At Mormon2Catholic, Cynthia (who seems to be a very sensible lady) reports on her first experience of a "Tridentine" Mass. I thought her observations interesting enough to make some positive comments about.
On her blog she says:
The priest was wearing a very cool "fiddleback" chasuble, which I had never seen one in real life. It was very cool.
First, this is really sort of sad, isn’t it? More than one generation now has been denied the richness and variety our Catholic tradition can give us. Many vestments of this kind were dumpsterized in the name of "reform". I know. Years ago I pulled many a vestment from a dumpster with a (now) priest friend of mine. I am sure that there are many young people who would similarly say, "What’s a (fill in the blank)?" Your options are "sanctuary, chalice, Host, tabernacle, altar rail, organ, confessional, statue, votive candle, altar boy, surplice, etc." And the thing the altar boys were wearing over their cassocks is called a "surplice" from the Latin word superpellicium.
Also, thanks for putting that in "fiddleback" in "quotes". The backs aren’t really fiddle-shaped at all, after all. I think this comes from the more Spanish style and also some of the vestments seen in Austria which indeed have curves in the sides of the back part of the chasuble. I have put on vestments in Austria and Germany which had sharp curves in the back part as well, making it very much resemble a fiddle. Most vestments people called "fiddlebacks" however, have straight backs in the Roman style, with slight curves in front to allow free arm movement. Also, sometimes they are called "Roman style", though this too is a precise term. The "Roman" style has specific pattern of decoration, of the trim on it. Many times people call "Roman" also the vestment with the same shape that has, for example, big Crosses on the back, and so forth. This is all very picky, but I thought I might as well offer these comments while I was at it.
The people who were attending the mass were reverent, and most has missals that they were using to follow along.
Yes! This is called "active participation". So often we hear that at the older form of Mass people were "passive spectators". Not so! People could follow along quite well and truly participate by watching and listening and praying. This was a great observation on her part. However, later in the piece she says:
Also, the only participation that was going on during Mass with the parishoners was standing/sitting/kneeling and the Hail Mary’s.
Here is the problem. So many Catholics have been lead to believe that "active participation" means "doing things" like standing up, sitting down, singing every thing, carrying stuff around, and so forth. True "active participation" flows from our baptismal character, which allows us to receive what the Lord has to give. As a matter of fact, the ultimate form of active participation is the reception of Holy Communion in the state of grace. True active participation is more than merely doing stuff. It is really active receptivity. Of coure our active receptivity then leads to an outward and physical expression too. But outward expression without the interior actively is empty.
Many people don’t know this, but Popes before the Council and the Novus Ordo were urging people to respond outwardly and actively as well. They urged people, for example, to say the Our Father, etc. I am terribly amused by many folks who attend the older form of Mass and, while venerating the memories of Pope’s such as Pius XI and Pius XII, actually try to shush visitors who automatically and understandably start saying the Our Father along with the priest. I have always thought it rather absurd, when celebrated the older form of Mass for congregations, to turn around and say "Dominus vobiscum" and have silence in return. I know they are out there, of course. I can see that they are paying attention. It is clear that they are engaged. At any rate….
She wrote about her first experience:
Now the down sides. … The priest kind of mumbled the Latin, so it was hard for me to follow. … He said most everything at a level that was impossible to hear. He faced away from the people the entire mass.
Well, yes. There are parts of the Mass that the priest is supposed to say quietly, with a voice just loud enough for only the servers to hear. That doesn’t mean that Father was "mumbling". That is sort of an old chestnut, really. Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt in my mind that for centuries many priests did in fact mumble. Many today mumble in English, so why wouldn’t they mumble in Latin? Mumbling is not a fault of the older rite any more than liturgical abuses we see everywhere today are a fault of the Novus Ordo. That’s called being sloppy, and it has nothing to do with the way Mass ought to be said.
Moreover, many people describe the position of the priest as if he is "facing away from the people" or "back is to the people". I guess that is understandable from one point of view. However, the priest is really facing the "liturigcal East". He is facing God at the head and as the head of the people present. Recently there has been a lot of talk about this both in this blog and others. This position of the altar is very important. As a matter of fact the rubrics of the Novus Ordo presuppose that the priest and the congregation are facing the same direction, since there are times when the rubrics say the priest must turn towards the people and then turn back again to the altar.
I was very glad to read her reactions to the older form of Mass. She probably learned a lot from it. Perhaps as she becomes a little more familiar with that style of Holy Mass, she will start noticing other things as well.
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has for years been of the mind that there should be more widespread celebrations also of the older form of Mass. The idea is to re-root the celebrations of the newer form back into the tradition whence it came. Liturgy should develop organically. The Novus Ordo was an "artificial" construction on the desks of experts. So, by a "dialogue" between different forms of celebration, it would be possible to reconnect the present with the past and provide for a future. This must be done irenically, of course. I think this has already begun to take place. Many younger priests I know have adjusted their way of seeing liturgical things once they got to know some of the older forms. They changed the way the say Mass because of their contact with the tradition. This makes sense.