Sunday, 25 March 2018

A Few Notes On The Extraordinary Form

I'm not really very sure how to begin this blog post. It's been so long since I've written one, it feels a bit iffy trying. But I just got back from participating in an Extraordinary Form Palm Sunday Mass and I felt a great need to put something down.

A few days ago, I received my Baronius Press 1962 Missal in the post (with a few other things).  I've had it on order for some months now, but I think that Baronius Press has been having some problems: hopefully, they've sorted them now as they're providing an essential service.  I've been stumbling through Extraordinary Form Masses using some of the great cheat sheets that the Latin Mass Society provides, but I know that having an actual missal is going to be what gets me to the point where I'm participating as I should be.

I'm trying to approach the Extraordinary Form Mass with an open mind.  So much of what I'd heard about the "pre-Vatican II" Mass has been negative: that it was obscure and out-of-touch, and that's why it was all changed.  It's also pretty difficult to find out anything one might call impartial information on what I feel I need to know.  So much of what's on the internet about the Extraordinary Form is partisan, and self-righteous, cliquish, and hostile to boot.  So this is going to be a classic case of Learning By Doing which, in fairness, is how I became familiar with the Ordinary Form: buying a Missal and using it in the Mass; reading the rubrics and other instructions where I could; and altar serving (although I doubt I've the backbone to try serving an Extraordinary Form Mass!).

I've been attending the Extraordinary Form Masses on Sunday in a church a few parishes over from where I live.  Today, the Mass was for Palm Sunday and was preceded by the Procession of Palms.  This caused me quite a bit of flicking back-and-forth in my missal!  But I think I managed to get to grips with what I was doing.  There's a great relief in these Masses, where I feel like the Church has relieved me of a burden of worrying about, "What's the right way of doing this?"  It's not necessarily a bad thing to have someone one trusts answer those sorts of concerns for you, and the knowledge that there's a great continuous line of ritual and practice going all the way back through centuries adds a certain solemnity.  I've never really felt as though something is More Valid because, in some way, "everyone gets a turn to have a go" - those offices of the Church like Priest and Deacon should be where the sanctified expertise lies.

The priest at said parish has managed to find a deacon, servers, and a choir who can help celebrate these Masses, and it makes the whole experience... what?  "Moving"?  "Holy"?  I'm really not sure what word to use, and everything I think of seems trite or overblown.  It's certainly a different atmosphere to the Ordinary Form Masses I've been used to.  A friend told me that an Ordinary Form Mass Done Badly can seem like a school assembly: I can't see how anyone would mistake an Extraordinary Form Mass for one of those.  There's an intricacy to what's happening, and a genuine sense that everyone present is praying in the same direction (as it were), towards the same thing: an Ordinary Form Mass sometimes feel like the celebrant and the congregation are doing a bit of back-and-forth, losing the point.

One last quick before I go to bed: my Latin has sorely deteriorated since school!  I started to worry at points that flicking my eyes back and forth between the Latin and English translation in my missal, occasionally losing my place in the Latin and then having to find it again, was becoming a distraction to my participation.  I might see if I can learn some rudimentary ecclesiastical Latin, if only to grease the wheels a little.

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