Concerning Mutual Enrichment. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

I remember, years ago, some folks who were deeply attached to the Traditional Latin Liturgy of the Roman Church almost lynched me when I suggested that there was something that we could learn from the Novus Ordo.

Over the years, I have been proven right, even to the point that Pope Benedict wrote about “mutual enrichment”.  I like the image of a “gravitational pull”.

One of the things I proposed “back when” was that the Novus Ordo at the very least reminded us that “there are people out there”, in the body of the church.  And that, because the Roman Rite itself excludes the sensory participation in some of the sensory experience of what Father does at the altar (because they can’t see some things and can’t hear some things), that means that those parts which are more accesible through sight and sound have to be exemplary, in such a way that they are edifying.

What I was driving at was what Benedict, years later in Sacramentum caritatis, described as the ars celebrandi of the priest: all that goes into how the priest does anything liturgical, his attitude, voice, gestures, demeanor, etc.   These things have a knock-on effect on congregations.  They are extremely important.

This is why learning the TLM is of critical importance for young priests: it’ll have a big effect on their use of the Novus Ordo and, therefore, on their congregations.

I saw a post at NLM which touches on this matter of ars celebrandi and the genius of the Roman Rite enshrined in the rubrics.

Rubrics are not arbitrary.  They are there for a reason.  Sometimes, they maintain a part of an ancient liturgical action which, for the most part, has fallen away.  That doesn’t mean that the rubric or what it designates is “superfluous”.  I refer everyone to the great book by my friend Fr. Jackson on that point. US HERE UK HERE More the most part, rubrics solved practical problems.  Over time the gestures and things used at Mass also become loci theologici, departure points for theological reflection.

Because our forebears truly loved Holy Mass with all their hearts, they polished and perfected, carefully, what we do as if it were the setting of the most beautiful jewel ever found.  Then, again in love, they passed it down to us because they loved us.

Rubrics reflect love.

This is one reason why I constantly say: We Are Our Rites!   They shape us even as, over centuries, we shape them out of what we believe, whom we believe ourselves and the Church to be, who Christ is, what He did for us and does for us.   That’s why the sudden imposition of an artificially crafted rite was so upsetting – and is still upsetting – the Church.

At NLM the piece in question concerned the celebration of Low Mass by a priest who, even for those texts that are required by the rubrics to be stated clara voce, in a clear, raised, audible voice, read everything silently.

There are a few cases, such as a truly private Mass when you might do that.  A priest would do that if he was “concelebrating” at his altar near to other priests saying, reading, Mass at their altars: you keep your voice down.  But in a parish church or a setting where people are participating, unless the New catholic Red Guards are hunting you, you use all your levels of voices and you follow the rubrics.

It seems to me that there are some ideas about Low Mass that still have to be overcome.

First, Low Mass is NOT the paradigmatic Mass of the Roman Rite, as if it were the default to which we add things to make it more solemn when the occasion arises.  No.  It’s quite the opposite.  Solemn Mass, indeed with the bishop, is the paradigm.  But because we can’t have Solemn Mass in a lot of places, due to the lack of priests, we – as a solution to a deficit – pare things off of the rites and simplify so that we can, indeed, have Mass, and have it daily in humble surroundings.   The Roman Rite seeks always to make things big.  It’s modernism that seeks to make the supernatural into the small and natural, to dumb it down.   So, if you have some notion that the Low Mass, with nothing sung and just an altar boy or two, is the norm, think again.  You are witnessing what we tolerate, not what we desire, even though it is “the norm” because it is widespread.  It’s not the norm!

Next, given the way that Low Mass cuts down the rites in a pragmatic way, all the more reason to obey the lovingly crafted rubrics and pay closer attention to those sensory points of Mass which bring the baptized participants into the sacred action so that they can exercise more readily their mode of the priesthood they receive from Christ the High Priest.

When it is time to speak with a clear voice, follow the rubrics and use a clear voice.  It’s important.  When it is time to be very quiet, then be quiet.

Say the Black according to what the Red prescribes.

The liturgical desert we experienced, when many were (falsely) convinced that the Traditional Forms were forbidden, is behind us.  That wearisome, thirsty time has, I hope, given many of us old warriors, a real sense of renewal and gratitude.  And we have, I hope, learned a few things about where we were before the desert, what the desert was like, and where we are now.  We have such potential in front of our eyes.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Semper Gumby says:

    “Over time the gestures and things used at Mass also become loci theologici, departure points for theological reflection.”

    Nothing Superfluous indeed.

  2. The Egyptian says:

    Being that I suffer from almost total hearing lose in my right ear and a whacking case of tinnitus to boot, I love the low mass, all the organ and singing is really just racket to me, especially in the “new Mass” any large space filled with sound is irritating at best. A quiet low mass is a wonder that i get to experience maybe once a year due to my profession as a dairy farmer. The TLMs that are celebrated near here are quite good but they try too hard to have a 4 hymn sandwich . Please just a quiet Latin mass for me, do the basics and concentrate on doing them well, the rest will follow

  3. veritas vincit says:

    It is said that the Roman Rite reflects a “noble simplicity.”

    I’ve been waiting for traditionalists to call the Norvus Ordo “simple but not noble” to which modernists could riposte by calling the TLM “noble but not simple”.

    I don’t know that either is true but it does contrast the two forms of the Roman Rite.

  4. Having celebrated (with permission under the 1969 indult and those following) the Dominican Rite Mass since my ordination in 1985, as well as the Mass of Paul VI, and, having watched the business that goes on at John XXIII Roman Masses, especially those with the bishop, I am ever more convinced that the supposed comment of a father (not a Dominican) at Vatican II that all the reform of the liturgy needed was for the Church to adopt the Dominican Rite WAS CORRECT.

    Okay, do you prefer the age of Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, and Innocent III, and their liturgical tastes? That is the Dominican Rite. Or do we need to resurrect the court rigmarole of 18th-century absolutist princelings, promoted by Jesuits, as our style of liturgy? That is essentially the style of the “Tridentine Mass.” And many of its promoters are happy to say YAH!

    Yes, the Mass of John XXIII is now the “traditionalist” norm, but Fr. Z’s urge for “mutual enrichment” is right. Nevertheless, the mutual enrichment should not mean a compromise between 18th-century absolutist Rococo liturgy and the post-1960s hippy perversions of that liturgy. Let’s think about alternatives, that are just as authentically traditional, like our actual thirteenth-century liturgy, still alive (in many places and ever more so) today.

  5. Geoffrey says:

    ‘I’ve been waiting for traditionalists to call the Norvus Ordo “simple but not noble” to which modernists could riposte by calling the TLM “noble but not simple”’.

    So true! I have attended both forms and can see the good and the bad in both.

  6. bartlep says:

    I have perfect hearing but I, too, love the Low Latin Mass with some background chanting. I find it so prayerful. At the Consecration, I can almost feel Christ coming. I look forward to the Mass every Sunday and miss it when I travel and have to suffer through the “Welcome those around you”, the distracting peace signs, the “On Eagles Wings” music, being the only one to kneel during the “Ecce Homo” and after receiving Communion. It always feels like going to a party with strangers.

  7. Let the emotional reactions begin!

    In anything that I wrote, above, did I suggest that we should not like the Low Mass?

    All the forms of Holy Mass that we have, Low Mass, Sung Mass, Solemn Mass, Pontifical Masses, Low and Solemn, are wonderful.

    The point is that the Low Mass is NOT the paradigm. The Solemn Mass of the Bishop is the paradigm. Liturgy should be, if possible, big. Liturgy should be, if possible, sung.

  8. Charles Sercer says:

    Augustine Thompson O.P. I beg to differ. The “reform” that was needed in the 60s was not primarily a reform of liturgical rites – it was a reform of the heart. We have our own Roman Rite tradition that deserves to be preserved; that deserves to be offered and taught to everyone, and loved by everyone, that it may be handed down with the greatest care essentially the same to each following generation.

    This is not to say there cannot be small, organic changes. It is only to say that we – and by “we” I mean everyone from laypeople up to the pope – have no business trying to figure out how to change the liturgy. If we all were taught this basic principle – that our duty is to hand down what we were taught – we would not be infected with the pernicious idea that we can change the liturgy as we like, even if a given proposal is not a bad thing in itself.

    I am not in principle against the idea that there should be “mutual enrichment,” but I do believe that if in the depths of our heart we were truly reformed in this manner, we would find that perhaps not so many – indeed, very few, if any – changes were needed to the Roman Rite as it existed before the 1950s. Any other mindset makes it very easy to fall into the trap of making the liturgy more about what one likes and what makes one “feel” better.

  9. Brian J. Wilson says:

    Bravo for this post! Pope Benedict XVI is with you, Father. He said many years ago that Low Mass was NOT the experience of the Mass which the Church preferred for Her children, but rather High Mass, even at its simplest as Missa Cantata. Indeed, this is also the case for the Novus Ordo. I challenge readers to take another look at Musicam Sacram, the instruction on Sacred Music promulgated in 1967. Like so much liturgical legislation, it is almost totally disregarded, yet it lays the foundation for a sung liturgy as an absolute norm. The “party line” in most dioceses, however, is “missa lecta” with a little bit of music here and there for decoration. Of course, the whole subject of liturgical training in diocesan seminaries is really almost “a place without hope.”

  10. @Augustine Thompson, O.P.

    I’m a fellow medievalist, and although the medieval liturgy is not my specialty, I’m vastly in favor of restoring some of the multiplicity of rites and uses (all in Latin, of course) that were celebrated before the Council of Trent. The medieval manuscripts contain a treasure trove of liturgical practices and liturgical music that can’t be used nowadays. The “Quem quaeritis” trope for Easter–why did Trent get rid of liturgical drama? All the beautiful sequences–some of best of medieval literary production….Sometimes I think that the Council of Trent was the Vatican II Council of its time.

    I’m in favor of any kind of Mass, as long as it’s celebrated with due solemnity. I went to a Novus Ordo Sunday Mass in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago that was great because: 1) No singing so no God-awful hymns!! 2) No lay ladies doing anything, just altar boys (not girls) in cassocks and surplices; and 3) Communion rail. I’ve been to Ordinariate Masses (Sarum use?) that are in the most beautiful Elizabethan English–the way the Novus Ordo in English ought to be–plus no lay ladies, just altar boys plus Communion rail. Those very simple things can transform the Novus Ordo into something of dignity and beauty. They allow attendees to focus on the Mass, itself not on whatever torture the cantor has inflicted on us for the day (which is actually distracting from the Mass, such as singing through the Offertory).

    But I also love to attend “Tridentine” Masses. Maybe they do reflect 18th-century practices–and certainly the vestments look very different from what you see in medieval manuscripts–but they do also reflect a continuity of liturgical tradition from earliest Christian times that distinctly preserves so much of the Church’s liturgical heritage. There’s a dignity and a reverence to those Masses that you just don’t see in the typical parish Sunday Novus Ordo.

    I’m all for the Dominican rite–one of those pre-Trent rites that got somehow suppressed (I think). I belong to a Dominican parish in Washington, D.C. But one of the fascinating things about the Tridentine Mass offered by a nearby parish that I sometimes attend on Sundays is that several Dominican friars from our own priory also attend! I asked one of them: So why don’t you bring some of this to our parish? Apparently the Dominican rite in Latin requires some training, but maybe we’ll have it one of these days. Please, more “mutual enrichment”!

  11. Flos Carmeli says:

    Fr Z says, “Let the emotional reactions begin!”

    We who live immersed in the modern world, are not totally immune from its influence. Despite what we hear all around us, our emotional reactions, while created good, are now fallen, and we cannot trust them. We must subordinate them with our will, to what we know by the teaching of the Church is good, beautiful, and true. The liturgies of the Church, most notably the Mass, while they hopefully form us, are not for us, are not intended to fulfill any of our individual ideas of what feels good or comfortable. If I understand correctly, the Mass is for God. Every part of it from the Asperges to the Last Gospel. When we can make ourselves step back and remember this, it becomes much easier to understand how a solemn high Mass is the paradigm, as Fr. Z says above. It is not about our own personal preferences, it is about obeying the Church and offering a real sacrifice of ourselves with Jesus through the hands of the priest, to the Father, in the best way we can as humans.

  12. robtbrown says:

    Augustine Thompson op says,

    Or do we need to resurrect the court rigmarole of 18th-century absolutist princelings, promoted by Jesuits, as our style of liturgy? That is essentially the style of the “Tridentine Mass.” And many of its promoters are happy to say YAH!

    Isn’t that what the Vat II reform was suppose to correct?

    Instead, Paul VI turned the project over to Community of Man ideologues–the Novus Ordo appeared, with its Protestantized versus populum vernacular, and the churches, seminarues, and religious houses emptied.

Comments are closed.