Like many other traditional Catholics I long for a return to the exclusive use of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) as the norm for the Roman Rite. At the same time the reality is that like many other individuals I expect the Ordinary Form of the Mass (Novus Ordo) to remain with us for many more years. While the Novus Ordo has often been criticized, specifically in its early development, for its departure of liturgical tradition, as well as to a loss of clarity in regards to the traditional expression of “Lex Orandi Lex Credendi,” the law of prayer is the law of belief, thanks to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a new change has since taken place in regards to a liturgical development in the Novus Ordo that had changed it from a hermeneutic of rupture to it being a hermeneutic of continuity. In keeping with these Benedictine reforms I have listed a few reforms that individual priests and pastors could implement on their parishes and Masses, which to the best of my knowledge do not require approval from a local bishop or cardinal.
This reform itself will fix a lot of the liturgical ambiguities that have taken place since the development of the Ordinary Form of the Mass. This is true namely by helping put the focus on the sacrificial and theocentric nature of the Mass rather than on the congregation or even the priest which in recent years has had a certain type of “liturgical celebrity” feel as if the priest is the focal point of the Mass instead of God. This reform will serve as a reminder that the Mass is by its very nature a sacrifice being offered by the priest to God. This reform can be implemented by individual priests and pastors without permission from their local bishops. Similarly there has been a recent movement by clerics to move back to this traditional practice such as by Bishop Slattery.
Usage of Latin
The second reform that has slowly taken place in recent years by priests is in the use of Latin during the Mass. This reform will also help refocus the nature of the Mass on its sacrificial nature since most liturgical sacrifices have always included a sacred language which was “dead” in terms of the common use. This is true of the Old Testament sacrifices which were done in Hebrew even when Aramaic became the Lingua Franca of the Israelites. Latin too is a most suited language for the liturgy. The use of Latin will furthermore help the liturgy be celebrated in the intent of the Second Vatican Council which stated in Sacrosanctum Concilium that “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”
This next reform is also within the intent of what Sacrosanctum Concilium called for when it stated that “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” The Mass is not a means of entertainment, it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being re-presented yet in an unbloody matter. It is furthermore the prayer of the Church which is celebrated by that same Church to help glorify God by offering a worthy sacrifice as has been pointed out. Fr. Chad Ripperger points out quite eloquently that one of the purposes of Gregorian chant is that it has an appeal to the intellect and will, which naturally begets prayer and which furthermore uplifts the mind and heart to a contemplation of the divine truths and the mysteries of the Mass.
Use of Communion Rails
The use of communion rails while it might be costly for some parishes, will orientate the congregation to the traditional reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Many clergy and lay Catholics alike have pointed to the loss of faith by a reception of Holy Communion on the hand which has taken place in various parishes throughout the world. Auxiliary bishop Athanasius Schneider has been one amongst many prelates who have encouraged a return to the traditional reception of Holy Communion. This reform by itself will help bring back the reality of the Real Presence in the Eucharist and will encourage reverence in partaking of this Sacrament. Lastly the use of Communion rails will get rid of the need for Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which in all reality are not needed as much as they are used.
Omission of the sign of peace
Depending on where you attend Mass the sign of peace can easily become distracting and in some cases even lead to becoming a liturgical abuse. There have even been rare but extreme cases when someone from one side of the pew leaves it to shake his hand with someone in the other side! But even in most normal cases this liturgical action by fellow parishioners can easily allow one to lose the sense of the sacred in the Mass and focus more on the Mass as a mere community gathering. The sign of peace at least when it comes to parishioners is an option that any priest can omit and in most cases should.
No hand gestures at Mass!
This next section fall more in regards to an actual liturgical abuse that should not take place in general, but which occurs so often it deserves mentioning in regards to reforms of the Mass. Most people who attend Mass in the Ordinary Form encounter two specific types of hand gestures that many of the laity engage in. The first type of hand gesture is that which is known as the “Orans Position” (praying with elevated hands). This type of gesture can be seen in several parts of the Mass such as when one of the laity elevates their hands in response to “The Lord Be With You”. This can also be seen by many during the recitation of the Our Father. The second type of hand gesture that most people encounter is namely the act of holding hands during the Our Father.
The use of hand gestures during the Mass in regards to the use of the Orans position (hands elevated in the air) is a priestly gesture that is not permitted for anyone else including lay parishioners. Furthermore the use of hand holding during Mass is a liturgical abuse regardless of who does this. The reality is that many priests as well as lay individuals alike do not know the fact that these hand gestures are not to be done during Mass except the use of the Orans position which is to be done by the priest alone. I have written about this in detail here. If Mass is to be done reverently and in accordance with the rubrics of the Novus Ordo then priests will need to catechize their parishioners in this area.
Asperges before Mass
This last reform is in regards to the Asperges. Fr Thomas Kocik states that the 2002 Rubrics for the Ordinary Form of the Mass imply that the Asperges may be done before Mass just as it is done in the Extraordinary Form:
The relevant rubric in the 1970 Missal of Paul VI reads: “When this rite is celebrated it takes the place of the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass.”2 However, the corresponding rubric in the latest (third) typical edition of the Missal that of 2002, reads: “If this rite is celebrated during Mass, it takes the place of the usual Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass.”3 The 2002 rubric implies that the ceremony may be done outside of Mass.
This reform can then be implemented in the Ordinary Form by priests and pastors chanting the Asperges right before the start of the actual Mass.