I do think, however, that the words and gestures, on the whole, produce a largely different effect in those attending. I can’t say, however, that they produce a different effect in the sacramental outcome, in se.

    If we broke it down more specifically, we might find elements that actually are mutually exclusive. I just don’t think you can apply that sort of judgement to the respective liturgies as a whole.


  2. Hello, Jeff. I think the options too linear. Is liturgy such? As you well know, I prefer the TLM, yet I cannot say, next to the Mass of Paul VI, it is mutually exclusive in the strictest sense.


  3. Jeff: Not sure you have the right terms: In a technical sense, 2 events (i.e. the TLM and Novus Ordo) are “mutually exclusive” if they have no outcomes in common. Or when considering groups, “mutually exclusive” means that there is no overlap between them-nothing in common. It also can mean that two mutually exclusive things/events can NOT both be true at the same time.

    Therefore: My judgement is that the TLM and the Novus Ordo CANNOT be (even if limited to words and gestures) considered mutually exclusive. If we take any of the meanings above:

    Are the outcomes the same? Essentially yes (unless you can make the case that the Novus Ordo is invalid). The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary is had again in an unbloody manner in expiation for our sins at both TLM and Novus Ordo. Thus the outcome is the same-even if some words and gestures are different or preferred.

    Have they nothing in common? They have much in common even if some trappings are gone (and depending on whether the Roman Canon is used in the Novus Ordo-and even if it is prayed in Latin or not-translations being so poor.) This may seem to some the weakest link in my argument, but it is not essential to make a strong case for all three. Plus what is held in common can be the outcome as opposed to the trappings.

    Are both not true at the same time (N.B. true not better)? They are both true at the same time, even if one is inferior.

    My case is that: if the words and gestures can be separated from the essential in either Mass, then it doesn’t matter either way what those words and gestures are. Because the essential is NOT mutually exclusive (both are true, they have common outcomes, they have an overlap) then the words and gestures are not mutually exclusive either because they contribute to the outcome, truth and overlap.

    I was very sorry when I read your post-not because of what you said, but that I had to respond and don’t really have the time. So if I am misunderstood and/or my position is torn apart and I don’t re-enter the fray, it is not because I am shy or think I am beaten (I will readily admit if I am), but just because I am burning candles at both ends these days.

    Will enjoy all the comments. Oremus pro invicem!


  4. I’m tempted to say 5. I share Jim Curley’s confusion as to what the term “mutually exclusive” means. The Novus Ordo Mass is certainly valid and legitimate, but I do believe that the TLM is better. I don’t believe there is a conflict between the two Missals themselves: each is primarily for the purpose of consecrating the Eucharist, which occurs at both.


  5. Thank you for the comments everyone. I certainly do not mean that the N.O. is not valid, or even that the mutually exclusive “words and gestures” are essential to the rite. This blog accepts the N.O. as valid and licit, without scruples, when it is celebrated faithfully.

    The term “mutually exclusive” is baggage from another discussion. I thought the meaning would be self-evident, but it obviously is not. Mr. Curley may be right in that I may not be using the correct terminology.

    Allow me to borrow from the discussion at Disputations …

    To use a popular example let’s take the orientation of the priest. The posture and direction of the priest when he prays is highly symbolic. The priest facing God in the tabernacle means one thing: the priest facing the people means something else. They do not mean the same thing, and in this case, their meanings are directly opposed.

    Those who implemented the liturgical reforms – the bishops and priests of the world – understood this well. The new liturgy, with its new focus on man in the text and rubrics, would require the priest also to have a new orientation that is man-directed rather than God-directed. The ancient ad orientem posture was simply not compatible with the new liturgy.

    That is why they spent an incredible amount of time, money, and energy in order to turn the priest around. Beautiful high altars were removed, expensive granite and marble free-standing tables were purchased, and billions of dollars were spent all over the world to renovate churches for this reason alone.

    The message of the reformers was clear: “The new way is not compatible with the old, and indeed the difference is so profound and important that no expense will be spared to effect the change.”

    So by “mutually exclusive” I don’t mean anything more than what the reformers implied when they abolished the old ways and imposed the new. By using this language I mean to draw attention to the radical discontinuity – which is always understood but seldom spoken in polite company – between the old rite and the new. This liturgical rupture is glossed over by many good Catholics these days in what I think is a misplaced fidelity to the “hermeneutic of continuity” – a hermeneutic that cannot seriously be applied to recent liturgical praxis.


  6. Thank you, that explanation makes a lot more sense.

    I believe, then, I would have to change my answer to a qualified 1. Some things, such as celebration ad orientem, ought to be practiced in the Novus Ordo anyway. However, I would say that where there are differences, in almost all cases I have noticed, the old rite is better.


  7. I was just railing over the terms-I knew we are in fairly close agreement in many ways. Indeed there is a discontinuity between the rites-no question-the degree is sometimes dependent on who is saying the Novus Ordo and in what Church and in what language-and this should not be.

    And of your point of construction…think of the millions of dollars spent just to remove altal rails so that we can’t kneel to receive our Lord.


  8. No one has mentioned “ex opere operantis” which is the subjective grace that a person receives from the sacrament in contrast to “Ex opere operato” The liturgical rite is there to help us acquire the proper disposition to receive the sacrament, which is why the liturgy is so important. In my uneducated opinion, I think the discussion lies here.


  9. I have to go with #5. There is a huge difference between the missal itself and the way it is generally practiced in English translation. For example, the N.O. missal actually presumes that the priest is saying Mass ad orientem (by virtue of rubrics instructing him to turn to face the people). Further, I see nothing in the text and rubrics themselves which place such an emphasis on the priest that makes a change in orientation make sense.


  10. 1) would be the closest; topic would require more nuance than simple survey questions could convey, though.

    Still, even if you look at only the actual text of the Pauline Missal, it still comes off as watered-down and not as obviously, in-your-face ‘Catholic’ as the Tridentine Mass.

    I don’t mean to say that it is ‘evil’ or ‘invalid,’ just that its presentation of the True Faith is more muddled and vague than that of the traditional missal…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s