On Making The Ordinary Form More Theocentric

It has been discussed in many forums before, both here on the Internet and elsewhere, about the so-called ‘Reform of the Reform’; and some have proposed that perhaps the spirit of the traditional Roman Liturgy can not at all change the New Mass for what it is, an inferior yet equally valid rite of Mass when it comes to the Traditional Liturgy. It is not our intention to delve upon those matters, as opinions are highly varied on this issue, and both camps may have a bit of truth on their sides. On the one hand, it is true that applying window dressing to the New Mass does not change it from what it really is, however, it is also true that it is absolutely laudable that such ‘window dressings’ be applied, for it restores a sense of the sacred in the new liturgy that has been sadly lost in its mode of celebration. It may or may not influence priests, and that is perhaps inevitable, for priests would often only listen and apply these measures when it is mandated to them, not merely suggested.

But it would be laudable however if these ‘window dressings’ were to be applied in the new liturgy. These things highlight all the more Our Lord; who should be the center of the Catholic liturgy. For the Catholic liturgy has always been theocentric (God centered) instead of anthropocentric (human centered); and therefore it is a bad novelty for the liturgy to be focused on man and not on God.

The Last Supper, Beuron School of Art

First, the art in the church should be suitable for the proper conduct of the liturgy. It should be somber and realistic as possible and should not be reduced to mere abstract cubes, as in a Picasso painting. It should inspire the sacred for the Faithful. It should not be too excessive, kitschy, gaudy or perhaps rude or made in bad taste or would mirror secular art of any era; at the expense of the sacred. A good example of sacred art that could be employed in the Liturgy is that of the Beuronese School of Art, whose stylistic canons seem to imitate the iconographical school of the Byzantines, the Italian proto-renaissance paintings of Giotto, and ancient Egyptian art. Another good example, besides those mentioned, are the revival styles (neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque, neo-Classical, neo-Baroque, etc.), whose inspiration could be those of the churches of medieval and late baroque Europe. Care should be taken however that these revivalist styles be not made as a soulless imitation of works of art, but be rather different in look, merely being inspired by these styles, and yet adhering to proper iconography and form.

The vestments designed by Augustus Welby Pugin.

The vestments themselves need to be the most decent and proper in design and material. It should be of the finest fabric that the parish may afford, and should be made dignified for the priest to wear. It should conform to the liturgical colors, and should not contain any abhorrent or profane designs that may distract the congregation from worship of God to mere curiosity of the design of the chasuble. Therefore, secular subjects and themes such as cartoon characters and other man-made fictional characters are never to be tolerated in liturgical chasubles, as these horrendous examples can be seen in some children’s masses. Rainbow-colored vestments are as equally abhorrent, never mind the LGBT connotations of those who wear it (those that wear such things are said to support the LGBT cause), but the mere indecency of the mixture of colors in one fabric, its banality as a liturgical vestment, and by the fact that while it may attempt to conform to ALL liturgical colours, FAILS to adhere to all of them, for it has always been the tradition that the fabric used in making of these vestments be only of one colour. Purple on purple, gold on gold, and none other could be added except the colors in the iconographical and practical design of the vestments (the use of gold thread in embroidered orpheys, or plain red fabric for orpheys to be used in a gold chasuble)

Vessels and other liturgical items used during Mass.

The vessels themselves should be always at least gilt in gold and made of the finest metal. It should not be of hard wood, even if it seems to be allowed or in common practice. It has always been the tradition of the Church that vessels are to be made of metal, and gilt in gold (although silver was also used), and since these vessels are to be used in the service of God, and not man, it should be made of the finest materials that man could offer what is proper to the worship of God; and that is gold and silver. Using wood and glass is a derogation from accepted and handed-down liturgical norm, with few exceptions during the first days of the Church, and relics like the Holy Grail (said to be made of finely polished agate stone), now kept in the Cathedral of Valencia in Spain.

The music of the Mass should be, as far as possible,  the traditional Gregorian Chant or perhaps in the exuberant liturgical polyphony. Gregorian Chant is easy to be learned by the parish congregation and by the choir, so long as they attend Mass regularly. Polyphony could be had only for much sophisticated choirs, although polyphonic settings by William Byrd of the Ordinary could be learned even by a choir of three, four or five voices.  Measures should be taken that the liturgical music should evoke the sense of the divine, and not fall into poor copies of popular tunes that are profane and unsuitable for church worship. It should not fall for the temptation of being easy to be sung, and yet be devoid of all art, of all sacred art and the sense of the sacred, replacing instead the filth of the profane to the cleanliness of the sacred. The profane should never cross the thresholds of the choir, and be kept outside the liturgy.

Motets and hymns sung during the liturgy should be of the same spirit as of those mentioned. It should not be too childish in tone, nor secular in spirit and perhaps unliturgical in its lyrics. Most of the hymns sung in church today sadly fail this test and could for this reason be considered modernistic, secularized, or protestantized to the detriment of the congregation’s soul and taste.  Nor should hymns fall into saccharine sentimentalism, to the great sacrifice of dignified, simple and yet totally suitable music. It should retain its straight face of dignity, like the divine-like countenances of the Old Testament Kings depicted in the Cathedral of Chartres.

In the celebration of the Mass, all things should be in dignity, including the voice, the tone and the countenance of the priest. It should evoke the spirit of sacrifice, sobriety and deep joy in the midst of somberness.

  1. The priest should not face the congregation, but rather face the tabernacle and God. He should do the Ad Orientem position during the Mass, for it is the traditional direction of celebrating Mass, which is facing the East. Not merely geographical East, but Liturgical East, which instead of the rising sun, we anticipate the Risen Son, to come again to judge the living and the dead, and who is Himself the Victim and the High Priest. The symbolism of facing Liturgical East are missed in the celebration of the Mass using the versus populum (mass faced towards the people), and to face the East, to face the tabernacle is not only a symbol of reverence and turning towards the Lord, but it is also common-sense. We offer the Sacrifice of the Mass to God, and we face God in doing so, whose Real Presence is in the tabernacle. When we talk to someone, we face him. When we pray to God in His Real Presence (not merely symbolic, but real and actual presence), we face Him. It is a matter of common sense. In cases that the congregation would not abide the rule of common-sense, it might be laudable to have the altar ornamented with six candlesticks (three on each side) with a cross in the middle while still retaining the versus populum orientation. Otherwise known as the Benedictine altar arrangement.
  2. The Mass is a sacrifice. For this reason it is vital that the facial expressions and gestures of the priest celebrating the Mass give the impression that the focus of the Mass is God and not the priest or the people. The priest should adopt once more the downcast eyes during the Dominus vobiscum.
  3. The priest should make use of the maniple, biretta and amice. He should bring back the use of the cope whenever appropriate. These liturgical vestments somehow strengthens the Catholic liturgical patrimony that has been lost during the liturgical reform.
  4. The priest should also make use of the chalice veil, in order to bring back once more the symbolism of reverence with regards to that sacred vessel wherein the Precious Blood shall be kept.
  5. The priest should return the aspersion rite (The Asperges in Latin) right before the beginning of the actual Mass. This symbolizes the cleansing of man before assisting at the altar of God. Asperges me Domine, hyssopo et mundabor. Lavabis me et super nivem dealbabor.

It is without a doubt that there are countless other options within the New Rite of Mass, ranging from the most traditional to the most novel and abhorrently short. It would be much preferred that traditional options be given the only chance of being implemented at Mass

  1. The greeting of “The Lord be with you” should be more used than any other greeting in the beginning of the Mass. Although it is also allowed that the greeting “Grace and peace…” be used as well.
  2. The introduction and short explanation of the Mass of the Day should be omitted.
  3. The Confiteor should be recited, then the Kyrie.
  4. There are instances that the Mass Readings have options to the shorter or longer versions. It is much preferred that the longer readings be chosen, or a reading that would be closer to the traditional Lectionary reading of that feast or feria.
  5. The Eucharistic Prayer should always be the Roman Canon instead of the other three. Especially not the second Eucharistic prayer, for it is perhaps formulated under the most unlikely of locations (a Roman trattoria, as Fr. Bouyer said). The Roman Canon also expresses fully the belief in sacrifice, the intercession of the saints and because of its undisputed antiquity. Also, there are no prohibitions (only suggestions that it could be recited on “…higher feast days and Sundays…”) that the Roman Canon be used during regular days. Also, from the Sanctus up to the Pater Noster, the faithful should remain kneeling.
  6. The Sign of Peace is optional, and therefore it is better that it be omitted from the Mass at least for the laity. It is simply too distracting and takes away from the Mass. It would be a better alternative for the priests to do it exclusively to themselves as is done in the Traditional Latin Mass
  7. Communion while kneeling and receiving the Eucharist on the mouth should be the norm in receiving Communion, for not only is it the most respectable and traditional, but it has always been mandated by the Church; and has never really been forbidden. It also avoids the danger of the Host being profaned or stepped-on.
  8. As much as possible, Communion should be received only under one kind, or if it is unavoidable that it be received under both kinds, then instinction should be done. However, one should be cautious as to not let the Sacred Species fall to the ground.
  9. The paten should be used in order to safeguard the Host from falling to the floor, or its particles.
  10. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be omitted if there are multiple priests in the parish church, although in the case of an elderly priest, one or two suffices. The use of EMHC should be reserved on emergency occasions only.
  11. The priest should omit the announcements portion before the dismissal and instead it should state them either right before the priest begins his homily or at least shortly afterwards. They should only be said during this time.
  12. The ite, missa est (or the Benedicemus Domino during Advent and Lent) should be said instead of ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord’
  13. The priest should recite the Saint Michael Prayer and the Leonine prayers after Mass.

There is also the abuse of thanking the choir or the priests before the dismissal, which often results in clapping; which should be stopped. The Mass is not a platform to encourage human gratitude, achievement or success. If you really think that the choir, the priest, or even the altar servers did a good job; then you can thank them individually after the Mass.

There is also the abuse of banalizing the intercessions of the Prayers of the Faithful. It should instead follow a format:

  1. For the Pope
  2. For the bishops and clergy
  3. For the Christian princes and the rulers of the country and those sitting in government offices
  4. For the exaltation of Holy Mother Church and against persecutors of the Church
  5. For those who do not know Christ, that they may be converted to the One True Faith.
  6. For the peace of the country
  7. For the conversion of sinners and heretics.
  8. For the welfare of the Church Militant on earth.
  9. For the intentions of the benefactors of the church.
  10. For the souls in purgatory.

In the end, these measures are to be taken out of love for Christ and His Church, as well as to the conducting of the sacred rites in the most noble of ways.

Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus (And in these things, God may be glorified)  

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