Excellent letter from the CMAA chaplain on the issue of the OF and the distinctive voice. This is a response to Paul Ford's original, my article, and Ford's response.
Does the Ordinary Form have its own distinctive voice or voices?
Fr. Robert C Pasley, KCHS
I would like to add to the discussion raised by Jeffrey Tucker about the distinctive voice of the OF. It doesn’t, in my opinion have a voice, but many voices.
Paul Ford said, “This CMAA Colloquium was the perfect venue for experiencing the reform of the reform at its most exemplary.” While I agree that it was exemplary and I thank him for the compliment, I don’t agree that we are engaged in the reform of the reform or that we tried to enrich the OF by adding EF elements to it.
Ad Orientem worship is not foreign to the OF according to the books. As a matter of fact we all know that Ad Populum was never mentioned by VII. It spread on its own, flying on the wings of the “Spirit of Vatican II.” Either GIRM #299 in the new Missal was translated incorrectly by accident or someone injected their agenda on purpose. It does not say that Ad Populum is preferred, but it says the following, “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.” Which, thanks to Fr Z, the literal translation means, “The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.” By celebrating the OF Ad Orientem we are not reforming anything. We are not imposing EF customs on the OF. We are simply doing what the book not only allows, but seems to suggest as the first option.
Using Latin is not part of the reform of the reform. It is called for in the OF.
Not extending the Sign of Peace is not reform, or influence from the EF, it is an option granted to the priest to use, or not use, at his own discretion.
Using beautiful Roman style vestments in the OF is not imposing the EF. All legitimate historical vestments can be used in either Form. You can use modern vestments, with all the proper parts, for the EF and you can use old vestments in the OF. As a matter of fact, even though the maniple and biretta are no longer required for the OF, there is nothing forbidding a priest from using them. The Canons of St Peter’s Basilica wear the biretta at the sung Mass on Sundays at the Altar of the Chair.
Finally, the omission of the Prayer of the faithful during weekday Masses seems to raise the hackles of many a person. This is also not a throwback to the EF. Many times the intercessions are so wordy and so long, they are easily tuned out. They can actually become more prominent and meaningful by using them less. The rubric says they are desirable. It doesn’t say mandatory. If the daily intercessions are so essential, then why not just say they are mandatory.
As long as I have been a member of the CMAA our policy has been to try to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy as close to what Sacrosanctum Concilium seems to want and what the rubrics of the OF Missal seem to prefer. This applies to rubrics, music, ars celebrandi, and spirituality. The problem is the word “seems.”
The word “seems” is the crux of the matter, the place where the many voices of the OF appear. Michael Davies wrote a book called “Liturgical Time Bombs.” In it he described the various places in Sacrosanctum Concilium where imprecise language opened the way for innovations that many could never have imagined. In my opinion, one of the most egregious problems of the OF is the multitude of options and suggestions. This flexibility has opened the way for a Pandora’s box of experimentation and ultimately a complete disregard, by many, for following any rules. I hate to say this, but one could believe that the rubrics and rules that keep the OF close to the tradition were placed as the first option to keep the peace and not shock too much. The other options or loopholes were included so that in time the Rites could develop in ways that would never have been accepted at first. After all, I think it was Fr. Gelineau who said that the Roman Rite was dead. Under Archbishop Marini’s guidance, during the Papacy of Pope John Paul II, I don’t think I ever heard a Gradual or Gregorian Alleluia at a Papal Mass. At times, even the Vatican didn’t seem to be following the precedence set down in the Liturgical books, especially in regard to music.
I would like to conclude where I began. I don’t think there is one voice for the OF. I don’t even think there are two or three voices for the OF. The problem is that there are so many voices even within the celebration of the OF, it can often seem like the expression of two different religions. This occurs even without throwing the EF into the mix. The CMAA, under the guidance of our predecessors, especially Msgr. Schuler, has always practiced the hermeneutic of continuity. We do our best to keep that continuity with our Tradition and traditions alive. As for the EF influencing the OF or vice versa, that is a challenge for another day and for people at a much higher pay grade. I once heard a very kind and yet determined Traditionalist say, “better the Old Mass in English facing the people than the New Mass in Latin facing the altar.” Whether one agrees or not, it is a very thought provoking statement. It shows that mutual enrichment is much deeper than the style of vestment a priest might wear and it has a long way to go.