Page 4, 1st February 1985

1st February 1985
Page 4
Page 4, 1st February 1985 — IN HIS letter of January 18 Ronald Jenkinson appears to

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IN HIS letter of January 18 Ronald Jenkinson appears to

adopt what one might call the cursory a priori view of the Tridentine Mass question. This view usually begins by tacitly assuming that if a new liturgy has entered the Church then it must be for the best and under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

It then proceeds logically to represent Tridentinists as having no possible valid doctrinal objections to the Novas Ordo Missae. In the final analysis, whether they know it or not, their position is an emotional rather than a doctrinal one. It can only be nostalgia, historical ignorance, and aesthetical considerations that render them unable to appreciate the supposedly self-evident superiority of the New Mass.

Now this view, though highly plausible, is wrong. The fundamental argument against the Novus Ordo is very much a doctrinal one and it needs to be faced squarely.

It is a dramatic case of the principle "lex orandi, lex credendi". The claim is that Novas Ordo is seriously endangering our faith. It is not the Deposit of Faith that is endangered but rather our present understanding of its contents.

The new rite, while not materially heretical, represents an unacceptable concession to protestant errors on the Eucharist. It does this by partially suppressing and rendering ambiguous Eucharistic doctrines which are specifically Catholic, doctrines which were expressed with admirable clarity in the Old Mass.

Mr Jenkinson asks what these doctrines are. Principally they are three: (i) transubstantiation, (ii) the propitiatory sacrifice, and (iii) the qualitative distinction between the ordained priest who acts "in persona Christi" and the common priesthood of the laity. These are the essential doctrines of the Mass and it is these that the sixteenth century protestant reformers so violently attacked. If Luther's dictum "Tolle missam, to/Fe ecclesiam" is true, then the endangering of these doctrines in any way inevitably endangers the very life of the Church herself.

It is impossible to prove in the short space of a letter that the Novas Ordo does have these definite pre-heretical tendencies.

One example will have to suffice. When the New Mass was promulgated in 1969 it was accompanied by a General Instruction. Now it is important to remember that it is this • MRS M V CRISPIN, January 18 disagrees with one of your correspondents who had maintained that the new vernacular Mass lacked the essential ingredient of mystery. Mrs Crispin goes on say that the only mystery in the Mass is the real presence of Christ. True enough — but there is more to it than that.

The character and ritual of the great religions of the world had one thing in common; they always embodied and radiated an olympian awe that somehow strikes a chord in the human soul.

God — or the gods — were just that much mysterious to arouse curiosity and reverence in the worshippers, and yet not so remote that the essence and symbolism of the ritual could not satisfy the people's yearning for worship. That ingredient of mystery is still enshrined in the contemporary Jewish and Eastern Orthodox liturgies.

The historic Roman Latin Mass, since formalised by Pope Gregory the Great, was (as Newman pointed out in an ohquoted passage) all things to all men, meeting the needs of those who found in it the mystical setting for individual communion with God or, in the dialogue mass, a way for all joining with the priest in the communal act of Sacrifice.

But the language, form and emphasis of the new rite drain the Mass of the evocation of the transcendental and the divine by drawing the people en masse into a plethora of vocal and physical activity by no means always a sign of an empathy with the sacred realities of the Sacrifice offered.

The actual changes in the new Mass — the downgrading of the priest's awesome role to that of a kind of "president", the relegation of altar and tabernacle into a "table", the whittling away of symbolism and the acts of obeisance by priest people, the physical involvement of the worshippers with the sacred vessels, the virtual elimination of silence for private contemplation — all combine to diffuse the essence of mystery and reverence that is the hall-mark of true worship.

No doubt with this in mind, Pope Paul voiced (April 1970) his concern over the decrease in private prayer and contemplation in the new Mass "thus threatening the liturgy itself with inner impoverishment, with an outward ritualism that could become formal practice."

Denzil Galvin Trewart ha, Praa Sands, Cornwall

Instruction rather than the liturgy Constitution of Vatican 11 that constitutes the immediate rationale for the new rite.

Article 7, now infamous, of this Instruction attempts to define the essence of the Mass. In doing so it makes explicit the thinking behind the Novas Ordo. It is an utterly protestant conception picturing the Mass as simply a sacred assembly, gathered round a priest, celebrating the Memorial of the Lord together. Here is a deliberate omission of every specifically Catholic Eucharistic dogma. A sense of outrage was experienced by many Catholics and the Pope is said to have wept over the scandal. Despite the astonishing failure of the Article's authors to admit its deficiencies the Article had to be seriously revised (it is still unsatisfactory.

However, the rite of Mass which it introduced and whose theology it incarnates remains unchanged and is still very much with us — the Mass of Article 7, as some describe it.

In order to facilitate a greater degree of external similarity between the Catholic Mass and certain protestant services we also witness in the Novas Ordo the sudden resurrection of some early liturgical practices that had long since fallen in the disuse in the Church. Mr Jenkinson mentions the Kiss of Peace and the Bidding Prayers.

This kind of liturgical archaeoiogism is entirely at variance both with the historical growth of the Church's rites and with the true principles of their development.

It is something which Pope Pius XII criticised in his encyclical "Mediator Dci" as neither wise nor praiseworthy. As regards the Hippolytan canon to which Mr Jenkinson alludes, it is unlikely that it was ever in official use being merely a suggestion as to the form a Eucharistic Prayer should take.

The relationship between this canon and our present Eucharistic Prayer 11 is only very slight anyway. But perhaps this is as well, since an anti-Pope of dubious orthodoxy, even though he died a penitent and a martyr, is possibly not the most impeccable of sources!

When Mrs Neale alleges that the Catholic Faith is not completely present in the New Rite of Mass she does indeed, as Mr Jenkinson says, make a serious accusation. Serious but correct. One day her position will be vindicated.

Timothy Johnson 23 Neville Road, Ealing, London W5 INN

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