ASK FATHER: Can the Novus Ordo be “ad orientem”, in Latin, with Deacons?

From a reader…


Can a Novus Ordo be ad orientem with Latin, chant, a subdeacon and deacon in traditional vestments?

Not only can the Novus Ordo be celebrated ad orientem, it ought to be.  The rubrics indicate that this is the standard, the norm.  The Roman Church’s tradition calls for it.  Permission is not necessary.  It can’t be forbidden.

Not only can the Novus Ordo be celebrated in Latin, it ought to be.  Latin is the language of the Latin Church.  The official books are in Latin.  The Second Vatican Council called for Latin to be preserved.  The Church’s sacred music is in Latin. Canon Law puts Latin in the first place for the language of Holy Mass.  Permission is not necessary.  It can’t be forbidden.

Not only can the Novus Ordo be celebrated with deacons, it ought to be.  Deacons have a proper liturgical role.  I’ll leave aside for now the issue of a subdeacon, which is complicated as far as the Novus Ordo is concerned.

My home parish in St Paul, St. Agnes, always had Mass ad orientem, in Latin, with deacons, one taking the role of reading the Gospel, and the other being at the altar near the priest.  So, they swapped roles of deacon and subdeacon, but they were both deacons, properly vested in dalmatics.  Yes, this can be done.

Keep in mind that the paradigm for Mass is not the quiet “Low Mass”.  Rather, it is the Pontifical and the Solemn Mass that are the paradigm. So, deacons aren’t “add ons”.  They are desired in the Roman Rite.

Where there are deacons, permanent or transitional, they should be warmly prompted to serve in their proper roles, in their proper vestments.  That means that parishes with deacons shouldn’t vest just one, but two!  They should have matching vestments with the priest!   C’mon!

Here is a shot of Fr. Philips of the Canons of St. John Cantius saying Mass at St. Agnes as a visiting celebrant.  NB: Deacons.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Geoffrey says:

    “I’ll leave aside for now the issue of a subdeacon, which is complicated as far as the Novus Ordo is concerned.”

    Please allow me to “weigh in” as I am an instituted acolyte (“subdeacon”), and have given this some thought. If a laymen, whether seminarian or not, were instituted in both the ministries of lector and acolyte (subdeacon), he could then read the reading(s) and assist the deacon and priest at the altar. The old “priest, deacon, subdeacon” arrangement of a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form would suddenly be manifest. This could easily be done, though no doubt with some difficulty in the average parish.

    My question would be: Could a “subdeacon” (instituted acolyte and lector) vest in the tunicle in the Ordinary Form if he were performing these “traditional” duties? Or has this vestment been officially banished in the Ordinary Form?

    It saddens me how beautiful the Ordinary Form could be, but most often isn’t.

  2. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    As much as this blog entry should warm my heart…in light of the recent events discussed in other posts, it fails to do so.

  3. Uxixu says:

    Could a bishop require the priests in his diocese to celebrate ad orientem?

    I’ve often thought that the biggest strength of the Ordinary Form should be deacons and instituted acolytes, as most of the classic Tridentine societies of Apostolic Life like the FSSP mostly have these confined to seminary*. Instead the bishops refuse to institute acolytes and most diocese policies with deacons are… inconsistent. Many parishes have none, even when the diocese has a healthy program for it. The biggest irony is that the “lay ministries” are effectively limited to formation to Holy Orders and went into the exact same spot of the traditional Minor Orders…

    *(Though we’ve seen a surprising number at the new FSSP apostolate in LA – No fewer than 8-10 transitional deacons have assisted or sat in choir with a similar number of periodically visiting priests coming and going separate from the two currently assigned here).

  4. surritter says:

    A parish near me has a weekly Mass in Latin (the Ordinary Form). So I find it amusing when people say “Latin Mass” when they really mean the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine).
    They get all confused when I explain that every Mass can be in Latin, no matter which Form is used.

  5. Bthompson says:

    I never realized to this moment (undoubtedly because my generation was robbed of our patrimony, and I don’t have the context nor categories to think about these things accurately) that the modern and banal “deacon of the Word” and “deacon of the Altar” distinction is an attempt to adapt to the ill-advised decisions of Ministeria Quaedam. It all makes sense now, or at least makes slightly more sense…

    The more I learn about the faith of my great-grandfathers, the more I feel slighted by my grandfathers and fathers* in the Faith.

    -Fr Thompson

    *at least in general. The particular priest who drew me to my vocation was an excellent balance of fidelity to the Church as she is and resistance to what was being intentionally forgotten at present. Had my pastor in my youth have been an enemy of or even weak on liturgical reality, I would probably not be a priest.

  6. Clemens Romanus says:

    Follow up: Could an instituted acolyte use the humeral veil and paten (though I think the GIRM calls for the host to be on the paten) during the Canon? Also, in the spirit of mutual enrichment, could the Deacon and Subdeacon (instituted acolyte) follow the EF rubrics, as much as is allowed, during the Canon? Thanks!

  7. stuartal79 says:

    Great information, Father!

  8. Geoffrey says:

    @Clemens Romanus:

    I doubt it. “Say the black and do the red” and all that. And I believe use of the humeral veil is reserved to ordained ministers (bishops, priests, deacons). In the old days, subdeacons were not ordained ministers per se (Holy Orders), but were technically clergy.

    Instituted acolytes are allowed to expose the Blessed Sacrament for the adoration of the faithful, and then repose It, but cannot give Benediction (with the humeral veil, etc.).

    Instituted acolytes are allowed to purify the chalice, and I recall just recently reading that they can even purify the paten over the chalice, but I need to look more into that.

    I recall a priest saying shortly after Summorum Pontificum came out: “It’s not that the Mass of Paul VI was tried and found wanting, but that it wasn’t even tried.”

  9. jaykay says:

    Geoffrey: “It’s not that the Mass of Paul VI was tried and found wanting, but that it wasn’t even tried.”

    Except, perhaps, in the Oratory in Brompton in London (the only Oratorian church I’ve ever been in). At all the Sunday High (NO) Masses I’ve attended there over the last 25 years or so on my London visits, there are always two deacons. And it is NO, no sub-deacon as such, with humeral veil. But I do wonder what they did in that brief period between when the NO came in in 1969/70, and 1972, when the order of sub-deacon was suppressed. Just speculatin’ ;)

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  11. Gail F says:

    A parish near me offers the OF in Latin and, I think, ad or. (it’s been a while since I attended). I liked it. I’ve been to the OF in English celebrate ad.o. — and I thought our parish was going to begin doing this. But we didn’t. I wish we would, I really don’t see why people have such a problem with it. But as we don’t, I’m happy with a reverent OF Mass versus p. — because, in the same vein, I don’t see why it’s that big of a thing. Both are correct. The overall reverence of the Mass is what makes the difference, I think.

  12. David says:

    You have probably seen this letter from Archbishop Naumann, in Kansas City, KS.

    While acknowledging the value of both ad orientum and vs. populum, “…he is not inclined to affirmatively promote ad orientum worship by individual priests at this time.”

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