My friend Fr. Ray Blake, the mighty PP of St. Mary Magdalene in Brighton, has a good reflection today contrasting and comparing celebration of the newer form of Holy Mass and the older, traditional form, with comments about “leadership”. He makes some important points about who the priest is. HERE
Before I send you over there, I would add a comment or two.
First, for a long time I have claimed that Mass in the traditional Roman Rite is probably celebrated “better” now than it was back in the day. Firstly, we “benefited” (if that’s the right word) from its deprivation. That is to say, we should have had it all long and it wounded us as a Church that we didn’t, but its deprivation also helped many to appreciate it more. Second, it is possible that our use of the Extraordinary Form benefited from the period of the Novus Ordo, at least insofar as priest celebrants are far more aware of the fact that there are people out there.
Now for a sample from Fr. Blake’s piece.
Anyone [any cleric] preparing to celebrating the Old Rite first of all has to learn a different way of being a priest, he has to learn to be a servant, like the Centurion’s servant “to come here, and go there”. The Old Rite is very prescriptive about how the priest moves, where moves, how he uses his body, where he looks and even where he directs his eyes. The control over his body and movements results in a control over his mind and thoughts. [Yes.] The thing is that the rubrics are freely available to any ten year old who can read Latin or anyone who has a copy of Fortescue, O’Connel and Reid, or the like, this is important in as much as it democratises the liturgy and leaves the priest open to accountability and able to be judged on his obedience to the demands of the Church. [No wonder liberals hate the old rite: they don’t want to be accountable to anyone but themselves. Liberals don’t like accountability unless it involves subordinating everyone else.] In fact the heart of the spirituality of the Old Rite is one of being under obedience, the obliteration of the individual, to the point where in a large Church, with a number of priests one is often uncertain which priest is celebrating Mass, it is often just hair colour, or body shape that enables one to distinguish who is the celebrant.
If the priest in the New Rite chooses to celebrate ad apsidem, which is his right, in the same way as it is his right to choose which penitential rite or Eucharistic Prayer to use, he is well on his way to begin to submerge himself in the the liturgy and the mind of the Church, and yet of course he has already made a ‘leadership’ decision. Similarly if he opts to celebrate the Old Rite, he has done more than any of his pre-conciliar predecessors had the power to do. However the Old Rite teaches obedience, there is an entirely different attitude to preparing a liturgy in either Form of the Rite. At low Mass in the Old Rite, the priest merely opens the Missal and begins continuing until he ends, it is almost mechanical. In the New Rite even if Mass is said as ‘rubrically’ as possible there are a variety of options. If Mass is sung, in the Old Rite he and the choir simply sing what is in the Graduale or the Liber, if one is very fortunate the choir might be able substitute polyphony or some other musical form for some of the chant, possibly even adding the organ or even an orchestra or a band, and possibly even singing the chant in a particular historic style. For the priest and sacred ministers however it is saying or singing the black and doing the red. [Nice phrase.]