ASK FATHER: Is the TLM / Usus Antiquior dead? Forever stuck in 1962?

TheMassofSaintPopeGregoryFrom a reader…


In thinking about Benedict XVI’s teaching on the liturgy it wondered me if the TLM/Usus antiquior is a dead liturgy per se? If liturgy ought to grow (be reformed?) *organically* (as opposed to post-Vatican II “reform”), is the Tridentine mass now and forever stuck in the missal of 1962? While the mass of 1962 is beautiful to be esteemed above the NO (aesthetically speaking), this missal was not written by the finger of God on tablets of stone. Is it even possible to be reformed? How would this work, etc.? Does this question even make sense? Thank you

Sure the question makes sense.

No, the Usus Antiquior, is a living liturgy, just as all the rites of the Catholic Churches, Western and Eastern, are alive.  However, when we watch a Sequoia, we don’t see a lot of change unless we watch for a few hundred years.

Slowwwwly but surely, small adjustments are made.

And while the Traditional Mass isn’t on “tablets of stone”, let’s not dismiss the divine guidance which has guided it’s development.  And clearly there was divine guidance and favor bestowed upon the rite for the benefit of the Church and the world.  To start, just look at the magnificent fruits which it has borne over the centuries.

Yes, it is possible that the Usus Antiquior can be adjusted here and there, just as Pope Benedict’s vision verifies.   This can only happen slowly.  To continue your “tablets of stone” metaphor, think of liturgical organic growth as the slow movement of tectonic plates.  When tectonic plates move fast, suddenly, cities are destroyed and many people weep.

Benedict wanted there to be side-by-side celebrations of the two forms, traditional and new.  Over a long period of time, this would result in slight shifts and gentle changes, eventually codified.

What would be disastrous, however, would be to force changes in a sudden, artificial manner.   That never results in good outcomes.

So, how would this result?  The key is stability.  Both forms have to be stable for a while.  That means that the Novus Ordo has to have a period of stability.  However, it has never had stability.  Go from church to church and the variations you will see will be nearly endless.  Some of the variations are legitimate options, and some aren’t.  Alas, the very fact of all those options militate against stability.  Hence, there is even greater urgency that the Extraordinary Form have be left alone and allowed stability for a long time.

So, change isn’t impossible.  It’s imprudent for the foreseeable future.   The energy that those with tinkeritis should expend, would be well spent on tidying up the Novus Ordo, working on that ars celebrandi, implementing what the Council asked for regarding Latin and music and participation in its proper sense, learning the Usus Antiquior so that they actually know their rite.

Meanwhile…  if you have the stomach for it, watch this.  HERE  Warning: it’s nasty.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andrew1054 says:

    Well, I watched that video and it ruined my morning. :(

    Father, a while back you commented on a YouTube video that purported to compare the Orthodox Liturgy to the Roman one. You said it was an unfair comparison because it showed the best of Orthodox liturgy to the worst of the Novus Ordo. A fairer comparison would be the Orthodox liturgy to a high Latin Mass (both amazing).

    I agree BUT I think the point you missed is that you would NEVER see the types of abuses (like the one you posted above) in an Orthodox church. I’m sure there might be the odd exception, but the fact that the Novus Ordo seems to produce example after example of such horrendous abuses must tell us that there is something deeply wrong in the Roman Catholic Church. I’m Catholic now, but I’m starting to ask questions. The Lex Orandi is broken in our Church; and that means then Lex Credendi ain’t far behind.

  2. APX says:

    **Warning** The beat is really catchy on that video and will get stuck in your head along with the video to go with it.

  3. Kerry says:

    Can what is true and beautiful be “stuck” in 1962?

  4. Unwilling says:

    Change… not so you’d notice.

    In the nasty film, it was good (and a pleasant surprise, given the rest) to see the very nice crucifix centrally above the tabernacle.

  5. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Father I would use the word ghastly.

    I thought maybe this was happening outside of Mass even though there were some sad looking clerics being pulled up to dance in chasubles with the red haired monster.

    But there is distinctly a collection basket being passed around by female ushers during the, the, the whatever in hell that was.

  6. David Willis says:

    i did a lot of the heavy lifting in getting an EF Mass regularly said (not on Sundays unfortunately) at the church i attend. the Pastor made it clear that people, not him, would have to do the work to have it celebrated. presently, the EF Mass is said every Friday at 6:00 pm and gets around 30-40 in the pews. when we advertise a High Mass for Holy Days, we get around 100 – 150 in the pews.

    based on the large number of altar boys in the sanctuary and the young girls in the choir during the High Masses, the Pastor tried to gently ease in an EF Mass in place of the NO Mass on Sunday (we are a one mass a Sunday congregation, a chapel to the Cathedral actually, and if there is one “altar server” we are lucky), by having it sung once a month. however, that effort met insurmountable resistance from a few over 60 members of the congregation and the plan was dropped for the sake of unity.

    until that event, the NO Mass on Sundays was regularly, but not always, sung with the priest facing ad orientam. the Kyrie and Agnus Dei were always sung and the Gloria had been added recently. i am not kidding when i report that people left “because they were tired of all the Latin.” we were trying to follow Card Sarah’s suggestion about getting the people to learn to sing the Kyriale. it has been disheartening to see how difficult that has been to TRY to achieve.

    I have read Card. Sarah’s statements that implicitly discuss re-unifying the EF and NO Mass. he discusses updating and aligning the calendars and lectionary. a universal Mass, ad orientam, in Latin, except the readings in the vernacular AND sung by the priest from the altar, with the people singing the Kyriale would be absolutely AMAZING. however, our efforts toward that goal were a failure and our congregation is, superficially at least, liturgically conservative.

    in my opinion, the EF can’t remain static. i agree that it needs to be updated to avoid it being “something from a museum.” i just worry that any changes to it will make it more of a NO Mass than an updated EF Mass. where will the line be drawn?

  7. QuietContemplative says:

    I watched a few moments of the link. You’ll get my dry cleaning and therapy bill in the mail. This is payback to me for all the times I sent spider pictures and gifs to my arachnophobic friend.

  8. colospgs says:

    I believe even Pope Benedict himself changed a timy part of the 1962 missal, the Good Friday great intercession for the conversion of the jews.

    [Yes, he did.]

  9. Grant M says:

    After Balinese temple dancers, all other liturgical dancers look like clowns…

    Just my Rp2 worth from Djakarta.

  10. oldCatholigirl says:

    I could only stomach a few minutes of this blasphemous performance. I assume from the accompanying comment that it took place somewhere in Italy. Can you tell exactly where?

  11. Josemaria says:

    Question about liturgical development, specifically the mechanics of organic development. Forgive my lack of knowledge of liturgical history.

    When a change occurs, does it not occur “in the wild,” at a particular parish or in a particular diocese? Wouldn’t that alteration be a violation of the rubrics until the rubrics are officially changed?

  12. Kerry says:

    David Willis, re: your “I’m not kidding”. In the small, rural SD parish where the fair Penelope and I attend Mass, (for us, quite a drive), people who could walk to Sunday Mass, drove 15 miles to attend elsewhere, rather than sing the Angus Dei in Latin during the four weeks of Advent. A fellow parishioner once remarked that “We should pray in American”. (I’m not kidding.)

  13. majuscule says:

    The nasty video: I had watched as much as I could bear when I saw it in passing on Facebook. But I had a burning question that I subconsciously did not want to have answered. I took your link to be a sign that I should in fact go seeking the answer…

    …to see if the tabernacle door might be open and the sanctuary lamp unlit. Sadly, He was present.

    I suppose they are of the “church” that assumes He loves this type of “entertainment” because He loves them. Sorry, can’t say more at this time…

  14. Andrew1054 says:

    What I meant to say is that I’m Roman Catholic now and thinking of going Eastern Catholic.


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  16. bkalafut says:

    Since the Holy Week changes were by 1962 an incomplete experiment would adjustments like putting back the removed readings be stabilizing or destabilizing?

  17. Kerry says:

    David Willis, re: not kidding. To the Austrian emperor who did not one of Mozart’s operas because it had too many not, Mozart replied “Which notes do you want taken out?”

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    Unless and until we have bishops and priests who teach the meaning of the various parts of the Latin Rite, and offer the TLM regardless of who supports it and who doesn’t, it is going to continue to be misunderstood and oftentimes rejected. People need to be led, that’s why we are likened to sheep. If people understood the difference between the NO Mass and the TLM, they should come to appreciate it.
    I admit, many people today are like little children, looking for entertainment and jokes at the Holy Mass. Worse, many people can’t see the rationale for leaving the TLM alone. They don’t seem to realize that as one ages, something familiar, the consolation of the worship of God in a form that stretches back to childhood, is comforting, something familiar that blessedly, stays the same. Contemporary people want to fix things til they’re broken, so they can say they made “changes”. We don’t attend the NO any longer, but expect that the TLM is eventually going to be outlawed or tweaked to ruin. At that point, we’ll wait it out by staying home and reading the bible. FWIW, we think Cardinal Sarah’s idea is not a good one. Leave the Latin Rite alone for heaven’s sake.

    [Priests should not simply wait around for people to ask for the TLM. They should just start.]

  19. Kerry says:

    Oops, “…did not like…”

  20. Uxixu says:

    It should be recognized that 1962 was itself explicitly admitted as transitional by Bugnini… now that we have a concept of the “Extraordinary Form” it should be considered at some point to return to the pre-Pius XII Holy Week, if not the ancient tradition of Vigils (certainly not the thing that most Novus Ordo types think) and Octaves that were quite carelessly disregarded in 1955, if not the logical connection of everything from the restrictions on the times allowed in the celebration of Mass (an hour before dawn and an hour after noon) and how that was linked to the Eucharistic fast, how that itself was linked to the “Benedicamus Domino” instead of the Ite (purple vestments were celebrated after None when the whole congregation broke the fast together), etc.

    Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a single year of the Missal… all of the pre-Conciliar Tridentine Missals had an implicit imbalance in the sanctoral and temporal cycles on the calendar… 1962 disregarded ancient tradition and began the overemphasis on the temporal while St. Pius X struggled to keep them in balance. Meanwhile the real problem was a glut of 16th and 17th century Italian Confessors as Doubles while ancient 3rd and 4th century martyrs were Simples or Semi-Duplex…. 1955’s callous reduction of any Simple to a Commemoration is contrary to the need for a case by case basis to give the martyrs the precedence they should have while recognizing many of these were added to reduce the burden on the pre-Pius X Office (much longer) on the secular clergy.

    That should take a long time… until then, why pretend there’s liturgical unity in the Roman Rite? An amnesty that allowed the use of any edition of the Roman Missal should be had. It would let the ultra-trad use the 1948, the unfortunate hippie types use the horrid ICEL translations before 2011, “Reform of the Reform” could use 1964. I suspect few would remain on 1962 or 1964… most OF I should hope would use 2011 and most trads were revert to 1955 or 1948…

  21. Sword40 says:

    “I believe even Pope Benedict himself changed a tiny part of the 1962 missal, the Good Friday great intercession for the conversion of the jews.
    [Yes, he did.]”

    Our FSSP priest does not use Benedict XVI’s change. [NOT good.]

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