A Theological Disaster

The differences between the TLM and Novus Ordo liturgies are not insignificant. As has been said many times, the Latin language is not really the issue. The fundamental problem lies with the spiritual and theological defects inherent in the Novus Ordo Missae – defects which are not removed by praying in Latin, restoring the ad orientem posture, or eliminating the usual liturgical abuses. The new collects, for example, present such a radical shift in theological emphasis that essential Catholic teachings are completely obscured. The disaster is exposed in a 2005 paper titled “The Collects at Sunday Mass: An Examination of the Revisions of Vatican II”:

“The picture painted by the verbs in the 1970 [Advent] collects are quite different. It is not simply that the imperatives are far fewer (three) and weaker (grant and pour out); but that the human subjects, however they are named (variously the faithful, we, your people), are far more active; indeed they are the subject of the five active infinitives. In one collect God is described as seeing their activity (they are faithfully awaiting), and in others he is asked to make their activity fruitful: to grant that they may inherit the kingdom, be made partakers of Christ through training in heavenly wisdom, to attain the joys of salvation, to celebrate these joys with solemn prayers and ready rejoicing. Moreover, the motion verbs of the two sets describe exactly opposite movements: in the 1962 collect Christ comes to meet us; in the 1970 collect we go to meet Christ, arrive, are brought to, and so forth. In the 1970 set, Christ is described as coming only in the collect of the first Sunday.

A second difference is that the 1970 collects name no overwhelming obstacles. In contrast to the 1962 collect in which we ask God to rouse our hearts in order that we may prepare for the coming of the Son, in the 1970 collects we are twice described as already hastening to meet him and once as faithfully awaiting the feast of his birth. The only suggestion in the 1970 collects that there are things that could cause us to stumble is the prayer that God let no works of earthly deed impede us as we hasten, where the works can be understood as either our own or those of others. In other words, the collect does not insist upon the existence of interior impediments.

In fact the 1970 prayers contain no reference to sin or its dangers; to darkness or impurity of mind; to human weakness or need for mercy, forgiveness, protection, deliverance, purification; nor to the fact that any or all of us require a divine jump start to begin preparations for Christ’s coming. Also, the idea that we must undergo a transformation in order to enter heaven is intimated only by the word eruditio, instruction or training, in the collect of the second Sunday.

A third difference is that those who pray the 1970 collects do not seek divine assistance to survive perils or to begin to do good things. Indeed they express no need for such helps. Rather they ask to enter heaven at the last. In contrast, those who pray the 1962 collects do not explicitly seek heaven, but demand (the imperative verbs) immediate and personal daily help on the way.

In these three differences we come to something very delicate. Put simply the Catholic faith holds that every good deed which advances us toward salvation depends upon divine grace. This doctrine is formally defined and is not susceptible to modification that would reverse its import. Every nuance of the 1962 Advent collects expresses this Catholic doctrine of grace unambiguously in the somewhat subtle, non-expository manner proper to orations. While the 1970 collects do not explicitly contradict the Catholic teaching on grace, they neither articulate it nor, more worrisomely, seem to assume it. The delicate bit is how to sum this up fairly for while the 1970 collects may not legitimately be understood or interpreted in a way that is inconsistent with Catholic truth, they are susceptible to being misunderstood by those who are inadequately schooled in Catholic truth.”

2 thoughts on “A Theological Disaster

  1. I have to say that that is one of the most persuasive criticisms of the Novus Ordo I’ve ever seen. Thought-provoking post Jeff.


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