Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Novus Ordo Should Be Outgrown

Last week, I was “over the rainbow”, where the Mass of the Ages is celebrated properly. This week I returned to the Land of the Lost and the Mass of What’s Happenin’ Now. Not a pretty picture.

Most of what I’ve posted below came from a friend who emailed me a few weeks ago. I’ve changed a few words here and there, changed the phrasing a bit in some places; but what he expressed matched my thoughts so exactly that I haven’t had to change much.

The Novus Ordo Mass is something that can and should be outgrown. One wonders why the Church ever regressed into such a liturgy in the first place.

The Novus Ordo is, as Fr. Z has gently opined, the true "Mass for Children", while the Extraordinary Form is the true "Mass for Adults." The Novus Ordo can only take you so far. It may be capable of inspiring one to growth in the spiritual life, but it isn't capable of sustaining or developing spiritual maturity for the long haul. Once the limits are reached, there's no place else to go without abandoning the liturgical form from which all that is possible has been drunk.

The critical point beyond which it is impossible to grow without "changing forms" is the awareness that the Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary made present in an un-bloody form. A valid Mass in any form is always the sacrifice of Calvary, but that it's not really understood as such is evidenced by the way people respond to this profound truth (including the clergy).

Is it really possible to imagine oneself at Calvary carrying on in the manner so typical of Novus Ordo Masses? The Protestant mentality has reduced the sacrifice to merely the "Lord's Supper", as if "Do this in memory of me" means "have dinner with each other and remember all I said and did". The “sign of peace” degenerates into a sappy “us”-focused exercise that interrupts the flow of a liturgy that is supposed to be God-focused. The homily is a nothing more than an email forward or a Face Book status that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, accepted, and included. After the final blessing, the priest adds, "Have a nice day!"

To anyone with real spiritual maturity, Mass in a typical Catholic parish is embarrassing. And I think many people do have some spiritual maturity, and that deep down they know they should be embarrassed. Just for starters, I’m embarrassed by an altar decorated like this:

Yes, there really is an altar there.

We’re not at a petting zoo. And we're not at a garden party with friends, at the “table of the Lord”. We're at the foot of the Cross, and Jesus is being offered in sacrifice. Can we really see Our Blessed Mother hugging everyone, welcoming them to Calvary, and leading them in camp fire songs? "Thank you for coming! Hope you all had a good time! We MUST do this again! Maybe next week?”

Once this insight is grasped – the realization that this is Calvary – one has arrived at a point beyond which the Novus Ordo cannot go. All you can do is "change" the Novus Ordo to accommodate the growth of the faithful: you can begin to move towards the Latin version of the Novus Ordo; return to ad orientem worship; introduce the Gregorian chant propers. Once you’ve made these “changes”, you arrive at a point that...well, the extraordinary form already does this, and its durability has proven itself for centuries.
One can, of course, start with the extraordinary form of the Mass, teaching it to children from the very beginning, as we see in EF Mass communities such as FSSP parishes. Children nurtured in this liturgical form and its spirituality don’t outgrow it, and even at a young age know enough to be embarrassed when they are first exposed to the Novus Ordo. A friend whose children were raised on the EF Mass told me that she and her family had to attend a Novus Ordo Mass for some reason; afterwards, her children wanted to know whether that was really Catholic and whether they had really satisfied their Sunday obligation! 

When I hear people rave about the NO Mass and whine about how they just don’t understand the Latin (look at the booklet for heaven’s sake!), and Gregorian chant seems esoteric and too hard for anyone to sing (so listen), I want to say, "Someday I hope you 
respond to the grace of God and grow up, because that's what God is calling you to do. You can't be taken seriously as truly understanding what the Mass is and express yourself as you do. You're still an adolescent who believes that you're part of a whole generation with a new explanation. All generations think like that, until they grow up (if they do). You're at Calvary. Act like it."

The EF Mass has enough depth that one can never exhaust it. The Novus Ordo, by comparison, is childish and demands that one outgrow it if one aspires to spiritual maturity.

The evidence is in. The dots are able to be connected. We have centuries of evidence that the EF Mass “works”, and the collapse of the Novus Ordo is inevitable. There's just no “there” there. The verdict is in. The liturgical experiment that is the Novus Ordo has failed spectacularly. Sure, there are communities here and there that are growing towards spiritual maturity in spite of the Novus Ordo, but, if they continue to grow, and if they finally see what the Mass is, they won't be able to continue as they are. The EF Mass is the only option left. For those who have already figured this out, why waste time treading water where they are?

But there are few options here in Eastern Oregon. The liturgical landscape is a vast wasteland. And, sadly, no one really seems to care.


  1. Jay, you are not alone. Most parishes of England and Wales (once known as 'Our Lady's Dowry')do not have the Tridentine Latin Mass.
    It is scandalous but, as Archbishop Sheen used to say: "These are great times in which to be Catholic".

    A Happy Eastertide to you and your family.

  2. Your friend stated perfectly the problems with the NO except he forgot the hand holding at the Our Father. That and the "music" finally drove me out. We are lucky to have an FSSP chapel here.

    Another sure sign there is a problem is to witness the behavior of children at either of the Masses. It is clear, that even the youngest recognizes something special at the EF Mass. At the NO, they're eating cheerios and playing with action figures. Ugh!!

  3. Adrienne
    and at the NO their parents are checking their iphone for text messages

  4. The only time my phone is off is when I'm at Mass. No exceptions. :)

    Having come to the Church through the NO, I think of it as catholic-lite. It doesn't have the heft of the TLM, and I honestly don't understand how you'd go back to the NO.

    I think it's because most people really don't know what Mass is about. They go because it's what you do, and so they've done it for years. It's a habit, and while it's a good one to have, you should still understand why you do it.

    The more I learn about the Church, and what she's given to the world over the years, the more in awe I am of the edifice that Jesus Christ built with Peter as a foundation stone.

    How could you not adore that?

  5. Well said.... This is sort of the route I took. Having grown up with poor catechesis in the 70's and 80's, I fell away from the Church. The power of the Confessional brought me back; but, that's a different story.

    I began attending my local Novus Ordo Mass almost religiously. Now, I had previously attended the Extraordinary Form before and loved it. But, it was a drive to get there and also at a more inconvenient time.

    I QUICKLY outgrew the Novus Ordo. Presently, I attend the Extraordinary Form more times than not... Still with the drive and inconvenient time, but I feel its worth it..... No... It IS worth it.

    I now pray almost everyday for the Extraordinary Form in EVERY parish in the Latin Rite.

  6. AMEN! Great story...thanks for sharing.

  7. Respectfully, your blog is one of the most insulting hit pieces I've seen on the Mass, and the church since the last time I read a popular press view of the church. You seem to fail to note that neither Mass, OF and EF is superior to the other. This lack of charity is both troubling, and conforms to the literally holier-than-thou attitude I've observed among other EF bloggers and attendees. You say you'll pray for me to "grow up" Do what you will. I pray you'll grow some charity.

    1. I agree, I have never seen on word about the love of Christ or love for the people...

  8. We had a young altar boy at the TLM who called the Mass he had to attend at school a "baby Mass." Pretty much sums it up.


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